Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that forms the membrane structure of every cell of your body. It has very important functions in the body including making hormones, synthesizing vitamin D, and digesting food. When cholesterol levels are too high, it can accumulate in the blood and cause the blood to be too “sticky”, which can clog the arteries and increase the risk of heart attack.
When people refer to cholesterol in relation to heart health, they usually aren’t actually talking about cholesterol itself. Instead, they are referring to the structures that carry cholesterol in the bloodstream: Lipoproteins. The most important lipoproteins are LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein).
- LDL (the “Bad” cholesterol) is linked with the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
- There are 3 different types of LDL: Small LDL, Dense LDL, or Large LDL
- Small LDL is the most risky type
- The most important factor is the number of LDL particles, which is called LDL-P
- HDL (the “Good” cholesterol) picks up excess cholesterol in the body and takes it back to the liver, where it can be used or excreted. This protects against the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Dietary Cholesterol is not as bad as you think
Contrary to popular belief, the amount of cholesterol in your diet does not necessarily influence the amount of cholesterol in your blood. This is because the liver tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood. If you eat less cholesterol, the liver makes more. If you eat more cholesterol, the liver makes less. Therefore, most people can effectively adapt to dietary cholesterol (such as eating eggs, meat, and dairy).
This function of the liver is highly influenced by genetics. In about 25% of people, the liver is hyperreactive to the cholesterol in the diet. So for these folks, dietary cholesterol DOES cause an increase in LDL particles. However this increase is usually in the Large LDL (less harmful) instead of the more risky small LDL, and does not cause an increase in risk for heart disease.
The myths about cholesterol are based on bad research. The original studies which created the connection between diet and heart disease were conducted over 50 years ago and they were flawed. One of these original experiments was based on feeding cholesterol to rabbits, who are herbivores and do not normally consume cholesterol. Many of the following studies were poorly designed and some researchers even left out information in order to sway the results.
More recent, higher-quality studies have shown that consuming cholesterol does not increase the risk of heart disease. A lot of research has been done on eggs specifically. Eggs are high in cholesterol, but several studies have shown that eating them is not associated with higher risk of heart disease. Moreover, eggs may even help IMPROVE your lipoprotein profiles by increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. One study in particular compared the effects of whole eggs and yolk-free egg substitutes. People who ate 3 whole eggs per day had better cholesterol profiles (higher HDL and lower LDL) than those who ate the same amount of an egg substitute.
The importance of testing We offer SpectraCell cardiometabolic testing at Acu-Na Wellness Center. This blood test helps assess your risk of developing inflammatory conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Metabolic dysfunction is often the root cause of weight gain, diabetes, hormone dysfunction, and heart disease. This test is more in-depth than your standard blood tests often performed through your general physician. It tests the specific lipoproteins and divides the LDL levels into small-particle categories to determine whether your types of LDL are high-risk or low-risk. This will also tell you whether your type of LDL cholesterol will respond well to statin drugs or not.
Statin medications are risky
Statins such as Lipitor and Crestor are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, which means they block the enzyme in your liver that makes cholesterol. The fact that statin drugs cause side effects is well-established—there are now over 900 studies proving their adverse effects, which include muscle problems and increased cancer risk.
Reported side effects include:
- Muscle degeneration, muscle pain, nerve damage to the hands and feet
- Anemia, immune system depression
- Sexual dysfunction
- Pancreas dysfunction, elevated blood glucose, increasing the risk of diabetes
- Liver dysfunction, elevated liver enzymes, increasing the risk of liver disease
- Cognitive problems and memory loss
Muscle problems are the best known adverse effects of statins. If you have achey muscles and heaviness or numbness in the limbs, it could be due to statin use. The muscle problems caused by statins are IRREVERSIBLE and permanent. There is also evidence that taking statins may increase your risk for Lou Gehrig’s disease/ALS which is characterized by stiff muscles, muscle twitching, and gradually worsening weakness leading to paralysis and death.
How can acupuncture help?
Acupuncture helps restore normal function of organ systems. Certain acupuncture points have a strong effect to support the heart and protect it from arteriosclerosis, lowering your risk of heart disease. Many research studies have shown that acupuncture improves circulation and reduces inflammation in the body. It can also be used to support the function of the liver, which has the job of regulating cholesterol levels.
Natural ways to lower cholesterol
- Several studies show that modest weight loss of 5-10% can lower cholesterol and decrease risk of heart disease in overweight individuals.
- Foods that lower cholesterol: Avocados, oats, beans, nuts, soy products, apples, eggplant
- Natural supplements: It is important to use high-quality supplements such as those carried at Acu-Na Wellness Center. We only carry trusted brands that are third-party tested to ensure they contain no additives or toxins.
- Mega-10 by Metagenics: A unique combination of Omega 7 and Omega 3 fatty acids to support healthy triglycerides and blood lipids.
- CoQ-10: increases HDL “good” cholesterol and CRITICAL to take if you are on a statin medication, as statins are known to deplete CoQ10, leading to insulin resistance and deterioration of muscle tissue
- Niatain: an extended release form of niacin to avoid flushing; encourages healthy lipid metabolism to improve the lipoprotein profile
- Alli-Cinn: A combination of high-potency garlic and cinnamon in capsule form to improve circulatory health and lower blood lipids