A review of research studies suggests that cholesterol may not be the culprit after all; rather, high carbohydrate intake and increased blood clotting. Excess carbohydrate (not cholesterol) is associated with increased fat particles in the blood. Additionally, individuals with familial hypercholesterolemia (i.e. a genetic condition that increases susceptibility to high cholesterol levels) have a long life expectancy: between 70-80 years old; yet the average age for an individual’s first heart attack is between 45-55 years old. Research studies also show that lower cholesterol levels and high low-density lipoprotein levels are correlated with high mortality rates but atherosclesclerotic plaques were not the cause. This evidence collectively suggests that decreasing low-cholesterol and low-fat diets may not be effective at preventing heart disease; rather, low-carbohydrate diets.
Inflammation from lifestyle still has a role to play because increased blood clotting remains correlated with incidences of heart disease. Risk factors that increase blood clotting include high blood sugar levels (i.e. diabetes), smoking, high blood pressure (i.e. hypertension), and increased body weight. There are other (hidden) factors that contribute to inflammation also worth exploring on a case by case basis.
A lot of focus is placed on cholesterol as a risk factor that more individuals are taking a statin medication than ever before. Common medications I see in my practice are atorvastatin (Lipitor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor) – to name just a couple. Guidelines for cholesterol levels are also decreasing and more patients are prescribed a statin as a preventative measure. It is also worth noting that standard of care does not mandate statins but hospital policies do. Whether this decision was made by medical professionals of hospital administration is worth considering.
As with any chronic use of medication, the chances of side effects such as muscle aches (i.e. rhabdomyolysis), decreased testosterone, erectile dysfunction, increased risk for other chronic disease (e.g. cancer, diabetes), and compromised liver function become a concern. This issue is compounded by micronutrients that are important for heart health that are depleted with long-term statin use, including coenzyme Q10 and vitamin D.
Since every individual has different genetics and lifestyles, I have found health solutions for patients by evaluating each case using an individualized. This starts with getting the right comprehensive heart lab work so we can get a clear understanding of what we specifically need to address using the right combination of nutrition, supplements, and (if necessary) meidcations to protect your heart.