It may seem that I am going overboard on this subject and I am. The reason being that “High Cholesterol” numbers run high in my family. My brothers and their children, who are in their thirties, all have high cholesterol. Two of them are on Statin drugs to lower the cholesterol.
In my opinion, they are too young to be taking these drugs. They are healthy eaters, always have been, and they are very athletic. My brother who is now 70-years-old has been on statin drugs for many years; He is skinny, not an ounce of fat on him, still rides his bike and walks daily. However, he still has high cholesterol even with the drugs.
Even though my brother has taken Statin drugs for many years, he still needed a stent a few years back. There has to be a major question here. These drugs are not curing the problem and not saving his life. Without the stent I guess he would have died.
Here is another cholesterol theory that I agree with…
THE INFLAMMATION CONNECTION
Mark A. Stengler, NMD
About 10 years ago, Harvard University physicians demonstrated that chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body could damage blood vessels and was a better indicator of risk for cardiovascular disease than cholesterol. The researchers developed a laboratory test for CRP to measure low-grade inflammation in the body. An elevated CRP level doesn’t just affect the heart. It hurts the whole body. Several years ago, a health author whom I know and respect, Jack Challem, wrote The Inflammation Syndrome. He described how “every disease, every ache and every pain… revolves around inflammation… ” and how many inflammatory diseases are related to one another. For example, having periodontal disease (which inflames the gums) or rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis increases heart disease risk. Similarly, being overweight or having type 2 diabetes increases CRP levels and heart disease risk.
DIET COMES FIRST
To reduce inflammation, it’s best to start with what you eat. Your body makes both inflammation-promoting and inflammation-fighting substances called eicosanoids, compounds derived mostly from the fats you eat. Consuming a lot of sweets and unhealthful oils, such as corn, safflower and soybean oils, and trans fats found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils ramps up the body’s inflammatory eicosanoids. In other words, junk food increases inflammation.
However, if you consume fish (the best choices are cold-water types, including salmon, trout and sardines), free-range meats and health-promoting cooking oils (such as extra-virgin olive oil, macadamia nut oil and avocado oil), you can increase your body’s production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. Eating a lot of vegetables, such as romaine lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower, and fruits, such as blueberries, raspberries and kiwifruit, also helps maintain normal CRP levels. These foods are high in fiber and rich in antioxidants, nutrients that neutralize harmful molecules called free radicals.
Make sure that the vast majority of foods you eat are fresh — not out of a box, can or jar. You’ll be avoiding packaged foods, most of which have been adulterated with added sugars, salt, refined carbohydrates and unhealthful fats.
SUPPLEMENTS THAT HELP
For many people, healthful eating habits are not enough to lower CRP levels. Some of my patients have greater needs for specific anti-inflammatory nutrients.
First step: Insist that your doctor measure your CRP level annually. Ask for the high-sensitivity CRP (hsCRP) test, the newest form of the test. It’s a simple blood test and relatively inexpensive (about $25 to $50). Some insurers will cover the test.
Multivitamin. Several studies have found that taking a multivitamin can lead to impressive reductions in CRP. One study conducted at the Cooper Institute in Dallas showed that a daily multivitamin lowered CRP by 14% after six months.
Many individual vitamins, including vitamins C and E, have been shown to reduce CRP. Niacin (a form of vitamin B-3) also lowers CRP.
Important: While many individual vitamins are beneficial, I recommend a multivitamin because it contains numerous vitamins that can reduce inflammation.
Omega-3 fish oils. The omega-3s form the biochemical basis of some of the body’s anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. They benefit cardiovascular health in a number of ways, including mildly thinning the blood, slowing the heart rate, lowering levels of triglycerides and improving blood vessel flexibility. Look for fish oil that contains both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
One good choice: Krill oil, a type of fish oil made from shrimplike crustaceans. Krill oil contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which also is good for the heart.
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). This essential fatty acid in plant oil is the principal anti-inflammatory compound in the omega-6 family of fats. It works by shifting a major part of the omega-6 biochemistry from inflammatory to anti-inflammatory activity. In the process, it increases production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. GLA and fish oils are synergistic — they work better together than either on its own.
Curcumin. This extract of the spice turmeric, common in South Asian cuisines, blocks inflammation. More than 2,000 studies have documented the benefits of curcumin for such inflammatory diseases as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. It also may prevent cardiac hypertrophy, a type of enlarged heart. Given the anti-inflammatory nature of curcumin, research is likely to uncover more heart-healthy benefits.
Pycnogenol. This proprietary ingredient, extracted from the bark of French maritime pine trees, has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It has been shown to improve circulation, to work as a mild blood thinner and to reduce the need for angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
Vitamin D. Half of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. A recent study in Archives of Internal Medicine found that men with low vitamin D levels were two and one-half times more likely to die during the next eight years than those with the highest levels.
Red yeast rice extract. This is one of my favorite supplements because it can lower levels of CRP and LDL (bad) cholesterol. It is sold at most health-food stores and contains trace levels of a naturally occurring statin compound. In these small quantities — a fraction of what’s in drugs — statins are safe. Studies have found that red yeast rice extract can lower CRP levels by up to 50%. Statins (perhaps even natural ones, such as red yeast rice extract) are known to deplete coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant necessary for heart health. If you take red yeast rice extract, supplement daily with 100 mg of coenzyme Q10.
SOURCE; Mark A. Stengler, NMD, a naturopathic medical doctor and leading authority on the practice of alternative and integrated medicine. He is editor of Bottom Line’s Natural Healing newsletter, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies), director of the La Jolla Whole Health Clinic in La Jolla, California, and adjunct clinical professor at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. To learn more about his work, visit http://www.drstengler.com and www.lajollawholehealth.com