Let’s Learn about Cholesterol Together
Every time I go to a doc and have tests, I hear about cholesterol but I’ve never really understood why its so important and how can I make my levels turn into good ones. So, in educating myself, I have researched it and following is some of the information I have learned.
I’m sure we all have heard that Heart Disease is the number one killer of men and women in the US and in most of the western world. My own husband has a history of heart disease. A heart attack in 2006, followed by by-pass surgery and 4 by-passes. Afterwards, he made some major life-style changes in exercise and diet. He is doing very well at this point over 14 years later.
Elevated cholesterol is one of the factors in heart disease. As a diabetic, and obese, I definitely have an interest in preventing heart disease or atherosclerosis.
Even in the 1950’s cholesterol was indicated in studies as a factor in men who suffered heart attacks. And since the cholesterol measured and found in the blood and in blocked arteries of both humans who had died of heart attacks and was also the same as the cholesterol found in animal foods, logic indicated that limiting animal foods in the diet would help prevent heart disease. Today there is proof that cholesterol levels in the blood paly a major role in developing heart disease. But there is more.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a chemical substance found in all animals, including the human animal. It is necessary for life – we can’t live without it. Our body uses its cholesterol to make digestive enzymes, some hormones and the protective sheath around our nerves. Most of the cholesterol found in our bloodstream (80%) is made by our body in the liver. Only 20% comes from our diet. Modifying our diet alone (unless it is extreme) can usually lower our cholesterol only around 6%.
Our arteries can form “plaque within its layers and it can harden to block the artery. What causes the formation is not really know, but there is some thought that an injury to the lining of the artery and our bodies attempt to heal that injury may cause the plague to form. Concentration today is on the endothelium wall of the artery and how to keep it pliant and healthy to prevent injuries that can cause the formation of plaque.
Certain types of white blood cells (macrophages and monocytes) rush to an injury to the artery wall and turn into foam cells which become mixed with cholesterol and plague is formed. Without the cholesterol, the plague is not formed. People with low cholesterol counts do not develop blockages as efficiently, without other factors in play too. Dr. Lars Wilhelmsen (a world authority in Sweden) says 80-90percent of all heart attacks can be explained by the presence of high cholesterol levels. The remaining percent are caused by other factors.
We know today that its the newer, smaller plagues that are the most dangerous, because the tip or cap is soft and can be easily broken or carried away by the force of blood flowing around it; these clots become lodged in a narrow artery and cut off oxygen to the heart causing damage to he muscle. Even the large plaques still attached to the artery wall can harden from deposits of calcium (which stabilized the plague in a good way) but can narrow the artery which can also limit blood supply to the heart. Todays EBCT “Screening for Calcium in Arteries” tests for this.
A pioneer researcher, Dr. Valentin Fluster, states that “by lowering cholesterol levels sufficiently, one can expect stabilization of plague and virtual elimination of heart attack risk in as little as six months.” From “The new 8-weeki Cholesterol Cure” book by Robert Kowalski.
Cholesterol (which is insoluble in water) is combined with a fatty substance called lipoprotein in the blood which carries it around the bloodstream. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol transports cholesterol to tissues for deposit. HDH (high density lipoprotein) transports cholesterol away from tissues and back to the liver to be disposed of. LDL is the BAD cholesterol and HDL is the GOOD cholesterol. Together, they equal our total cholesterol level.
What are Cholesterol Levels About?
Normal total cholesterol (TC) levels are less than 200. Normal LDL cholesterol levels are less than 130. Borderline high TC is from 200-230 and LDL at 130-139. For those at more risk, the counts drop to no more than 180 for TC and less than 100 for LDL.
In a previous post I wrote that my latest lab tests showed my TC level at 182 which is good. My LDL was 115.9. I have had a previous stroke and I’m obese and diabetic which are risk factors for me, so I need to get my LDL to below 100, hopefully to around 70-80. I want to get my good or HDL cholesterol as high as possible (for men no less than 40 and for women no less than 45). Mine is currently 35.5. So I need to get my HDL levels (mostly determined by genetics) up by losing weight and exercise increasing my exercise. My occasional glass of wine might actually be helping my HDL
The ratio of TC to HDL can also be a predictor of heart disease risk. My ratio is 182/35.5 which divided gives me the number of 5.1. Men’s risk ratio should be no higher than 4.5. For women no higher than 4.0. So, obviously I need a better ratio.
What about Triglycerides?
Triglycerides is fat stored in the blood and used as energy. More recently this blood fat can been recognized as a risk factor also for heart disease, especially when it is accompanied by a low HDL count. Like myself. My triglycrides are 155. Safe levels are considered to be no more than 150 and 100 is the best to reduce risk So I need to work on this for certain.
I’ve read recently that high triglycerides and low HDL such as mine can cause elevated blood pressure and insulin resistance which helps to create obesity. This is called syndrome X. So I have syndrome X and its makes losing weight and controlling my blood glucose very difficult. This syndrome responds to more exercise, weight control and reduced sugars and alcohol. But heart patients are regularly recommended to eat a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet which is not good for a person like myself. My husband diet is not the best for me. My optimum diet is one full of fruits and vegetables, lean meat and poultry and fish (especially the fatty varieties), low-fat and nonfat dairy foods, whole-grain cereals and liber healthful oils (such as olive oil).
Another interesting fact is that there are actually two kinds of LDL that are very deadly. When the LDL in our bloodstream becomes oxidized by exposure to very reactive oxygen molecules calls “free radicals,” that oxidized LDL causes more trouble. That’s why we hear so much about preventing oxidation with supplements such as vitamins E and C. Some LDL cholesterols occur in the form of small, denser particles which can damage arteries more than the larger more buoyant particles. Studies show that Niacin can convert these to the larger more buoyant forms and greatly reduce heart disease. Niacin can also reduce a LDL cholesterol called lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a) which can cause clogging of arteries. Lp(a) is mostly determined genetically and only niacin is know to reduce it.
Lastly, cholesterol and triglycerides along with other blood fats are referred to as “lipids.” A complete test of these fats is called a “lipid profile.” Each time I visit my endocrinologist (diabetes doctor), I have a fasting blood draw for a new lipid panel. So I can see my measurements for my A1c and my lipids every 3 months.
Diabetes as a Heart Disease Risk Factor
In both Diabetes type 1 and 2, glucose builds up in the bloodstream. When blood glucose levels are over 126, a diagnosis of diabetes is made. Women with Type 2 diabetes have 3.3 times the risk of heart disease as a woman without diabetes. In men, diabetes increased heart disease risk 1.8 times. Type 2 diabetics a four times greater risk of death when HDL is low and triglycerides and LDL are high. I am in that statistic and I do not want to die, so I have to do something about that statistic and I am. If this describes you also, join with me in making the changes necessary to live a longer and healthier life.
I highly recommend “The New 8-week Cholesterol Cure” book by Robert Kowalski. This is the 8-week diet I am working with along with my “liver cleanse diet.”
Thanks for looking at my site and coming to this page. I would love for you to leave any questions or comments below. In addition, I’m open to new topics to research and comment on as they pertain to my own health and experience living with diabetes. Please share your interests and questions in your comments. I also love to hear others stories about how they handle their own diabetes issues.