Most heart attack patients’ cholesterol
levels did NOT indicate cardiac risk
Heart disease has become the leading cause of mortality in America in both men and women and is responsible for 610,000 deaths per year; In addition, 735,000 Americans have a heart attack every year (CDC 2017). Almost every single person has been affected by heart disease in some way. It is often called the silent killer because heart disease goes unnoticed by doctors until a big event like a heart attack or stroke take place.
Though one would think that monitoring of blood pressure and cholesterol levels would be beneficial in indicating the risks of this disease in most people, surprisingly, recent studies have shown otherwise. According to Science Daily, a new national study has indicated that the majority –almost 75%– of patients who were admitted to the hospital for a heart attack did not have cholesterol levels that would classify them as high risk for a cardiovascular event. Let me rephrase that- patients who had a heart attack did not have “abnormally” high levels of cholesterol. Their doctors gave them a “clean bill of health” but then had a heart attack. How does this make sense? Maybe we need to start looking elsewhere for the culprit of heart attacks.
Most of the bodies cholesterol is made in the liver and not coming from the diet, therefore we need to ask, “why is our body making more cholesterol”? In some cases we find hormones can cause it, nutritional deficiencies, and even toxins have been linked to an elevated cholesterol levels. The point is instead of treating high cholesterol with medications, why not try to figure out why it’s high in the first place.
There are many side effects to taking cholesterol medication such as muscle weakness, fatigue and pain. People taking cholesterol medications don’t associate these symptoms as possible side effects because they can take years to show up. These are low grade symptoms that manifest over time to become something much more dangerous leading to more medications.
I once had a patient who couldn’t get out of their car because she felt so weak and fatigued. She never made the connection between these symptoms and the medication she had been taking for two years. But after only two weeks of being off her cholesterol medication her strength had almost returned to normal.
Many experts agree that the main culprit to heart disease is CRP (c-reactive protein) where elevated levels show you are 3x more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke. CRP is produced by the liver and increases in the presence of inflammation in the body. An elevated C-reactive protein level is identified using blood tests and is considered a “marker” for disease. It can signal flare-ups of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. A number of studies also suggest that over time, chronic low-level internal inflammation can lead to many serious, age-related diseases including heart disease, some forms of cancer, and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and many more.
A study published in the British Medical Journal (Wouter de Ruijter et al, British Medical Journal, 9th January, 2008) shows that your homocysteine level ( much like CRP is a marker of internal inflammation), a simple blood test, predicts risk of death from cardiovascular disease in older people better than any conventional measure of risk including cholesterol, blood pressure or smoking.
If we determine you have elevated levels of inflammation we need to find what is damaging the tissues of the body. Could the inflammation be coming from an infection, poor nutrition, is it a hidden food sensitivity, an autoimmune condition, or from hormone imbalances. This is why Functional Medicine gets to the root cause of these initial symptoms (high cholesterol) because there is often something much deeper going on that needs to be addressed first.
If you have high cholesterol or have experienced any of the above symptoms call our office today to schedule an appointment to discuss getting your inflammatory markers checked.
What can you do to prevent heart disease?
GET TESTED: In our office we measure both homocysteine (another inflammation marker) and crp both of which have been linked to the likelihood of stroke and heart disease. But also connected to those markers are depression, anxiety, malaise (feeling bad), and brain fog.
GET ACTIVE: Getting at least 20 minutes of physical activity everyday has been shown to improve heart health and lower inflammation levels.
INCREASE HDL: For your heart to function properly and for it to do its job properly it needs to have the proper nutrients. Make sure you are eating a variety of colors, getting exercise daily and increasing your healthy fats such as olive oil and wild caught salmon.
TAKE YOUR HEART SERIOUSLY: Heart health is not something to take lightly especially if you have a family history of heart disease, don’t wait until something bad happens to take care of your heart.
University of California – Los Angeles. “Most Heart Attack Patients’ Cholesterol Levels Did Not Indicate Cardiac Risk.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090112130653.htm>.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2017. Heart Disease Facts. www. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2017. LDL and HDL Cholesterol: “Bad” and “Good” Cholesterol. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm
Champeau, Rachel. 2009. Most heart attack patients’ cholesterol levels did not indicate cardiac risk. UCLA Newsroom. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/majority-of-hospitalized-heart-75668?fbclid=IwAR0ZUJikypygl7IND5dEOzIoXtNEXUjh3okFwu2Qo0-KWFyPONFvoPnSOCw