End Cholesterol Confusion

End Cholesterol Confusion

By Dr. Stewart Gillespie*, Osteopath, Functional Medicine, Clinical Nutritionist, Medical Intuitive


Recently I did a seminar on cholesterol and cardiovascular disease which was well received. I definitely said some things that were difficult to digest as it went against the mainstream message from the media, your MD, drug companies, the low fat food industry and even the American heart association. But my voice on this is not the only voice, what I am about to tell you is well chronicled, and based on fact, but is drowned out by the cholesterol chorus organized by the above institutions. So we are left in a sea of confusion and the patient becomes worse of and is the loser in the situation.

Here’s the problem, cardiovascular disease is on the rise and is still the number one killer in the United States, even though we have adopted many of the strategies borne out of discovering cholesterol plaques in arteries following open heart surgeries in the 60’s. Heart attacks are still rising, and 50% of them go unnoticed as our laboratory results show that we have normal cholesterol. Low fat/cholesterol /no red meat high grain diets have not worked. What we know now about cholesterol and how to test for cardiovascular risk, what strategies to implement to prevent it, is light years ahead of what we knew then. But we are still implementing old school solutions, based on studies that have now shown to be flawed. Any Doctor who assesses heart attack risk based on total cholesterol alone is just burying their head in the sand.

Back in the 60’s when surgeons opened up cardiac arteries and found cholesterol plaques of course war were waged against cholesterol and rightly so. But heart disease is now known to be not just a cholesterol story. Cholesterol is at the scene of the crime, but is not the perpetrator and we are arresting the wrong guy at a fight.  In this article you will discover that even with a cholesterol number above 250 you may not be at risk, and with a cholesterol number of 130 you still run the chance of a heart attack. There are other markers for cardiac stroke risk that must be considered, and can be easily assessed through simple blood testing but is not.

Cholesterol is essential to health, without it we would die. It makes every cell in the body, is the biggest component of brain cells. It covers and protects every single nerve cell in the body. It is the precursor to essential hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and vitamin D. To try and reduce it as you can see would starve us of essential elements to life. Is it a mystery now how about 90% of us are vitamin D deficient, why low testosterone is on the rise, why estrogen imbalance is so endemic to our society, brain disorders like Alzheimer’s increasing, nerve disorders like Multiple Sclerosis increasing. We are basically causing it by adopting a low fat diet.

Most importantly cholesterol, with regards to heart disease, is the substance that the body uses to repair cells that are damaged. It protects us from inflammation in the body. I compare it to spackle covering the cracks of a wall.  Inflammation caused by blood sugar being too high, damages artery walls. There would be no cholesterol plaques unless there were cracks in the arteries. This is fundamental to ending confusion. This is why people with high cholesterol can get away with heart attacks as they have no inflammation or damage to arteries. Conversely if you have damage to arteries even a cholesterol number below 150 you are still at risk. So with this in mind in order to assess your risk of heart attack we have to assess your level of inflammation which is the underlying cause of atherosclerosis and all degenerative disease.

There are four subtypes of LDL’s, considered your bad cholesterol.  and two types of HDL, considered your good cholesterol. Someone who has a higher proportion of smaller denser subgroup of LDL are substantially more at risk than someone who has larger less dense LDL’s, as they can readily enter compromised arterial walls. Also someone with a high HDL count should ensure they have the better subclass which is large buoyant HDL for greater protection.  Also measure the real culprit of heart disease which is inflammation.

There are inflammatory markers in your blood called homocysteine and C-reactive protein that are high when inflammation is present. There are nutrients and nutritional strategies to reduce inflammation in the body depending on which marker is increased.  There are ways to reduce small LDL’s as well as increase large buoyant HDL’s. There are also situations which require the need for statins as part of your nutritional protocols.

I write this so we can adopt a new way of thinking. Though you would not know it based on today’s obsession with cholesterol levels, cardiology has been slowing veering away from the narrow view of cholesterol as a primary cause of heart disease. Cardiologist are slowly accepting that its inflammation of arterial tissue that leads to heart disease and most strokes. The field is realizing that although cholesterol plays a role in the bi-chemical process that creates damage in arterial walls – which in turn leads to plaques and clots, it’s a relatively minor one. Yet for most people the word cholesterol remains synonymous with death and disease.

In this country the pharmaceutical companies have created a nonexistent disease called hypercholesterolemia which simply means high cholesterol. I see the anxiety on patients faces when they come to my office and the first words out of their mouth are “my cholesterol is high and I’m really scared”.  People are indeed worried if they have a total cholesterol score above 200. I’m here to tell you don’t worry. High cholesterol is not a death sentence it’s a signal that you should have a more sophisticated blood test that will measure the various subtypes of your LDL and HDL, and tell you whether your cholesterol warrants attention or is merely elevated. This type of information which hasn’t been available until recently can then help you make health and lifestyle choices that will have the best odds of improving your situation. The standard blood lipid tests that most doctors use to monitor cholesterol belong in the age of dinosaurs.

They only tell you how much LDL, HDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol you have in your blood, and that’s about it. A much more recent test has emerged called the lipoprotein particle profile (LPP) that allows for more precise measurements and much more affectively assess your risk of heart attack it also measures inflammatory markers in your blood that we’ve already talked about. So I urge you that if you’re worried about your cholesterol and have a history of heart disease in your family too make an appointment and come and see me. If you would like to order the LPP test it can be done through our office, it is covered by insurance, and in most cases your copay for this test is about fifty-five dollars. These few simple suggestions can help support your health; it’s an investment in yourself that you simply cannot afford to pass up.


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 Disclaimer: The information in this handout is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone suffering from any disease, illness or injury should consult with a physician.