Cholesterol and your Heart
Depending on which study you read, 50-70% of the people that have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels. Cholesterol has been vilified and attacked for over 40 years but our rate of heart disease continues to go up in this country. Cholesterol is a vital nutrient to our body and is involved in many processes like the production of vitamin D and our sex hormones. Our liver produces 5-10 times more cholesterol in a day than you could ever eat. So the low fat diets are really not effective at lowering cholesterol, either. But the fact remains that a majority of Americans die from some type of cardiovascular disease and people do have plaque in their arteries that will eventually kill them.
There are an infinite number of ways that your arteries come under attack but there is a finite number of responses your body resonds to those attacks. Too much sugar, alcohol, chemical ingestion like cigarette smoke, processed food and pollutants all have a negative effect on the lining of our arteries. One theory is that when the vascular walls of our arteries become low in the P factors (bioflavonoids) of the whole vitamin C complex, our arteries start to leak. The cholesterol and calcium is used as a patch to repair the arteries and stop them from leaking. This is the body’s natural way of healing a dangerous condition. Because cholesterol is found in the plaque, it gets blamed as being the bad guy when really it was saving your life. It is similar to blaming the elevation of white blood cells in your blood for causing your infection. Using chelation therapy to pull the calcium and cholesterol out of the arteries can have the devastating effect of arterial rupture. I know two people who died from a burst aorta after dozens of treatments with IV chelation. Trying to artificially pull the cholesterol out of your arteries without healing the problem first can be very dangerous.
Athrogenic (plaque forming)Particles
Others believe that as a response to the different insults we listed above, the LDL particles are changed or modified in character and then start to form plaque on our arterial walls. The standard Lipid Profile that you see from your doctor does not measure these particles and so you don’t know what your likelihood is for building plaque in your arteries. A diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar causes more athrogenic particles than saturated fat in your diet. For years we have been told fat is bad for us when they really meant trans fats are bad for us. Eating mono and polyunsaturated fats are healthy but if you didn’t eat any saturated fat, our cell membranes would all be liquid at room temperature. We would look like the Blob and not like humans from spring until fall! So it is trans fats and sugar as well as smoking and eating dead, highly processed foods that change our LDL particle number and characteristics to make them more likely to plaque our arteries, not organic meats, eggs or raw milk cheeses.
How are my Particles?
So how do you know if your arteries are building up plaque and what kind of particles do you have? A high speed CT scan or Cardiac MRI can help determine the amount of calcification you already have in your coronary arteries. There are screening tests that can show, via ultrasound, how much plaque is in our carotid arteries, how stiff the arteries are and if our aorta is ready to burst. But if the plaque build up is very extensive it is hard to reverse.
Wouldn’t it be better to know if you are a candidate for this problem before it started or to catch it early? We now have access to a new blood test developed by Spectracell Labs that can measure your particle type and number and determine your propensity to build plaque in your arteries. Having normal, low or high cholesterol levels doesn’t tell you this information. That is why the majority of people dying from heart disease had normal lab values on their standard lipid profiles. It is an outdated test that doesn’t give you enough information. The amazing part is that, for people with most health insurance plans, this test costs you about $60 and for uninsured patients it is $120. The blood is drawn at a local lab and it takes 2-3 weeks to get your results.
There are nutritional supplements that can raise and lower these different factors so that you don’t need drugs. We can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raise HDL with a few nutritional products. These supplements have been tested by various studies to work on normalizing.
Last month I mention Dr. Mark Houston and his book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Hypertension. One of the causes of high blood pressure is stiff arteries and he has developed some nutritional products to lower your blood pressure and normalize your lipid particles. I have these products in the office and can test you to see which ones work for you.
Spectracell has a few other tests that are very interesting as well. Last month I talked about telomere length and its relationship to aging. They can measure your telomere length for $350 and give you an idea if you are aging faster or slower than your chronological age. They also have the ability to test how much of the nutrition you are taking is actually getting into the cell. One of the downsides of most blood tests is that they measure the levels of a substance floating in the blood but cannot tell you how much of this is actually in the cell. Spectracell can take a white blood cell and test it for micronutrient deficiencies that can then be treated effectively. With most health insurance plans this test costs $160 or for uninsured patients it is $320. We have the requisition forms in the office to order any of these tests. I am also putting a copy of their pamphlet on Lipoprotein Particle Profile on the website in the Info Letter section to give you more information.
Just a reminder
we are closed Monday 5/31 for Memorial Day.
Tuesday June 1st is our 5 year anniversary in this office and 2010 marks my 20th year practicing in Boulder. Boy time really flies!
Have a great holiday weekend and welcome our unofficial start of summer!