For the past ten years, heart disease has been the number-one killer for both men and women. Though doctors are putting more and more people on statins (e.g., Lipitor) and other heart medications, their efforts aren’t even putting a dent in the heart disease statistics! We are using more drugs than in the history of mankind, yet our nation is getting sicker and showing no signs of improvement. Perhaps, we have been fed a bunch of myths instead hard, scientific research. What myths do we believe about cholesterol that could kill us sooner rather than later?
- Cholesterol clogs arteries, causing heart attacks.
False: Half of the people suffering heart attacks have cholesterol lower than the typical standard of 200mg/dl. What caused their heart attacks if it wasn’t cholesterol? Could it be the same cause for people with “high” cholesterol?
- LDL cholesterol is the “bad cholesterol.”
False: We need LDL for wound healing, cell membrane health, brain health, sex and stress hormones, vitamin D production, bile production (to break down fats), and insulation for our nerve cells (myelin).
- There are no dangers of having lower cholesterol.
False: Cholesterol levels below 100 can lead to depression, memory loss, stroke, violent behavior, and suicide.
- Cholesterol is the main cause of heart disease.
False: The main cause of heart disease is sugar and unrefined grains, which cause insulin spikes throughout the day, leading to irritation, inflammation, and damage to the lining of the blood vessels. LDL cholesterol is there to heal the damage; however, if we continue to damage the vessels, more LDL and calcium will accumulate.
- Cholesterol drugs are safe to use.
False: The most common side-effects from statins are memory loss, irritability, muscle pain and weakness, liver disease, hormonal imbalance, heart weakness (because statins deplete CoQ10), increased blood sugar, and type II diabetes.
- There is ample evidence that maintain cholesterol of 200 or lower is beneficial for preventing heart attacks.
False: There is no evidence that cholesterol of 200 is any better than cholesterol of 240, though there is some evidence showing cholesterol over 300 hundred is a risk factor.
- All LDL Cholesterol is the same.
False: There is good LDL cholesterol, which happens to be necessary for healing and cellular membrane health. However, due to high-sugar/high-carb diets, combined with a lack of good fats, LDL cholesterol oxidizes. That means it becomes like sand, instead of like smooth pebbles, that can get into every crevice in the damaged arterial wall, due to high insulin.
- Cholesterol must be the smoking gun in plaque formation because it is present in arterial plaque.
False: Cholesterol, by itself, would have no negative impact on health if our arteries stayed smooth and pliable with a genetically congruent diet for humans. As we travel back 100’s and 1000’s of years, there is little evidence people died from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, yet cholesterol was floating around in their blood streams.
- A bad blood-cholesterol ratio of LDL and HDL is enough evidence to put a person on statins.
False: A standard lipid profile only measures total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. The newer, more advanced VAP (vertical auto profile) blood test assesses subclasses of lipids that are known or emerging risk factors for cardiovascular disease (e.g., LDL particle size, lipoprotein(a)), in addition to the measures in the standard profile. This additional information makes the VAP the gold standard cholesterol test, which you must insist your doctor order for you before considering taking statin medication. If you have sand paper size LDL, it is a risk factor that can be easily corrected by taking excellent-quality DHA/EPA Fish Oil and consuming other good fats.
- Everyone who has cholesterol of over 200 should be on a statin.
False: There is no evidence that statins are beneficial for women. Statins do not alter women’s chances of having a heart attack, and they actually increase their risk of heart failure and other side effects. Further, there is little to no evidence that statins prevent a person’s first heart attack (i.e., primary prevention). There is evidence that statins help to prevent a second heart attack among men who already had a heart attack. However, it will prevent only a single, second heart attack for every 125 men who are taking statins (e.g., the success rate is less than 1%).
- The best test to determine risk of heart attack is cholesterol testing.
False: The best blood work to determine risk of heart attack includes testing levels for all of the following: C-reactive protein, PLAC® Test (enzyme Lp-PLA2), homocysteine and insulin levels, A1C (glucose), oxidized LDL, and the VAP Test. A cardiac calcium scoring test, a type of CT scan, “is the best predictor of future heart attacks,” according to Dr. Agatston, an American cardiologist who’s dedicated to prevention.
- Statins don’t interfere with the production of minerals, vitamins, and enzymes.
False: Statins deplete the body of CoQ10 (very important for energy production), zinc, alpha lipoic acid, magnesium, and sulforaphane (a phytochemical in broccoli).
The average health care cost of a first heart attack costs $760,000 – if you survive it. It is prudent to do many things beyond what your MD suggests to keep your heart functioning well. Taking more statins will not prevent strokes or heart disease – it will only weaken your body. Instead, a good start would be to take abundant EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid, a long-chain, fatty acid) and vitamin K2, and to consume a diet that is low in sugar and grains and includes abundant, healthy fats.