The aged idea that you should lower your serum cholesterol levels to what’s considered “normal” is absurd. The high cholesterol myth has been disproved for years, by people much smarter than you and I.
What do I know?
My quest for fitness and health knowledge has involved countless hours studying health and nutrition over the last twenty-five years, and forgot more than I’ve learned during that time. I’ve been a well-paid, highly-sought-after health and fitness writer since 2011 or so. During that time, I’ve learned that modern medicine is very flawed in how they dispense advice (and medication) to people who’re considered “at risk for heart disease and multiple other health concerns.
Doctors really don’t understand cholesterol.
Doctors aren’t dumb, but few are actual geniuses either. I like my doc, but he’s a classically-trained type who completed his training over forty years ago. When he told me my serum blood levels were really high, I think like 5.7 mmol/L (~220 mg/dl), he instructed me to start limiting cholesterol rich foods in my diet.
This is common advice in the medical community, and as I’ve since learned, far from helpful. And guess what? The measurements used in medicine to determine one’s cholesterol levels (Ie., LDL and HDL) aren’t even cholesterol at all!
More on that later…
Truth is, your body tightly regulates this essential substance; when you eat high cholesterol foods, your body lowers the amount it produces to maintain balanced levels.
What cholesterol actually does.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance made by the liver and it has several functions essential to our wellness. It contributes to the protective membrane (coating) covering every cell in our body. Cholesterol aids in vital hormone function, and helps metabolise all the fat-soluble vitamins we take in (A, D, E, and K).
Without it, we’d be dead, which is why it’s so silly it has been labelled as the arch-enemy to our heart and arteries.
Lipoproteins and the cholesterol connection.
There are two kinds of lipoproteins our liver makes: Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL). Despite the fact one is labelled as “bad” and the other “good” cholesterol, they’re not actually cholesterol.
Pardon me for repeating this, but very few people understand this and it’s important info to have:
- LDL lipoproteins carry cholesterol where it’s needed in the body to perform its various functions.
- HDL has one job, which is to pick up extra cholesterol and take it back to the liver to be removed from the body.
Knowing this, you can see how high cholesterol really doesn’t mean anything — it’s the balance of lipoproteins in our body that determine our risk for clogged arteries. The human body only produces one kind of cholesterol — the “good” kind — and it’s one of many things floating around our body that make it work as it was designed to. If there’s enough HDL to manage excess LDL, it doesn’t matter if your serum (total) numbers are a perfect 180 mg/dl or sky-high at 300 or more.
Uncontrolled oxidation and inflammation cause heart disease.
Oxidation is the enemy of every living creature on the planet. It’s what causes aging. Oxidation leads to inflammation. When the walls of our arteries become inflamed, they become sticky. When uncontrolled LDL lipoproteins become inflamed, they also become sticky.
LDL, and the cholesterol it’s carrying clings to inflamed arteries, attracting other fats, proteins, calcium and other substances in the blood to stick to each other and build up — slowly cutting off the oxygen supply throughout our body. Atherosclerosis is no joke and it can result in a number of complications that can mess your life up for good!
Why I no longer worry about my cholesterol levels.
Considering everything I’ve just told you, I don’t really care how much serum cholesterol I have in my blood. What matters to me specifically is my HDL-to-serum cholesterol ratio, which is calculated by subtracting HDL from the serum total. A poor ratio in this category is considered the true predictor of heart disease later in life, as you have too much LDL circulating and not enough HDL to deal with it effectively.
A ratio below 5 is considered good; 3.5 optimal. Mine is currently 4.1 which I’m sure is much better than where I started after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism and diabetes back in 2012 (sadly, I lost the paperwork and if you remember, my serum numbers were stated to be the major concern at that time).
How to easily balance lipoproteins.
This is much easier than you might think, barring genetics and poor lifestyle choices. It should be said that even when balanced, the consumption of “poisons” like cigarette smoke, alcohol, prescription (and non prescription!) meds, excessive car exhaust, industrial toxins and anything else in excess that can lead to uncontrolled oxidation and inflammation, can still cause atherosclerosis.
When you eat and live right, and have and optimum HDL ratio, chances are good that you’ll live longer and have a better quality of life during your time here on Earth.
Fruits and veggies?
I don’t advocate eating lots of fruits and vegetables — at least not indiscriminately. Excess sugar causes excess inflammation, which is why so many people become diabetic, and why so many diabetics suffer with inflammation related diseases including heart disease. Same goes for pretty much everything that you take out of a box or put in the oven.
Eliminate processed foods.
Processed foods, which include all fast food and most of the junk you’ll find in a “classy” restaurant, are full of excess carbs, trans fats and chemicals with names you can’t pronounce — all of which cause inflammation.
Eat more meat and less crap.
To keep my HDL numbers and other blood markers (like blood sugar) in check, I stick with steak, eggs and a smattering of other meats including pork and fish (oysters!) These days, I eat meat mostly, and get my antioxidants from low-sugar fruits and veggies like avocados, berries, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, celery, and cauliflower.
Supplements have their place.
This krill oil supplies my body with lots of inflammation-fighting DHA and EPA (omega 3s), and maximum strength milk thistle is my go-to for keeping my liver running at peak efficiency. I actually realised the benefits of milk thistle during my heavy drinking days.
I’ll never go a day without taking it, as it’s known for balancing cholesterol, lowering blood sugar levels, and (INMO) is the only true hangover cure in existence! Maybe I’ll post about my experiences with it someday and how it reversed the next-day symptoms associated with drinking too much, too often.
Until next time!
You’re the best,