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High Cholesterol is NOT Dangerous for Women

October 26, 2015

Have you been badgered lately by a health provider who has insisted that you be on a statin, a class of cholesterol lowering drugs? They show you your “numbers” and your cholesterol is high. You blanche. You’ve seen all the ads on TV for statins. All your friends are on statins. What to do? The last time you tried statins, you had terrible leg pain just walking across the room.

Well, what you do is pull the rug out from the argument and read this article from the Journal of the American Heart Association: It shows that moderately higher cholesterol is protective. Worse, it shows that mortality is HIGHER if you lower your cholesterol. What are the details? This is a big research study, following men and women prospectively for 10 years (52,087 Norwegians and a total of 510,297 observation years). It shows a U-shaped curve for mortality from cardiovascular disease with the greatest mortality happening in the “mid-range”.

The authors suggest that it’s time to get some nuance into cholesterol guidelines. The total cholesterol is not just the storyline we want to follow. The authors suggest that perhaps better “numbers” would be to take the Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio and aim to get that below a certain threshold. (Most folks say around 4.5.) That would take into account the protective effect of HDLs. As we talked about in this column, a more recent update on ratios shows that the triglyceride/HDL ratio is the best predictor of all. Perfect is when you get to less than one. You have virtually eliminated all risk of vascular disease if you can achieve that ratio.

And you can eliminate it almost completely with lifestyle change. How? It’s actually easy. You have to understand the role LDL’s play in your body. If you premise that they represent the fat manufactured in your liver, being transported in the blood to fat cells, where the fat will be stored, you will understand exactly how to change them. The human body was not designed to eat lots of processed carbs. We were designed to eat very coarse, dense carbs, like spinach, broccoli, dandelions—whole foods, all raw and very low in free carbs. Our colon’s bacteria digested those “high fiber” foods and released glucose very, very slowly.

When we eat refined bread, our liver is overcome, we cannot process the glucose and we force our blood sugar up, our insulin up, and that turns on the production of fat in our liver. Hence, if you want to get rid of your LDLs try your own experiment. Stop eating carbs, at least the ones that come in processed foods like bread, cookies, sugar, ice cream and donuts. Eat meat, animal fat (bacon, butter and eggs) and all the green vegetables you want. Measure your LDLs before and after two to three weeks. You will be cured in a month of “high” LDLs and your HDLs will climb like a rocket. Even your nervous family doctor will be happy because you won’t meet criteria to be treated for your allegedly high cholesterol.

So, just what is the take home of this study? Most women are well served with higher cholesterol, because many, many women naturally have very high HDLs. That is partially genetics, partially estrogen, partially discipline and exercise.

WWW—What will work for me? It’s just so ridiculously obvious and simple. High LDLs mean you are eating too many processed, free modern carbs. You can prove it to yourself in weeks. I’ve done it so many hundreds of times with my customers, I’m just annoyed that our health care system can’t figure it out for themselves. Just get a lab test twice, a month apart, and try the experiment for yourself. Presto! My problem is that I sin, and when I test myself, my wonderful good results go away pretty fast. Bummer. This being consistent is not my strongest suit.

John E. Whitcomb, M.D. is founder and medical director of Brookfield Longevity & Healthy Living Clinic. He is a Yale University School of Medicine graduate and is board certified in holistic and integrative medicine from Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.

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