So, the doctor says your cholesterol is too high. In these days of health-
conscious America, the fear of cholesterol has almost become an obsession.
What many people do not realize is that saturated fat is a more significant
contributor to cholesterol levels than the actual cholesterol. Cholesterol is made
by our own bodies and is necessary for it's function. Problems begin when the
body has too much cholesterol, but there are many treatments to bring down
The human body manufactures 60 - 75% of its total cholesterol for its own use.
The body uses cholesterol as glue to keep cell membranes from falling apart. It
also is one of the building blocks for many of the body’s hormones such as
estrogen, testosterone and cortisone. In the intestines, the cholesterol in bile
breaks down fats and allows them to be absorbed into the body. High blood
cholesterol levels seem to lead to the development of artery and heart diseases,
but low cholesterol levels can be destructive to the body as well and are often
seen in immune system problems such as cancer and AIDS. So it’s not that
cholesterol is bad, but levels must be regulated for optimal body function.
In the lining of the larger arteries, excess cholesterol is deposited in pockets
called plaques and later often replaced with calcium. This prevents the arteries
from expanding and contracting normally, forcing the heart to work harder to
pump blood through the body. Consequently, blood does not flow efficiently,
limiting the nutrition and oxygen available to tissues and leading to a stroke,
heart attack, high blood pressure and circulation problems in the legs and arms.
Many studies have found that significantly lowering high cholesterol levels can
actually reduce the size and number of plaques and lower the risk of heart attack
and stroke. With diligence in changing dietary patterns, this process can be
halted and even reversed.
When testing cholesterol levels, the doctor will take a blood sample and order a
“lipid profile” which lists the proportions of a number of different fats in the blood.
LDL’s and VLDL’s are the “bad guys” - proteins which carry cholesterol through
the body and deposit the excess in our arteries. On the other hand, HDL’s are
the “good guys” - they have been found to carry cholesterol from other sites in
the body (including arteries) to the liver where they are made into bile or broken
down and used by the body. The number that the doctor will most often give you
is all the types added together - total cholesterol. The doctor also measures the
triglycerides in the body, but high levels seem to correlate more highly with an
increased risk of diabetes, than heart disease. Triglyceride levels are best
lowered by removing sugar and other refined carbohydrates from the diet.
There is disagreement among various sources about the levels of LDL, VLDL
and HDL that are considered optimal for health. Based on present research, we
prefer total cholesterol to be between 150-180 dl/ml. HDL levels should be 1/3 to
1/2 the total cholesterol, and it is inversely related to heart disease. 60-74 mg/dl
HDL is below average heart disease risk, and levels of 75 or greater indicate less
of a risk and may even be protective. So these are numbers to aim for when
undergoing a treatment plan. Remember, because 60-75% of the body’s
cholesterol is produced by the body, even with a cholesterol-free diet one could
still be in the cardiovascular danger zone. In most cases however, a few changes
in diet will significantly lower the blood cholesterol levels.
High levels of cholesterol are associated with many life-threatening diseases but
there are a number of dietary measures that can lower and/or control levels. If
periodic checks are made by a doctor and common-sense dietary changes are
made as needed by the patient and kept up over time, atherosclerotic disease
can be reduced and the problems it cause prevented and possibly even reversed.
Cholesterol- A Naturopathic Approach
Articles & Facts
From The Center: Natural Health Specialists
Article submitted by Dr. Jennifer Kaumeyer