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When are your cholesterol levels too high ?
You’re health conscious, so you know your numbers…..
- You feel okay.
- Your blood pressure is normal.
- But, your total cholesterol level is above the threshold of healthy i.e. it is above 5 mM.
Oh dear !
Officially, you are a heart attack waiting to happen.
Get that cholesterol down STAT
You must get your cholesterol number down, any which way you can. For most, this means a prescription of a statin. Since the statin blocks your body’s ability to make cholesterol, total cholesterol levels drop.
Everyone, breathes a collective sigh of relief.
You’ve dodged the risk of a potentially fatal cardiovascular event.
But have you ?
A team of Norwegian researchers think not. And worse, you might have actually increased your risk of dying of something else, especially if you are a women. Ouch !
A careful look at the numbers….
A community effort
In the mid-nineties, the majority of the residents of Nord-Trondelag county in Norway, agreed to be part of a big health study, known as the HUNT2 study.
Ultimately 52 087 healthy adults, between the ages of 20 – 74 years, signed up for the study.
Between August 1995 and June 1997, each participant
- had their blood pressure checked,
- donated a vial of blood, to have their total serum cholesterol level checked and
- recorded their smoking status
Then, they went about their business – living and dying.
Counting person years
10 years down the line…………..the team accessed the Norwegian Death Registry to count the living and the dead. And in the case of the dead, what they had died of.
The number they were interested in was the mortality rate per 1000 person years.
The what ?
Yes, it is odd number to look at – but it’s a way to quantify risks.
Bear in mind, most of the people in the study, would still be alive and kicking at the 10 year mark, because they were relatively young (less than 75 years), and healthy, at the start of the study.
So what was the risk of dying of heart disease ?
Being OLD was the biggest risk
No big surprise here.
Here is a look at the data…. green boxes are good, red boxes are bad.
It’s not too hard to see, there are a lot more green boxes, in the under sixties.
Unfortunately, you can’t stop the clock ticking, so what else can you do to avoid being A RED BOX ?
The risk of cardiovascular disease
Is a lot higher in men. Give estrogen a shout out, if you’re a lady, as long as she is around, she protects you from heart disease. Just like age, you can’t change your gender – so what can you do ?
Don’t smoke. It creates red boxes on steroids.
Nothing new here.
Also, watch that blood pressure ! A blood pressure higher than 140 mmHg is a red box, especially if you are male.
This makes sense, the more pressure in the pipes, the greater the likelihood of a blow out.
But, what about “high” cholesterol ?
Heart disease is not related to cholesterol
The red box is not where it is “supposed” to be……
High serum cholesterol is “supposed” to be a heart attack waiting to happen, but in this study, the risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease was marginally higher, when cholesterol levels were LOW and blood pressure was normal.
It seems……..high cholesterol IS NOT a fatal disease !
Low cholesterol levels are risky
Actually, when the team looked at the risk of dying PERIOD, rather than just the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, an interesting trend emerged – the people with the lowest cholesterol levels, were more vulnerable i.e. they were more likely to die.
This was especially noticeable in ladies.
In fact, the team concluded both low (<5.5 mM) and high (>7.0 mM) levels of cholesterol, were problematic.
Which begs the question………….
Why is a cholesterol level <5.0 mM considered optimum ?
Cholesterol the scapegoat
Politics, economics, ignorance ? I suspect, it is a little of all three.
What does it mean for you ? STOP and THINK !
Your cholesterol number needs to be just right and the just right number, if you don’t have high blood pressure, is somewhere between 5 and 7 mM.
It’s NOT 4 mM.
Too little cholesterol is risky
If you have a low cholesterol number and YOUR DOCTOR is very happy ! Realize, your body might not be as HAPPY, with the situation.
Cholesterol does stuff, it’s most notable jobs
- It is used to make steroid hormones, which include estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, aldosterone and cortiosone
- It makes vitamin D and bile acids
- It stabilizes membranes
- There is lots of it in your brain
This research concluded…..
the ‘dangers’ of cholesterol should be revised. This is especially true for women, for whom moderately elevated cholesterol (by current standards) may prove to be not only harmless but even beneficial.
Fight the right battles…………. high insulin and high sugar are heart disease maker
NOTE : If you have high blood pressure, this IS A PROBLEM – click here, for tips & strategies
Substituting vegetable oils for saturated fat, definitely lowers your cholesterol levels. But does this protect your from heart disease ? In a word – NO.
A special non-stick layer, known as the glycocalyx, prevents things from sticking to the sides of blood vessels. When it’s not there, atherosclerosis happens.
When cholesterol levels are TOO low, sugar levels rise, because, the uptake of sugar, depends on cholesterol. Too much sugar is the real cause heart disease.