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Putting high cholesterol in perspective
High cholesterol is seen as the kiss of death…..
If your LDL level has crept up, a little – IT MUST BE BROUGHT DOWN, because you are a heart attack waiting to happen.
A high cholesterol level, is often linked to metabolic syndrome, the metabolic anomalies, are increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
But there is a lot more too the story.
High cholesterol exposed
Now a high LDL count, is probably not a sign of good health, but researchers from the University of Warwick have found “high” cholesterol, is NOT the biggest risk factor.
Metabolic syndrome has five components
The team from the University of Warwick have identified three things, which are far better indicators that you have A SERIOUS problem.
Cholesterol seems to get a lot of attention, but five health problems are typically linked to metabolic syndrome.
- High blood pressure
- High triglycerides
- High sugar levels
- High weight, specifically around the belly,
- High cholesterol, actually officially the trouble is not high LDL cholesterol, but low HDL cholesterol, is one of the symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome/heart disease
To qualify for a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, you usually need to be able to tick off at least three of them, which is not too difficult, because insulin resistance coupled, with chronic inflammation, underpins the bad body chemistry at the route of all of these metabolic troubles.
NOTE : It is worth pointing out, you do not have to be overweight to have metabolic syndrome – something which is not always appreciated by “the skinny”. And being overweight does not, automatically mean you have metabolic syndrome either, but the odds are pretty high, and get higher with each passing year that you are heavier than you should be.
Pinpointing the BIG THREE
So which of the five health problems REALLY matter, if any ?
The Warwick team picked apart the health happenings of 3078 people with a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome.
The big THREE turned out to be
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) and
- Central obesity i.e. a big tummy – this is a sign of INSULIN RESISTANCE
What had marginal significance – high cholesterol.
But the real ticket to pinpointing troubled hearts is something not on the usual list of suspects……. coronary artery calcium.
Hearts turning to stone
The multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA) is a study, that measured a whole bunch of things in 1330 people, considered to be at intermediate risk of having a heart attack.
Among the things they measured were
- The CAC score – this is the amount of calcium hiding inside the main heart artery
- Ankle-brachial index
- Brachial flow mediated dilation
- Carotid intima thickness
- C-reactive protein and
- Family history of heart disease
The people included in this study were WATCHED, for 7 years.
It turned out that the CAC score ended up being most helpful, in predicting who would have a heart attack.
Patching the damage is going awry
Both high sugar levels and high blood pressure, put a huge amount of strain on the integrity of the blood vessels.
The cells lining the blood vessels need help, getting “patched”.
Cholesterol is one part of the patch, but seriously damaged cells need more than a patch, they need to be replaced. And a special breed of vascular stem cells step up to the party, replacing the damaged beyond repair, endothelial cells.
The trouble on occasion, on occasion, the stem cells can get a little mixed up – morphing into a bone cell, instead of a vascular smooth muscle cell. These are probably the cells gathering the calcium, inadvertently turning the heart, into bone.
Avoid damaging the cells surrounding your blood vessel
Swallowing pills to FIX your cholesterol, is not FIXING the trouble and might be creating NEW troubles, cholesterol is a “patch”.
The key to FIXING the trouble, is to limit the damage to the cells that line the blood vessels.
Trajectories of Entering the Metabolic Syndrome. Circulation (2009) 120: 1943-1950. Oscar H. Franco, Joseph M. Massaro, Jacky Civil, Mark R. Cobain, Brendan O’Malley, Ralph B. D’Agostino Sr.
What if cholesterol build up is a red herring ? What if, high blood pressure is due to someone, not something, putting the squeeze on your blood vessels.
Volunteering might be just the thing you need to loosen up those “tight” blood vessels. Not metaphorically speaking, literally.
If you’re suffering from metabolic syndrome – maybe it is time to let the iron out and bring down your blood pressure by giving a little blood.
Insulin resistance is the real risk factor for heart disease
Discover how to improve your insulin sensitivity, so you decrease the odds that you have a heart attack