Before we can even think about lowering cholesterol levels, we need to understand the major inflammation markers associated with heart disease and heart attack/stroke risk.
Cardiovascular Inflammation Markers
There are at least 8 major cardiovascular risk factors and cardiac-related inflammation markers associated with heart disease, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure:
- Lipoprotein (a)
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Serum Ferritin
Some of these inflammation markers actually cause cardiovascular disease (e.g. homocysteine), while others are just indicators or the result of cardiovascular disease (e.g. cholesterol).
This is important because if you try to fix the indicators (like forcing cholesterol lower with medications) and do not address the factors that actually cause the cardiovascular disease, then, you will not get rid of the disease.
And, so, the disease will continue to progress and worsen your health, until, eventually, one day, you have a heart attack or astroke.
And, so the cardiovascular disease will continue to progress and worsen (as depicted in the diagram below) causing more damage to the artery walls and endothelial cells, which line the inner walls of the arteries.
And, as all of this continues, it leads to additional arterial fatty streaks, arterial plaque formation and fibrous caps/boils -- until one day, one of the fibrous caps bursts (due to high blood pressure or high stress, for example) and a piece of the plaque breaks off and blocks an artery.
If the artery is connected to the heart, then, this causes a heart attack, which doctors call a myocardial infarction. Depending on the severity of the heart attack, this can leave you severely disabled or dead.
If the artery is connected to the brain, then, this causes a stroke, which doctors call a cerebrovascular accident, or CVA. Depending on the severity of the stroke, this can leave you severely disabled or dead.
Because most of these events occur without any pain or discomfort, and because Western Medicine fails to treat the root cause, the majority of us become victims of heart disease, which is the Number 1 Silent Killer and the Number 1 Cause of Death from a disease.
FYI: A heart attack in the U.S. occurs every 34 seconds and someone dies from a heart attack every 60 seconds. There are 820,000 annual heart attacks, 615,00 first-time heart attacks and 1 million deaths per year from heart attacks.
A stroke in the U.S. occurs every 64 seconds and someone dies from a stroke every 8 minutes. There are 695,000 annual strokes, 500,000 first-time strokes and 130,000 deaths per year from strokes.
Homocysteine (discovered by Dr. Kilmer McCully, 1969) is a toxic amino acid that is produced normally as a byproduct of protein synthesis when protein foods are metabolized; and, is converted to another amino acid, methionine, unless it’s blocked due to high insulin levels or low consumption of vegetables and beans.
Poor nutrition (consisting of too much animal meat and not enough vegetables and beans containing folic acid, Vitamins B6 and B12) impairs the metabolism and breakdown of homocysteine.
Refined sugar, flour, processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle lead to high insulin and homocysteine levels, which combine with LDL cholesterol to promote oxidation. This irritates and cuts the blood vessels causing inflammation, fatty plaque formation and gradually, as the plaque accumulates in the arterial walls, leads to atherosclerosis.
Elevated homocysteine may also make the blood more likely to clot, raising fibrinogen levels and increasing the stickiness of blood platelets, which may precipitate a heart attack or a stroke.
Elevated homocysteine may reduce brain function, increasing memory loss and triggering the development of Alzheimer’s. In addition, high homocysteine accelerates telomere (“genetic clock”) shortening of vascular lining cells and impairs endothelial nitric oxide production, restricting blood flow to tissues and preventing blood vessels from relaxing (causing high blood pressure).
Lipoprotein (a) is a protein with sticky, adhesive properties that is produced by the liver to repair the endothelium of the artery walls when there is insufficient Vitamin C to produce the collagen and elastin to repair the walls of the (damaged) blood vessels.
In addition, the liver produces fibrinogen to develop fibrin, which is deposited in the form of a mesh; and, dries and hardens so that any bleeding stops. Lipoprotein (a) bonds with fibrin to complete the repair of the damaged walls.
Triglycerides, which are produced by the liver to provide a major source of energy to the body tissues, are chains of high-energy fatty acids that circulate in the bloodstream and provide much of the energy needed for cells to function.
Triglycerides are also the chemical form of most fats in the food we eat. The liver takes up dietary cholesterol and triglycerides from the bloodstream and packages the cholesterol and triglycerides, along with special proteins, into tiny spheres called lipoproteins.
The lipoproteins are released into the circulation, and are delivered to the cells of the body. When the body needs energy, the cells release the triglycerides, which are burned as fuel to meet our energy needs.
If we eat too many refined sugar foods and do not exercise, the high insulin level triggers the liver to produce more Very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL), which is a main carrier of triglyceride.
And, the excess triglycerides will build up in the blood and be stored in the body as adipose (fat) tissue. Consequently, many diabetics who have a high total cholesterol, may have high triglycerides, since the same foods that cause the blood glucose level to rise are the same foods that cause triglycerides to rise. A high triglyceride level is also a risk factor for stroke.
If you have a high cholesterol level because of high triglycerides, then, a statin drug like Lipitor will not help because the drug is not designed to reduce the triglycerides!
This is why it is important that you get a complete lipid profile, a blood test that will provide a reading for each of the cholesterol components: total cholesterol (TC), low density lipoprotein (LDL), high density lipoprotein (HDL), lipoprotein(a), and triglycerides (TG).
Cholesterol, a waxy, fatty substance, 80% of which is produced by the liver and the cells, is a very important nutrient that is used to build cell membranes and hormones. It is packaged in a fat-protein package called a lipoprotein so that it can be transported throughout the body.
When your total cholesterol level is too high, this is usually an indication of one of the following:
(1) That your body has constant high insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia) triggering the liver to produce more triglycerides and cholesterol;
(2) That your liver is clogged with too much fat and cannot effectively filter the cholesterol out of the blood
(3) That your cardiovascular system is in a repair mode due to damaged artery walls where cholesterol is used to repair the bleeding walls.
Although statin drugs lower the cholesterol level (by inhibiting the liver’s production of the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase), these statin drugs do nothing to address the conditions or root causes that are causing the high cholesterol levels.
As a result, heart disease continues to develop until a heart attack or stroke occurs.
To make matters worse, statin drugs lower CoQ10 levels which may lead to muscle deterioration (rhabdomyolysis) and heart disease, the very condition that these drugs are intended to prevent!
In addition extra cholesterol continues to be produced until the root cause of why the liver is producing the extra cholesterol is addressed (e.g. high insulin levels, damage to the artery walls, a clogged liver, insufficient nutrients).
As previously mentioned, high levels of LDL cholesterol occur due to high insulin, clogged liver and/or damaged arteries. Another possible cause may be due to interference with the body’s utilization of cholesterol due to the suppression of thyroid function and the lack of sunlight.
Suppression of thyroid function is caused by trans fats (partially hydrogenated oil in processed foods, margarine, shortening) and clear vegetable oils (corn, soybean).
Under normal conditions, sunlight converts the cholesterol on the skin to hormone precursors, including Vitamin D. Then, cholesterol in the bloodstream migrates to the surface of the skin, to replace the cholesterol that was converted. But, if you do not obtain at least one hour’s worth of sunlight every day, this process of producing Vitamin D to naturally lower your cholesterol does not occur.
A sedentary lifestyle and a poor nutritional profile of excess refined carbohydrates, insufficient soluble fiber, and excess saturated fat may also contribute to higher cholesterol levels.
In addition, if the LDL particles are small-sized and dense, recent studies have shown that these particles become trapped in the inner lining of the artery walls, and, after being attacked by the immune cells, are highly inflammatory and toxic to the lining of the arterial walls.
Consequently, someone with a normal cholesterol level could have a high cardiovascular risk or a sudden heart attack if the LDL particles are small and dense.
C-reactive protein (CRP) is a reactant released by the body in response to acute injury, infection, fever, or other inflammatory stimuli, indicating a heightened state of inflammation in the body.
CRP measures inflammation, part of the immune reaction that protects you from infection when you injure yourself. It causes redness, pain and swelling, and can damage the inner lining of arteries, and break off clots from arteries to block the flow of blood triggering strokes and heart attacks.
C-reactive protein levels fluctuate from day to day, and levels increase with aging, high blood pressure, alcohol use, smoking, low levels of physical activity, chronic fatigue, coffee consumption, elevated triglycerides, insulin resistance or diabetes, taking estrogen, eating a high protein diet, suffering sleep disturbances, or depression.
Note: In addition to CRP, possible inflammation markers for Type 2 diabetes include tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleudin-6 (IL-6).
Fibrinogen is a protein that plays a critical role in normal and abnormal clot formation, a mechanism referred to as coagulation. An interaction between clotting factors and naturally-occurring anticoagulants normally results in healthy levels of fibrinogen and normal coagulation.
If fibrinogen levels increase above normal, however, a blood clot becomes a threat; if fibrinogen levels decrease below normal, a hemorrhage can result.
Excess fibrinogen is produced by the liver due to inflammation, high homocysteine levels, and an immune response that releases a specific cytokine (interleukin-620) into the bloodstream.
Platelets release the enzyme thrombin when they come into contact with damaged tissue, triggering the release of this cytokine, which leads to the formation of the soluble protein, fibrinogen.
Fibrinogen is then converted to fibrin, an insoluble protein that is deposited around a wound in the form of a mesh to dry and harden, so that bleeding stops as the final stage in blood clotting. In addition, fibrinogen increases the viscosity of the blood, making it thicker and slow moving.
Ferritin (iron) is necessary throughout life for stimulating the production of hemoglobin, which is the red blood cell pigment that carries oxygen to our cells. However, newer research indicates that iron overload can actually contribute to heart disease risk.
This overload can be caused by hemochromatosis, an acquired or hereditary defect of iron metabolism in which excess iron is deposited in tissues and is not available for oxygen transport. It can also be caused by such factors as high iron intake or low turnover of red blood cells.
A Finnish study examined the role of iron in heart disease. After studying 1,900 men between the ages of 42 to 60 for five years, researchers found that those with excessive levels of ferritin were more than twice as likely to have heart attacks, and that every one percent increase in ferritin translated into a four percent increase in heart attack risk. To find out if your iron levels are healthy, ask your doctor to perform a special iron blood test called serum ferritin.
Interleukin-6 stimulates the liver to produce CRP. And, in addition to heart disease, we are learning that this cytokine has a strong association with asthma (asthma is the result of airways swelling and constricting, so it makes sense that a blood inflammatory agent is behind the curtains here as well). The Iowa 65+ Rural Health Study demonstrated that elevations of interleukin-6 and CRP were associated with increased risk of both heart disease and general mortality in healthy older people.
Interleukin-6 may be an even better marker for blood inflammation than CRP because these “precursor” levels rise earlier. Therefore you should ask your doctor to conduct an interleukin-6 test if you are concerned about blood inflammation and its impact on your heart health.
Key Point: High C-reactive protein, high homocysteine and small, dense LDL particles are indicators of high inflammation, and may be reasons why more than 60% of heart attack victims actually have normal cholesterol levels.
As a result of the high inflammation, the blood vessels become damaged and the body goes into a repair mode that is indicated by high levels of these specific cardiovascular risk factors and inflammation markers.
In order to reduce these levels of internal inflammation and reverse its effects, you need to utilize a consistent exercise program and a nutritional program that includes fiber-rich anti-inflammatory foods and Omega-3 fatty acids such as broccoli, spinach, beans, blueberries, garlic, onions, avocados, flaxseed, chlorella, wild salmon; and, wholefood antioxidant supplements.
Note: If you are not diabetic and relatively healthy and you have high cholesterol, check your HDL reading. Some people have a high HDL, which makes it appear that they have "high cholesterol".
The Dangers of Cholesterol-lowering Drugs
Cholesterol-lowering drugs are very popular because they work, you don't have to change your diet, you don't feel any of the side effects, and they are not expensive, especially the generic brands.
But, did you know that taking a statin drug such as Lipitor can increase your insulin resistance, cause damage to your liver, and lead to pre-diabetes? The author took Lipitor for years, and although the drug lowered his cholesterol, it increased his insulin resistance and gradually led to him becoming diabetic.
For example, one study showed that atorvastatin (Lipitor) significantly increased fasting insulin and HbA1c levels among patients with hypercholesterolemia.
Another study showed that simvastatin (Zocor) reduced insulin sensitivity in hyper-cholesterolemic patients.
Recently, Federal drug safety regulators called for limits on the maximum dose of the cholesterol-lowering medication simvastin (Zocor), because they say the 80 mg version may harbor an increased risk of muscle injury.
One report noted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) completed a safety review of Zocor, recommending that no new patients be given the max dose of 80 mg, because of an increased risk of developing myopathy and rhabdomyolysis, both rare forms of muscle injury.
And yet, statin drugs are among the best-selling medications in the United States, resulting in about $14.5 billion in sales annually. Some of the most popular statin drugss include Crestor, Lipitor, Mevacor, Lescol and Pravachol. They work through the liver to block the creation of cholesterol, which is a major cause of coronary artery (heart) disease. The Danger of Drugs
Warning! Just because you don't feel any symptoms doesn't mean the drug isn't causing harm to your body!! That's why your doctor requires that you come in every 3 months to have your liver tested! -- To make sure the drug isn't killing your liver! Hello!!?
Cholesterol-lowering drugs seem harmless and are very effective at lowering your cholesterol. But, is the damage that it causes really worth it? If you don't believe us, here are just a few of the many websites that warn you about the dangers of these drugs:
Even WebMD mentions the harm that these statin drugs can cause!
Oh, by the way, the primary reason that people take these statin drugs is to lower their cholesterol and prevent heart disease and a heart attack. But, since these drugs hit the market back in 1989, heart attacks and heart disease have risen 2.5% on average every year! In the meantime, these statin drugs have become one of the most popular prescription drugs, making more than $18 billion annually! For more information, read our web page about the cholesterol-heart disease-statin drug hoax.
So, although these drugs lower your cholesterol, are they really working to prevent a heart attack or heart disease? Nooo!!
And, why is that? Because some of the latest research shows that cholesterol is not the cause of heart attacks or heart disease! Yes, it contributes, but it's not the cause!! Actually, cholesterol is used as a repair agent to try to fix the damage done to your arteries, but, because of chronic inflammation, the cholesterol becomes oxidized and part of the arterial plaque.
High cholesterol levels should be a warning that inflammation is present in your arteries. Eliminating the cholesterol through drugs is the equivalent to eliminating the thermometer in a room that is too hot. It is illogical, and it does nothing to eliminate the dangerous cause.
Cholesterol levels naturally drop whenever the body's need for it does, and cholesterol should never be forced lower with drugs. Diet and lifestyle can reduce cholesterol, but it is never because of a lowered cholesterol intake.
Reducing cholesterol can occur due to consuming less trans fats, processed foods and inflammatory substances that attack the arteries and cause plaque formation.
FYI: Studies on the link between cholesterol and heart health have been manipulated for decades. The first studies on eggs showed elevated cholesterol levels because they used dehydrated eggs!
And, studies of coconut oil yielded similar results because they used partially hydrogenated coconut oil to get the results that they wanted.
So, don't always trust the studies -- take a look at who's running the study or who's behind the study. In many cases, these studies are funded by the pharmaceutical companies or processed food manufacturers via a third party of some kind to create phobias about eggs, fish, fat, butter and other foods that used to be healthy for us!
Lowering Cholesterol Naturally
In general, for good heart health, eat more green and bright-colored vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and red peppers for the Vitamin C, chlorophyll, and other nutrients; and, drink raw vegetable juices.
Also, eat foods rich in monounsaturated fats and Omega-3 EFAs, especially cold-water fish, flaxseed, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, organic flax oil, and avocado. Avocado also contains folate, potassium, beta-sitosterol, Vitamin E, and fiber.
In addition, eat fiber-rich foods such as beans, legumes, nuts and seeds and barley. Why? Because the fiber helps your body remove the extra cholesterol via your bile instead of the cholesterol being reabsorbed back into your blood.
Eat foods fortified with plant sterols or take a plant sterol supplement along with eating the fiber-rich foods to ensure the extra cholesterol is removed from your body.
Eat sulfur-rich foods such raw garlic and onions. Add 2-3 garlic cloves (minced) to your salad, vegetables, soup, sandwich, etc. Add onions (sliced) to your salad, vegetables, soup, sandwich, etc. These two foods provide anti-bacterial and anti-viral protection, which is very important because some diabetics experience frequent infections.
Of course, make sure that you avoid processed foods, fast foods, and foods that contain flour, sugar and trans fats. Also, avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, soda, diet soda, and most drugs.
Try to exercise at least 4 to 5 times a week, for 30 to 35 minutes, if possible.
Author's Note: Before I became diabetic, I had high cholesterol. So, my doctor gave me Lipitor (a statin drug) and within 3 months my cholesterol dropped 30 points! I was very happy, but, back then, I didn't realize the potential side effects of taking this medication ...
Statin Drug & Cholesterol Hoax
Statin drugs do a great job at lowering your cholesterol, but, this still hasn't lowered the number of deaths from heart disease and heart attacks and strokes.
Why? Because cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease or heart attacks! High cholesterol is just an indicator that you may have heart disease.
High cholesterol is an indicator like the oil light turning on in your car because your engine is overheating and smoking. If the mechanic cuts the wire to the oil light, your car engine will still be overheating and smoking.
So, if your mechanic tells you that he fixed your car, do you believe him? Of course not! The same applies to your doctor giving you a statin drug to turn off your cholesterol "oil light".
Key Point!: Statin drugs shut down your liver's production of a key nutrient called CoQ10. So, if you're taking a statin drug, make sure that you take a CoQ10 supplement to offset what the statin drug is doing.
But, please keep in mind that taking a CoQ10 supplement along with the statin drug is still not going to stop the progression of the heart disease! If anything, the statin drug may accelerate the progression of the heart disease, especially if you're taking other medications such as a beta blocker.
Please Note: There are many foods and supplements that perform the same functions of these drugs without the dangerous side effects, e.g. arginine, broccoli, cayenne pepper, celery, garlic, ginger, green tea, onions, natto, Omega-3 EFAs, CoQ10.
Next Steps to Wellness
For more details about these foods and supplements for fighting heart disease and lowering your inflammation markers and cholesterol naturally, refer to the following:
Prescription Drugs -- The Answer?
Prescription drugs help to (artificially) lower your blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol -- but, are they really the answer to you improving your health?
Note: If you want to safely wean off these dangerous drugs, start a sound nutritional program and get the DTD How to Wean Off Drugs Safely ebook.
Disclaimer: This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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