I’ve had an unusual number of cholesterol questions in the past week, and I just gave a talk on cholesterol yesterday, so it’s “on the brain”. There’s just so much MISinformation out there about cholesterol, most of it perpetuated by pharmaceutical companies ( statins bring in 29 BILLION a YEAR), and many doctors, who’ve been taught to believe that total cholesterol is very important, and that all LDL is bad.
In the words of Wheatbelly doctor, William Davis, that would be fine if it were 1963. But it’s 2013, and science has shown us that total cholesterol is a HORRIBLE predictor of heart disease. In 2013, MUCH better predictors of your heart health are (1) your triglyceride/HDL ratio (should be less than 3.5 for men, and less than 2.5 for women), (2) your blood sugar level/insulin level (excess glucose and excess insulin damage arteries and organs like the heart), (3) your A1C, which shows an average of your past 90 days of blood sugar, and is indicative of heart disease, diabetes, and possible neurological problems (think Alzheimers and Dementia). There’s other risk factors, like the amount of chemicals you ingest, slather on, or breath in, and the amount of trans fat you eat, but those are hard to measure.
Why shouldn’t you worry about cholesterol? Because you’d DIE without it – it’s that necessary. The body uses cholesterol to make all our adrenal hormones and sex hormones, Vitamin D, bile salts, myelin sheaths, cell membranes, and includes it in “healing patches” when damage occurs. As a matter of fact, if you takes steps to lower it with statins, you’re putting yourself at risk for diabetes (statins cause blood sugar levels to rise and muscle cells to become insulin resistant), muscle pains, impotence, dementia, cataracts, kidney and liver problems, cancer, and weight gain (thanks to the insulin resistance and blood sugar rise).
Instead of falling for the party line, if your total cholesterol or LDL has come back high, think of WHY that might be. Did you just have an illness, or a stressful event? Because if you did, your liver made MORE cholesterol so your body could ramp up it’s immune system ( cholesterol is an ANTIOXIDANT and HEALING MOLECULE); stress would have induced the adrenals to produce more cortisol and other “fight or flight” hormones, which are made from cholesterol. Or maybe your body is trying to heal you with Vitamin D ( made from cholesterol). There’s a lot of reasons your body makes cholesterol. It’s NORMAL. Damaged cholesterol is what’s dangerous.
Here’s something most people don’t know: LDL and HDL do NOT equal Cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty substance, and lipoproteins are lipoproteins; lipoproteins CARRY cholesterol inside of them. Low density Lipoproteins (LDLs) also carry triglycerides, steroids, fat soluble vitamins, and anything else that’s fat soluble, through the blood, to wherever they need to go.
All LDL is NOT bad. If we need more cholesterol to make more hormones, more vitamin D, more myelin shealths in the brain so our brains cells can communicate, LDL is going to get it there. However, OXIDIZED, DAMAGED LDL is bad. How does it get damaged? Glucose/blood sugar, toxins(cigarettes, chemicals in foods,..), and trans fats.
Please, learn about cholesterol. Learn how to make your Heart Healthy – for real. There’s so much information and if you learn it, you’ll be able to go to your doctor and comfortably assert that no, you’re not going to get on a statin just because your total cholesterol is 201, or 220. Read Cholesterol Clarity, Grain Brain, or Cholesterol Myths. Get on sites by forward thinking doctors and scientists who are practicing according to 2013 facts. (here’s one) . Listen to podcasts, like this one by Dr. Cate Shanahan on The Truth about Statins and Cholesterol. Become your own best health advocate. You can do this!
And that leads me to my title today, think your way to health and weight success. I’ve heard too many times now, “oh, I just can’t give up bread” ” I could never give up pasta” I HAVE to have desserts/sweets every day” ” I could NEVER give up my wine”, etc etc etc. Oh my gosh. If your kids tell you “I can’t learn to read”, “I can’t get my times tables”, “I’ll never understand Algebra 1/Geometry/Algebra 2”, “this class is too hard, I’ll never get higher than a D” waa waa waa. You’d never accept that, because you know it’s not true. Why don’t you apply that same logic to yourself? Lot’s of people don’t eat bread or pasta or dessert or drink wine. Lots of people shop, plan, pack, and cook. Normal, regular , busy people.
Henry Ford has one of my favorite quotes ever: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right”. He said that decades ago, but wow, was he ahead of his time. Neuroscience has advanced to a degree where technology has made it possible to actually SEE how our thoughts change our brain, instantly. Our thoughts affect our neurotransmitters (serotonin, gaba, dopamine..), and we CAN control our thoughts if we practice. A lot.
Instead of “preparing” to blow it because “it’s the weekend”, or “you’re traveling”, or “you’ve had a hard week”, or “there’s no time to cook”, figure out the action steps and then plan to succeed. No time to cook? Go to the store and buy already prepared meats and vegetables, then cook up at home. Become a whiz with your crockpot; make giant batches and freeze. Traveling? Bring food in coolers, or baggies (nuts, fruits, seeds, they all travel well). Weekend binges ? They can take 3 or 4 days to atone for – trust me, I did that for years. It’s miserable. Learn to de-stress after a hard week with a hike, yoga, movies, books, naps, things that actually make you feel better when they’re over instead of worse.
Here’s another favorite quote, from the Paleo Mom, “it’s only effort until it becomes habit”. You can change your patterns and make new patterns. Other people do, you can too, I promise.
Back to cholesterol levels and heart disease! Here’s a ONE minute video by Dr. Malcolm Kendrink who in ONE minute, debunks the whole “cholesterol/heart disease” paradigm. Please watch this – it’s very eye opening.