Our research article today features an interview with the President of the European Atherosclerosis Study, Dr. Catapano. A key point in the interview dealt with the subject of bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol). We’ve known for a long time that higher blood levels of LDL-cholesterol increases risk of heart disease and cardiovascular death.
We know it’s the LDL-cholesterol that deposits cholesterol in the wall of the artery that ultimately leads to narrowing of the arteries or atherosclerosis.
The more you narrow your arteries, the greater is the risk of total blockage of blood flow as occurs in a heart attack and ischemic stroke.
Narrowed arteries in diabetics lead to decreased blood flow to the feet and toes allowing gangrene to set in, increasing risk of lower limb amputation to treat the disease in such cases.
How Dr. Catapano link LDL cholesterol to heart diseases?
Dr. Catapano re-emphasized that a high blood level of LDL-cholesterol is a main culprit in risk of heart and cardiovascular disease – the leading killer in our society. He makes the point that all randomized studies conducted to date show that the safest value for LDL-cholesterol is under 70 mg/dl (American) or 1.8 mmol/L (Canadian).
He also makes the point that for people who have not had a heart attack yet, but have high LDL-cholesterol, that “Lifestyle therapy comes first”. He states, “Physicians should insist that patients make all efforts to improve their lifestyle, even if they are on drug therapy to lower cholesterol”.
Which is the proven way to lower LDL-cholesterol?
The proven ways to lower your LDL-cholesterol through lifestyle is to:
- Avoid beef and pork products.
- Avoid high fat dairy products (no milk of yogurt over 1% MF) and avoid butter, cheese, cream, ice cream etc.
- Avoid deep fried foods and foods with a lot of transfats.
- Eat more beans, peas, artichokes and soy products, which lower cholesterol.
- And consider supplementing your diet with psyllium husk fiber, ground flaxseed and/or oat fiber, as they also lower cholesterol.
- Of course, doing endurance exercise regularly and achieving your ideal weight is also helpful.
The “takeaway” message here is, know your fasting LDL-cholesterol level (make sure it is under 70 mg/dl or 1.8 mmol/L.
If it’s higher than that, get more aggressive about your diet and lifestyle and speak to your physician to see if cholesterol-lowering drugs are appropriate in your case. But don’t minimize the importance of diet and lifestyle, as in the majority of cases, diet and lifestyle alone can optimize your LDL-cholesterol level in the primary prevention of heart and cardiovascular disease.
What are the other factors that affect the heart?
Of course, other things affect your heart disease risk such as age, gender, smoking, family history, total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, triglyceride levels, homocysteine levels etc. But LDL-cholesterol is the transport vehicle that delivers cholesterol into the artery wall causing progressive narrowing.
It’s a main driver of heart and vascular disease. As such, it deserves a great deal of focus in preventing heart attack, stroke and other vascular problems.
Remember that in many cases the first sign of cardiovascular disease is sudden cardiac death – a heart attack. In many cases you don’t feel your arteries being plugged up with cholesterol until its too late – where the first symptom is Sudden Cardiac Death.
The most recent 2016 findings from the Framingham Heart Study show that men are more than twice as likely to die from Sudden Cardiac Death than women. Men ages 45- 70 roughly have a 10% increased risk of dying from Sudden Cardiac Death, whereas for women the risk is 3-3.5%.
But those with cardiovascular risk factors like high LDL-cholesterol have a higher risk. And if one of the risk factors is high blood pressure then the risk becomes much higher – it’s a biggie.
So know your cholesterol numbers, and of course, your blood pressure. Throughout your lifetime, use diet and lifestyle to help optimize your values. There’s a lot riding it.
I’ve included a link to the cited articles below.
2. Sudden Cardiac Death Stats from Framingham Study, Update 2016:
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great!
Dr. James Meschino