Why Is Your Cholesterol Level Important? 

The American Heart Association recommends that we should keep our total blood cholesterol level under 200 mg/dL.  Unfortunately, it is well known that 35% of heart attacks strike Americans who have cholesterol levels between 150 and 200 mg/dL. 

It is important to find out your cholesterol level.  If it is above 150, you are not truly healthy.  Remember, the first indication of coronary artery disease is many times a fatal heart attack.

Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Diseasehas gotten the most spectacular results ever recorded in the treatment of heart disease by putting his sick patients on a very low fat, whole foods, plant-based diet.  His primary goal was to reduce his patients' blood cholesterol to below 150 mg/dL. Dr. Esselstyn says that eating too many nuts or avocados can also elevate your cholesterol level. It is best to avoid pure fruit juices if your cholesterol is elevated.  Fruit juices contain a high sugar content which can rapidly raise your blood sugar.  The body compensates with a surge of insulin from the pancreas.  The insulin then stimulates the liver to manufacture more cholesterol.

Eating animal protein has been shown to dramatically raise cholesterol levels, whereas plant protein dramatically lowers cholesterol levels.

Some studies show that caffeine will increase the cholesterol level by an average of 10%. More sensitive individuals will show even greater rises in response to caffeine.

Ninety-five percent of the population can control their cholesterol level through diet.  Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal-based food.  Approximately five percent of the population cannot control their cholesterol levels with diet.  These people have cholesterol levels of over 400 mg/dL and may be candidates for a liver transplant.

Researchers have found the strongest association with diabetes in populations with the most excess weight and the highest cholesterol levels.

According to T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, as blood cholesterol levels in rural China decreased, cancers of the liver, rectum, colon, lung, breast, childhood leukemia, adult leukemia, childhood brain, adult brain, stomach and esophagus (throat) decreased.  Many Americans know that if you have high cholesterol levels, you should worry about your heart, but they don't know that you might want to worry about cancer as well.

In parts of the world where coronary artery disease is rare and cholesterol levels are low, diets are low in fat.  In order to lower your total cholesterol and your LDL you will need to eliminate all animal products and lower your intake of all fats to below 10% of your caloric intake.

Consuming fish oil can have adverse effects on LDL cholesterol levels, but consuming a tablespoon of raw, ground flaxseeds can have positive effects on LDL cholesterol.

To find out your cholesterol level you will need to check with your physician.  Alternatives include a visit to an "Any Lab Test" location in your town and pay $50, or check with your local blood bank about a FREE cholesterol screening when you give blood.

What About LDL? 

LDL is the "bad" cholesterol. A 2014 study titled, "Optimal Low-Density Lipoprotein is 50-70 mg/dL" was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.  Atherosclerosis does not progress when LDL is 67 mg/dL or below.  Your LDL level is calculated by using your total cholesterol, your HDL and your triglyceride levels.  If you know those numbers, you can use this calculator. (You will have to open a "FREE" account.)

Researchers from Brazil found that eating four Brazil nuts could almost immediately improve your LDL cholesterol level and that lower LDL level lasted nearly a month.  This is an easy, harmless thing to try.  However, these nuts are very high in selenium so you don't want to eat more than four a month.  

What About HDL? 

HDL is the "good" cholesterol. Normal ranges of HDL are 35 - 60 mg/dL.  There is a classic inverse correlation between HDL-C and risk of coronary artery disease when HDL is lower than 70 mg/dL.  In the Framingham database there are very few subjects with HDL greater than 75 mg/dL. Therefore, attribution of risk reduction for HDL above this mark is not considered valid. Levels higher than 85 mg/dL may even be considered dysfunctional HDL.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), an HDL level less than 40 is a major risk factor for heart disease.  If your HDL is between 40 and 59 it is considered normal, but an HDL above 60 is considered protective against heart disease. 

For more information, read Dr. McDougall's newsletter.

2013 Cholesterol Guidelines

The is latest guidelines for physicians regarding patients who would benefit from statins:

1.) Patients already diagnosed with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD).

2.) Patients with an LDL above 190.

3.) 40-75-year-olds with diabetes and and LDL between 70-189.

4.) 40-75-year-olds without diabetes but an LDL between 70-189 who also have a 7.5% (or greater) 10-year risk of heart disease. (To find out your risk, see the Framingham Risk Score calculator at the NIH.) 

For a FREE chart that you can print off and fill in with your test results, click here 

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