8 Tremaine Road,
Kingston 6, Jamaica
876 978 1050
876 622 9241
Monday, Tuesday & Thursday 9am - 5pm
Wednesday & Friday 8:30am - 1:30pm
The Truth About Cholesterol: Part 1 Inflammation is the Real Problem
Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease, includes multiple problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This build-up narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. This impediment to blood flow may result in blood clot formation, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Heart disease is a major concern for most countries around the world and Jamaica is no exception – it is the number one cause of death here. Clearly, we do not have a handle on this problem as it is still on the rise. For years many health care professionals insisted heart disease resulted from the simple fact of elevated blood cholesterol. However, today, we are finding out that this is not entirely true.
The common denominator of everyone with heart disease is chronic inflammation not high cholesterol. The discovery a few years ago that inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated, but cholesterol still gets a bad rap.
Chronic Inflammation – The Problem
Inflammation is simply your body's natural defense to an injury or a foreign invader such as a bacteria, toxin or virus. The cycle of inflammation is perfect in how it protects your body. However, if we chronically expose the body to injury by toxins or foods the human body was never designed to process, a condition called chronic inflammation will occur.
Imagine scratching an itch in the same spot, several times a day for the entire day. Eventually the skin would get quite raw and if you continue, it may even start to bleed. If you could tolerate this, imagine doing this every day for five years. Eventually this repeated injury creates chronic inflammation, resulting in a bleeding, swollen infected skin that becomes worse with each repeated injury. Chronic inflammation within the blood vessel walls has a similar effect. As a result of this inflammation, the body produces more cholesterol, whose function is to repair the damaged area and, in the case of blood vessels, lay down plaque to help heal the area. Cholesterol is not the problem it is the body’s solution to chronic inflammation.
Cholesterol – A Part of the Answer
Cholesterol is vital for normal body function. It is a lipid (fat) which is produced by the liver or ingested from animal sources of food we eat. Every cell in our body has cholesterol in its cell membranes (outer layer).
Functions of Cholesterol
It builds and maintains cell membranes and insulates nerve fibres
It is essential for determining which molecules can pass into the cell and which cannot
It is involved in the production of sex hormones (e.g. testosterone and oestrogen)
It is essential for the production of hormones released by the adrenal glands (e.g. cortisol)
It is important for the metabolism of fat soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K
It is important in the transportation of CoQ-10 to the muscles of the heart and brain, and much more
Low cholesterol can kill you faster than high cholesterol can even begin to affect your health.
Some Common Sources of Inflammation
Simple, highly processed carbohydrates (white sugar, white flour and all the products made from them)
Omega-6 vegetable oils that are found in many processed and fast foods
Olive oil (not good for frying)
Coconut oil, Grape seed oil (good for frying)
Real butter from grass-fed beef
Omega-3 fats, in particular EPA and DHA, are excellent at reducing inflammation and are essential for improving overall cardiovascular health. The most widely available dietary source of EPA and DHA is cold water oily fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. Oils from these fish have a profile of around seven times as much omega-3 as omega-6. In addition to dietary sources, one can take fish oil supplements like Krill oil, which is recently shown to have significant benefits.
In Part 2, we will examine the dangers associated with cholesterol lowering medications, in particular statin drugs. Stay tuned.
The Gleaner , Wednesday | October 23, 2013