31 Oct Cholesterol and Your Heart Health
Are you confused about cholesterol and its impact on your cardiovascular health?
If you are confused – I’m not surprised.
A 2009 study highlighted that 50% of people who had died following sudden heart attacks had LDL cholesterol levels that were less than 100. Less than 100 would be within a range considered normal.
So this study could be used to push for more extensive use of statins to drive down LDL cholesterol levels. But is this the answer?
Think about it for a moment….our livers produce cholesterol because our bodies need it: we use cholesterol to make for example cell membranes, vitamin D, hormones (this includes oestrogen and testosterone) and to make bile acids (required for the digestion of dietary fats).
So it makes sense to note that if we reduce cholesterol there are going to be impacts felt throughout our body.
How does cholesterol move around the body?
Cholesterol needs to be attached to something to be able to move around and our body attaches it to a type of protein called a lipoprotein.
Think of these lipoproteins as taxis. There is the LDL taxi and the HDL taxi.
The LDL taxi is the one that picks you up from home and takes you out (takes cholesterol from your liver to your cells).
While the HDL taxi is the one that brings you home from the party (takes cholesterol from the cells to your liver in readiness to be excreted from your body).
The cholesterol inside the taxis is the same – at this point there is no bad or good cholesterol.
What do lipid tests tell us?
Standard lipid tests give figures for LDL, HDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol.
This is important information, but there’s even more information that it’s important to know if you are assessing or concerned about your heart health.
What’s really important is to know the particle size and numbers of LDL and HDL.
If you think of LDL particles as being like golf balls or beach balls.
If the particles are like golf balls they are small and dense. If they are like beach balls they are light and fluffy.
What ball would you like to be hit by? … I’d chose a beach ball right every time!!
Imagine hard, dense particles passing through your blood vessels: they have more chance of causing damage to your blood vessels compared to large fluffy ones.
If dense, hard particles are combined with high blood pressure then the risk of damage to the lining of your blood vessels increases even more.
If the particles are rushing through our blood vessels with increased force they can damage and then penetrate the blood vessel lining and become oxidised. This is when cholesterol can be deemed BAD. We want to do all we can to avoid oxidised LDL cholesterol.
The body will try and repair the damage caused to the blood vessel lining: immune cells are drafted in and an inflammatory process is set in motion – this results in plaque formation over the damaged area.
So how do you find out all this useful information?
In my clinic, I love using the CV health panel by Genova. It’s a test that involves a buccal swab and a centrifuged blood sample.
CV Health test gives so much information:
the information you’d get from a standard lipid test (LDL, HDL, Triglycerides, Total Cholesterol)
the important information you need about particle concentration & size. Whether it’s pattern A or B.
Pattern A is associated with LDL, HDL and triglyceride readings within normal ranges and Pattern B is associated with many small, dense LDL particles.
The test also measures several independent risk factors:
- LP(a): this is a LDL parcel attached to a Apolipoprotein A – this is prone to oxidation and plaque formation
- Hs CRP – inflammation maker
- lP-PLA2 (PLAC): an enzyme that can cause plaques to rupture
- Fibrinogen: a clotting protein
- Homocysteine: associated with blood vessel inflammation
- Insulin resistance score – assesses insulin resistance and diabetes risk
The results come in visual, colour coded graphics which will enable you to understand your lipid information and evaluate any risk to your cardiovascular health.
So if you are curious about your cardiovascular health or your cholesterol results and what they mean for you, please get in touch and let me help you unravel the information and apply it to you and your unique biochemistry.