It has been widely reported that US deaths from cardiovascular disease has recently overtaken cancer as the Number 1 killer of people of all ages. The news media has been quick to blast these headlines everywhere. And the pharmaceutical companies are also quick to tell all who will listen that their latest and greatest drug will lower total cholesterol and LDL-C, thus reducing heart attack risk. If only it were that simple... and true!
The problem is that many recent reports have proven that cholesterol (and even the much maligned LDL-C) are really not your enemy. In fact, they are critical blood components which provide our bodies with the ability to synthesize new cells, form hormones and a large variety of other critical cellular functions. When these levels are artificially reduced, essential molecular duties are limited, and the homeostasis in the body is disrupted. Pharmaceutical makers (and your doctor) love the statin drugs because they predictably lower blood markers in a dose dependent manner. Take this amount of drug, and you will reduce your cholesterol by this amount. In fact, it has been demonstrated that statins help only 1 in 100 people partially avoid a second heart attack, likely through the statin's ability to modestly reduce systemic inflammation. All nice and pretty... and thus a multi-billion dollar category of drugs is born.
The latest research is clearly demonstrating that arterial plaque is not directly formed by cholesterol being stuffed into the walls of our arteries, but by a very complex process which is triggered through our immune system through inflammation. Components of our white blood cells known as macrophages are actually the culprit, as they lose their protein coating in a response to arterial inflammation. It are these white blood cell macrophages which create the foamy plagues which plug up the micro openings in the arteries which occur due to excessive abuse in our body. This abuse is caused by a large number of factors, but the short list includes poor dietary factors (refined carbs, fast foods, fried foods) and high blood pressure. From the perspective of our bodies, it is attempting to save our lives, as these micro cracks in the arterial walls could easily lead our bleeding-out. It is ironic that the mechanism used to help us survive is often the same one which leads to our premature demise. Vitamin C is also critical in avoiding the micro cracks, as it assists the body to create collagen which can help to repair the tiny tears in the vessel walls. More about the role of Vitamin C in a future post.
Now that we understand that the local pharmacy does not have the answer to help us avoid cardiovascular disease, how can we eliminate this risk? The simple answer is through eating a proper diet which is low in refined carbs, sugar and especially 'high-fructose corn syrup' and trans-fats and cooked animal fats, maintaining a healthy body weight and correcting the blood level of Vitamin D. OK, the first two we have all heard about, but the Vitamin D component just doesn't seem to get that much media attention. The very latest studies have confirmed that maintaining an optimal Vitamin D blood level of 50 - 70 ng/ml will reduce the chance of developing heart disease by 50%! As this is the primary killer of people in the US and other western countries, wouldn't that merit a major headline? Hard to believe that you probably will never hear of this information. But yet Vitamin D has been demonstrated to help blood vessels to dilate, reduce levels of dangerous triglycerides and reduce inflammatory factors in the blood. By ensuring a proper level of Vitamin D in the blood through either sun exposure (only if less than 50 years old) or supplementation (remember, in a gelcap form), we can cut in half the number of people subjected to heart disease.
If only there were millions to be made by pharmaceutical entities through the sale of Vitamin D, we could save literally millions of lives each year. Good thing you now know this vital information and can begin taking steps to protect your own health.