TWELVE THINGS TO CONSIDER BEYOND CHOLESTEROL LEVELS

Cholesterol, Heart Health, Cholesterol Levels, Heart Disease, Functional Testing
Do you know what the number one killer is in the United States?
It’s not gun violence or the coronavirus. Not even the flu could touch this culprit’s death rate. Most likely you know someone who has fallen victim to its detrimental influence because the CDC cites that it causes 1 out of every 5 deaths.
Would It surprise you to hear that heart disease is the most deadly predator in the United States and also the world?
Do you have a family history of heart disease?
If you have a family history of heart disease some indicators might already be on your radar. You might be thinking about aging, weight, your nutritional intake, alcohol consumption, smoking habits, and your ability to manage stress. These contributing factors most often undermine heart health.
If you have diabetes, hypertension or metabolic syndrome your conventional medical doctor may have already run a blood panel to check your LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is the main indicator of heart disease – depending on the levels found in your body, LDL the detrimental cholesterol and HDL beneficial.
What other things should you consider in terms of testing for heart disease?
There is more to consider about heart disease than just cholesterol. Functional testing takes a deeper look at the health of your heart beyond history and cholesterol. A more extensive blood panel can locate markers that a traditional panel might miss.
Here are twelve tests you should contemplate in relation to measuring your heart health beyond mere cholesterol numbers:
According to this recent article written by Michael Downey, several tests beyond a basic blood panel are outlined and explained:

  1. LDL P (LDL particles) – Although this test is technically an indicator of cholesterol in your body, more than a typical blood panel, it helps you understand the overall number of LDL particles in your body.
  1. Small LDL – Again, this test acknowledges cholesterol in your body and takes it a step further by letting you know how many small LDL particles are present. In the case of cholesterol, small particles are particularly important because they can penetrate arterial walls resulting in plaque build-up.
  1. LP-IR indicates insulin resistance and it’s severity. High insulin resistance is a leading cause of diabetes and a contributing factor for heart disease.
  1. Oxidized LDL – A test to discover the oxidation level of small LDL particles which are more likely to oxidize and become more dangerous as they do.
  1. MPO blood test – Tests for and enzyme called MPO causes inflammation in the arterial walls and contributes to arterial plaque especially when oxidized LDL are present.
  1. C-Reactive Protein (CRP) – this test measures levels of inflammation and whether or not chronic inflammation is present. The higher the levels of inflammation indicate a greater risk of heart disease overall.
  1. Apolipoprotein B (ApoB) – “Apolipoprotein B proteins are now “widely accepted as the most important causal agents of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.”13”
  1. Homocysteine – additional testing for cell damage and inflammation of the arterial walls
  1. Vitamin D 25-Hydroxy – a test used to measure levels of vitamin D which is beneficial in preventing heart disease
  1. CBC/Chemistry Profile – a test for general and immune health
  1. HbA1c – measures glucose levels
  1. Omega-3 Index – measures levels of omega fatty acids in the body; omegas another beneficial nutrient in preventing heart disease

There are so many things for your team to consider when managing your heart health. It’s important to dig deeper than just cholesterol levels, especially if you have a history of heart disease or are experiencing the onset of any of the contributing factors listed above.
As a naturopathic physician I can help you get to the root of your symptoms and work through functional testing beyond cholesterol levels. I am able to consult with you and create an individualized plan in conjunction with your conventional medical doctor’s directives to ensure your most optimal heart health.
Are you living in the Guilford/ Branford/ New Haven/ Madison/ Clinton area and would like to learn more about integrative solutions for your health care needs.
Call (203) 453-0122 or CLICK HERE to schedule a consultation.

REFERENCES

https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
https://www.questdiagnostics.com/healthcare-professionals/about-our-tests/cardiovascular/advanced-lipid
https://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2021/5/blood-tests-predict-cardiovascular-risks
https://www.who.int/health-topics/cardiovascular-diseases#tab=tab_1

Testosterone Lowers Male Heart Disease Risk

In the last couple of years, studies looking at the correlation between testosterone levels and heart disease in men have yielded mixed results. However, if you look more closely at the data, most of the reports showing negative associations with testosterone failed to factor in other independent risk factors that can lead to heart disease. The negative studies also used inaccurate laboratory methods and reference ranges to reach their conclusions, inflating the risks of testosterone. [Read more…]

Work Causes Heart Disease

People who regularly work long hours may be significantly increasing their risk of developing heart disease, the world’s biggest killer, British scientists said Monday.

Researchers said a long-term study showed that working more than 11 hours a day increased the risk of heart disease by 67 percent, compared with working a standard 7 to 8 hours a day.

They said the findings suggest that information on working hours — used alongside other factors like blood pressure, diabetes and smoking habits — could help doctors work out a patient’s risk of heart disease.

However, they also said it was not yet clear whether long working hours themselves contribute to heart disease risk, or whether they act as a “marker” of other factors that can harm heart health — like unhealthy eating habits, a lack of exercise or depression.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, followed nearly 7,100 British workers for 11 years.

“Working long days is associated with a remarkable increase in risk of heart disease,” said Mika Kivimaki of Britain’s University College London, who led the research. He said it may be a “wake-up call for people who overwork themselves.”

Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes are the world’s largest killers, claiming around 17.1 million lives a year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Billions of dollars are spent every year on medical devices and drugs to treat them.

The findings of this study support previous research showing a link between working hours and heart disease.

For this study, men and women who worked full time and had no heart disease were selected, giving 7,095 participants.

The researchers collected data on heart risk factors like age, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking and diabetes and also asked participants how many hours they worked — including work during the day and work brought home — on an average weekday.

During the 11-year study, 192 participants had heart attacks. Those who worked 11 hours or more a day were 67 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those with fewer hours.

Of course, heart disease is a multi-factorial issue, but those working more than 11 hours per day need to take even further precautions to lower their heart disease risk. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about laboratory studies that can help to identify numerous cardiovascular risk factors, so the proper steps can be taken to help prevent heart disease and stroke in the future. 

Don’t Skip Your Breakfast!

Prior research suggests that breakfast eaters may be healthier than people who skip breakfast, and now a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests a nutritious breakfast may be especially good for your heart. Specifically, the recent study shows that regular breakfast eaters may reduce risk factors linked to heart disease.

Breakfast eaters reduce heart disease risk factors

While prior research has shown that skipping breakfast may lower a person’s energy level and increase the risk of weight gain, less is known about the effects of skipping breakfast on other body organs and functions.

In this study, 2,184 participants, 9 to 15 years old, initially filled out a questionnaire about diet and physical activity and stated whether they usually ate breakfast before school or not. Twenty years later, one third of the original participants filled out a meal frequency questionnaire, had their waist size measured, and had blood levels of triglycerides, total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and fasting insulin (insulin levels after no food has been eaten overnight) checked. Participants were then classified into four groups:

• skipped breakfast in neither childhood nor adulthood,

• skipped breakfast only in childhood,

• skipped breakfast only in adulthood, or

• skipped breakfast in both childhood and adulthood.

Results showed that people who skipped breakfast in both childhood and adulthood had a larger waist size and total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels compared with people who ate breakfast in both childhood and adulthood. They also had higher fasting insulin levels, which indicates they have insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.

Breakfast skippers also tended to be single, have a lower education level, and were more likely to smoke, watch TV, get less physical activity, and have a less healthy diet compared with breakfast eaters.

The authors comment, “Skipping breakfast was associated with a larger waist circumference, cardiometabolic risk factors, poorer diet quality, and unhealthy lifestyle behaviors.” They add that promoting the benefits of eating breakfast may be an important public health message.

M
ore reasons to be a breakfast eater

There are many good reasons to eat breakfast, and prior research has shown that compared with breakfast skippers, breakfast eaters tend to have:

Better habits. People who eat breakfast tend to have healthier diets and get more physical activity.

A more nutritious diet. Breakfast eaters tend to eat less daily fat and cholesterol and more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

A healthier weight. Some studies suggest that breakfast eaters have a lower weight compared with breakfast skippers.

Who’s Bad? (Not Fats)

There continues to be a false assumption in the medical community that increased fat consumption leads to heart disease and other long-term problems. I often find it difficult to reprogram people, after they’ve been brainwashed for so many years to avoid fats, and eat only low-fat foods. This topic warrants much more detail than what I can cover in one blog post, but evidence continues to mount that refutes the low-fat concept. For example, a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2010 May 12) demonstrates that people with higher levels of omega-3s and fats derived from olive oil and nuts had an inverse correlation with coronary artery disease. This further supports the advantages of following a Mediterranean Diet, and disregarding the “Food Pyramid” recommended by the USDA.

Carbohydrates and Heart Disease

Clinically, I’ve seen consistent improvements in heart disease markers when implementing a low glycemic diet. The glycemic index is an indicator of how high the carbohydrate portion of a food causes blood sugar to rise-this is especially important for diabetic patients, but is also useful when trying to limit the effect of carbohydrates on the body. A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that eating lots of high-glycemic-index foods puts women at higher risk of developing heart disease. Some highlights from the study are as follows:

 
• Women with the highest carbohydrate intake were twice as likely to develop heart disease as women with the lowest intake.

• Only high-glycemic-index carbohydrates were associated with heart disease risk; low-glycemic-index carbohydrates were not.

• Having a high dietary glycemic load more than doubled the risk of heart disease in women.

• No relationship between heart disease and carbohydrate intake, high-glycemic index food consumption, or dietary glycemic load was seen in men.

 
The bottom line is that all carbohydrates aren’t created equal-paying close attention to the glycemic-index of foods, along with incorporating foods that help to keep the glycemic load down (nuts, beans, lentils, seeds), is a proven method of lowering your heart disease risk.

Processed Meats=Unhealthy Eats

I always try to emphasize with patients the importance of avoiding processed meats, particularly due to the increased cancer risk that they pose. Now, it’s even more clear that this advice is warranted, as these foods substantially increase the risk of heart disease and Type II diabetes as well. For more information regarding this Harvard study, visit: