Heart Disease is one of the leading causes of death in the world. Recent statistics show that about 81 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of cardiovascular disease. In the United States, there are 650,000 deaths attributed to heart disease every year.
At the root of most heart problems is a condition called atherosclerosis, often referred to as "clogging" or "hardening" of the arteries. The common belief is that your arteries get clogged because your cholesterol levels are too high, and you should limit how much cholesterol you eat. This theory has been repeated for so long that everybody seems to accept it as a scientific fact — except it is absolutely not true!
How did the medical and scientific community, and the public, happen to align with such a hypothesis? It's primarily because of the power and influence of the pharmaceutical industry, which has spent over thirty years marketing very lucrative statin drugs that promise to lower cholesterol — and therefore, they allege, reduce your risk of heart disease. Statin drugs are the most widely prescribed and profitable drugs on the market.
Are Statin Drugs as Effective as Claimed? A full disclosure of the scientific literature would reveal that the pharmaceutical industry is distorting the statistics about the effectiveness of these drugs. They usually quote reductions in cholesterol levels by rates of 20, 40, even 60 percent, which sounds impressive. However, there is a little-known statistic used in these studies that they don't publicize, known as the NNT, or number needed to treat.
NNT indicates how many subjects would have to take a particular drug to avoid one incidence of a medical issue (such as a heart attack). The NNT on Lipitor, for example, says that one hundred people would have to take Lipitor for three years to prevent just one heart attack!
If you still think that there must be a connection between cholesterol levels and heart disease, you need to watch this amazing presentation in which Dr. Malcolm Kendrick clearly demonstrates that there is absolutely NO correlation whatsoever.
Let's start by examining this thing called cholesterol.
What is Cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that is manufactured in your liver and by individual cells in your body. It is also found in foods, as we all know.
Because cholesterol is a fat, it doesn't mix with water, the primary component in your blood. To get the cholesterol from your liver to other parts of your body where it is needed, the cholesterol is wrapped in what are called lipoproteins, which transport it through your bloodstream.
There are several kinds of lipoproteins in your bloodstream. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) delivers cholesterol to your tissues. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) carries cholesterol back to your liver to be removed.
Your Body Needs Cholesterol. Here are just some of the jobs that cholesterol does in your body:
As you can see, cholesterol is one of the most essential elements necessary for the survival of the human body. When the body begins to make more cholesterol, there's a reason. The body manufactures cholesterol as an emergency procedure. Instead of interfering with cholesterol production without knowing why the body has starting raising its level, it would be wiser to investigate things further.
What Causes High Cholesterol Levels? There are four main reasons why your cholesterol levels may be high:
High Cholesterol Levels are a Symptom — Not a Cause. The most important point to remember is that, although unusual cholesterol levels may be a symptom of problems, they are not a cause of anything, including heart disease.
The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics is a group of scientists, physicians, professors and science writers from various countries committed to revealing the truth about cholesterol and heart disease.
Although high LDL levels are associated with heart attacks, it's not the cholesterol itself that's the problem — it's the oxidation of that cholesterol that is caused by free radicals. Oxidation produces a condition called atherosclerosis, a precursor to heart disease and many other cardiovascular problems.
Watch this fascinating video as Dr. Mark Hyman exposes the cholesterol myth and reveals the truth about HDL and LDL cholesterol and the true causes of heart disease.
As the video explains, cardiovascular disease begins when the walls of your arteries and the cholesterol in your blood are damaged by free radicals and oxidative stress. Damaged cholesterol molecules stick to the walls of your arteries, and each other, eventually clogging the artery and causing a heart attack. It doesn't matter how much, or how little, cholesterol there is in your blood.
Once the cholesterol becomes oxidized, your body will send more cholesterol to the damaged area in an attempt to repair the damage, and plaque deposits begin. As these plaque deposits grow, the artery becomes narrower and stiffer, diminishing the flow of blood to the heart. If the artery becomes so clogged that it becomes completely blocked, you have a heart attack. Cholesterol-reducing drugs may lower the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream, but they will not protect it from oxidation.
In addition, LDL cholesterol (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) particles come in different sizes, and it's this particle size that is most critical, as small particles get stuck easily and cause more inflammation. Statin drugs do not reduce the size of LDL particles. The only way to make your LDL particles large enough so they won't get stuck and cause inflammation and damage is through an improved diet.
Atherosclerosis probably started to form in your body when you were still young. The entire process is slow and insidious, and often doesn't have symptoms. Some people with blocked coronary arteries develop angina. When they exert themselves, their stiff, narrowed arteries can't expand enough to increase the flow of blood to the heart. The result is severe, sometimes disabling, chest pain.
Atherosclerosis can also affect other parts of your body, as well. If an artery in your brain is blocked, you could have a stroke. If the arteries leading to any of your organs are blocked, that organ could fail. If the blockage is in the arteries in your legs, that could lead to muscle cramps or phlebitis.
Rather than worry about your cholesterol levels, you really need to work at lowering inflammation and oxidative stress. Sources of oxidative stress, and the free radical reaction that causes it, fall into the following general categories:
The best way to prevent heart disease is by eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, combined with a regular exercise program. A diet rich in antioxidants will give your body the defense it needs against free radical attacks to your arteries. If the free radicals are neutralized quickly enough by antioxidants, your artery walls will remain intact and your cholesterol will not form plaque.
The primary antioxidants that have been shown to be instrumental to heart disease prevention include:
Study after study on the benefits of these antioxidants have proven their ability to prevent heart disease. Click on the individual links to learn more about the role of each in the prevention of heart disease.
Go to the page on Heart Attack Prevention to learn about
these and all the other antioxidants that help prevent heart disease.
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