DR. WENDY CUNNINGHAM: High cholesterol and heart disease

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Cholesterol has gotten a bad rap over the last several decades. However, it is one of the most important molecules in your body. It is found in every cell in your body, not just the bloodstream. It helps produce hormones like estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. It helps produce bile acids to digest fats. It assists in the production of cell membranes and insulates nerve cells. In your skin, it is transformed by sunlight into vitamin D. It is important for brain health and helps you form memories.

It’s important to realize that the conventional view that cholesterol causes heart disease was based on seriously flawed research. Total cholesterol tells you virtually nothing about your health risk. Dr. Frank Lipman states, cholesterol-lowering drugs are not required or prudent for the majority of people — especially if high cholesterol and longevity run in your family.

If your doctor tells you your cholesterol is too high based on the standard lipid profile, getting a more complete picture is important — especially if you have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors.

The following test will provide a more accurate picture of your heart disease risk than total cholesterol alone:

• NMR LipoProfile. This test measures particle size of LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Large LDL particles are not harmful. Only small dense LDL particles can be a potential problem, as they can squeeze through the lining of your arteries.

• Hs-C-reactive protein, Lipoprotein (a) and serum fibrinogen.

• HDL/Cholesterol ratio: HDL percentage is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. That percentage should ideally be above 24 percent.

• Triglyceride/HDL ratios: You can also do the same thing with your triglycerides and HDL ratio. That percentage should be below 2.

• Fasting insulin and blood sugar levels: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl had a nearly 300 percent higher risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79 mg/dl.

• Your iron level: Excess iron levels you can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease.

The results of these tests should allow you to make better and more customized treatment decisions. This is especially important when it comes to the deciding if medication is necessary. The list of side effects for statins is long, and the benefits are debatable.

For tips on how to lower your risk of heart disease naturally, email Dr. Wendy at haydenhealth@gmail.com.

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