Because of organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA), we’ve learned a lot about cholesterol and how it affects our health. Thanks to these educational organizations, we know that high cholesterol levels can increase our risk for heart attacks and strokes and, by lowering these levels; we reduce these risks as well as keep our hearts and blood vessels healthy. We also know that our cholesterol levels can be improved through exercise, diet, and weight loss.
Although we’ve learned a lot through these educational organizations, there are still a few misconceptions about cholesterol. One of these being that not all cholesterol is harmful. There are both “good” and “bad” forms of cholesterol and a good balance between the two is what is needed for a healthy heart. Because so much emphasis is placed on lowering “bad” cholesterol levels, not enough attention is paid to the benefit of raising “good” cholesterol levels (HDL). Research states that raising HDL levels can provide even greater protection against cardiovascular disease than just simply lowering “bad” cholesterol levels. By raising HDL levels by simply 1%, the risk of heart disease can be lowered by 2% in men and 3% in women. Many studies have shown that low HDL cholesterol levels are an independent risk factor in heart disease. This is extremely important because we’ve learned that despite efforts to change a person’s diet and exercise habits, some people’s cholesterol levels are still unhealthy.
Prescription drugs to lower cholesterol are now available and have been proven by multiple studies to be very successful. The statins’ effectiveness in reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol has produced highly significant reductions in heart attacks and strokes. Although these medications do lower cholesterol levels, their side effects must be considered. Statin drugs can cause liver irritation, reduce CoQ10 levels in the body, are associated with myopathy, and are even linked to a rare and sometimes fatal condition called rhabdomyolysis. These drugs also have a relatively small effect on good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Thankfully, there are safe and effective solutions available that can help you manage your cholesterol levels naturally. However, first we must review what we know about cholesterol and heart disease.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance needed to help digest fats, strengthen cell membranes, make hormones and insulate nerves. Although it is found in every cell of the body, cholesterol is mainly made in the liver, as well as cells lining the small intestine. Even though our bodies make all the cholesterol we need, we also get cholesterol from the foods we eat, such as egg yolks and organ meats. All foods from animal sources contain cholesterol, while plant derived food, including peanut butter and avocado, contains no cholesterol at all.
Cholesterol is important to many functions of the body. However, too much cholesterol in the bloodstream is extremely dangerous. After blood cholesterol reaches high levels, it builds up on the artery walls, and thus increasing the risk for blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. If the cholesterol clogs any of the coronary arteries, the heart’s supply of oxygen and nutrients will diminish, resulting in coronary heart disease, angina, or even heart attack.
Because cholesterol and other fats can’t dissolve in the blood and thereby can’t travel on their own, they have to be transported to and from the cells by lipoproteins. The two major lipoproteins are low density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad cholesterol) and high density lipoproteins (HDL or “good cholesterol”) LDLs carry cholesterol throughout the body to the cells and cause artherosclerosis by clogging up our arteries with fat. On the other hand, HDL prevents the fat buildup by carrying it away from the arteries and to the liver where it can be eliminated. Although high levels of LDL are associated with cardiovascular disease, high HDL can drastically reduce your risk of heart disease. As a result, the AHA has established three guidelines to keep your heart healthy: HDL levels about 40 for men and above 50 for women, LDL levels between 100 and 159, and a total cholesterol (HDL and LDL) of under 200.
Triglycerides are fats used as fuel by the body and a source for metabolism. These levels can fluctuate easily but increased levels are almost always a sign of too much carbohydrate and sugar intake. High amounts of triglycerides make the blood less capable of transporting oxygen and are another factor for cardiovascular disease. Thankfully, the HDL and LDL blend mentioned earlier can safely and effectively lower triglyceride levels.
It has been shown that high levels of HDL cholesterol are inversely related to coronary artery disease risk. However, what people do not know is that there are different subtypes of HDl, including HDL-2 and HDL-3. HDL-3 is produced by the liver and intestines and is responsible for scooping up free cholesterol from the blood vessel walls. The cholesterol carried by HDL-3 is chemically modified, forming a larger-sized subtype, known as HDL-2, or “mature HDL.” HDL-2 transports cholesterol to the liver for processing and elimination, and its molecules are then recirculated in the blood stream. Research has shown that HDL-2 provides more heart-protection because it moves the cholesterol away from arterial walls, and holds a greater number of receptor sites which allows it to carry a larger amount of cholesterol to the liver.
Although many prescription medications have been developed to lower bad cholesterol, there are very few medications that target good cholesterol. Therefore, patients with naturally low HDL cholesterol, who can not alter these levels through diet and exercise, have limited medical options to reduce their risk of heart disease. Multiple nutrients have been clinically shown to favorably alter good cholesterol levels including: vitamins C, E, B6, B12, niacin, folic acid, magnesium and selenium, with protein-building amino acids, powerful antioxidants such as coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid, N-acetyle cysteine, and policosanol, and extracts of hawthorn, garlic, grape seed, and soy isoflavones. Although this HDL-boosting combination does not result in a significant reduction in LDL, antioxidants found in this formulation can help stabilize LDL and prevent build up in the arterial wall.
This formula combines essential vitamins and minerals, at levels recommended by the American Heart Association. It contains amino acids, antioxidants, and botanicals that have all been used safely for years. No serious adverse effects have been found following supplementation and the combination is safe to use with statin drugs.
Plant sterols, found in nuts, vegetable oils, corn, and rice are structurally similar to cholesterol and are able to block its absorption. Each day the liver receives about 800 mg of cholesterol from intestinal absorption through receptor sites. After entering these channels, the cholesterol is absorbed into the bloodstream. Since plant sterols look similar to cholesterol, they fit perfectly into these receptor sites and block the absorption, which allows the cholesterol to remain in our intestines where it can eventually be excreted. A large amount of plant sterols reduces the amount of cholesterol transported from the intestinal tract to the liver. This cholesterol reduction causes a decrease in LDL levels.
Even if a person does not have high cholesterol levels, reducing bad and raising good cholesterol greatly reduces their risk for ever developing chronic heart disease. Due to side effects, physicians do not normally prescribe statin drugs to people without actual heart disease of high LDL cholesterol levels. Instead, they recommend dietary changes. The HDL-boosting combination and LDL-lowering pantethine and plant sterols blend can effectively help people with heart disease, uncontrolled cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, or people who just want to improve their heart health.