5 Tips to Increase your “Good” HDL Cholesterol
Statins are big business, 20 billion dollars worth, but there is conflicting medical evidence that they may not be as effective as they claim to be. New research, conducted to more accurately calculate a patient’s need for statins is flawed, say two Harvard professors, and one has to wonder why the error is in favor of using more statins.
How Cholesterol Figures Into It
Conventional wisdom says that high blood cholesterol can be serious. Those of us with high blood cholesterol have a greater chance of developing heart disease. High blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, so many people are unaware that their cholesterol level is too high. But what constitutes a “high” number is still contradicted among doctors, with variables such as age, family heart disease history, lifestyle, and genetic predispositions all factors that may contribute to higher cholesterol readings.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body. Your body needs cholesterol to work effectively and should produce all that it needs. Cholesterol serves as the backbone of your cellular membranes. It sticks to your cell walls, functioning as a support structure. Your body also uses cholesterol molecules to make important hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, and progesterone. Your digestive system uses cholesterol to build bile acids, which help the body absorb fats and other important nutrients. You use cholesterol to make Vitamin D and substances that help you to digest foods.
When cholesterol levels are inadequate, cell membranes become porous, a situation the body interprets as an emergency. It responds by releasing a flood of corticoid hormones that work by sequestering cholesterol from one part of the body and transporting it to the areas where it is lacking. Cholesterol is also the body’s repair material; scar tissue contains high levels of cholesterol, including scar tissue in the arteries.
Importantly, cholesterol is the precursor to vitamin D, necessary for numerous biochemical processes including mineral metabolism. Bile salts, required for the digestion of fat, are made of cholesterol. To travel through the bloodstream, cholesterol is carried in small packages called lipoproteins. The small packages are made of fat (lipid) on the inside and proteins on the outside. Two kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body and it is important to have healthy levels of both.
HDL (high density lipoprotein) or “good” cholesterol should be in proportion to LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, sometimes called “bad” cholesterol.
High LDL cholesterol leads to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. The higher the LDL level in your blood, the greater chance you have of developing heart disease.
Now, a new online cholesterol risk calculator produced by two leading U.S. heart organizations is considered flawed and overstates a person’s risk of heart disease, a pair of Harvard Medical School professors say. The professors contend that this flaw could lead the calculator to mistakenly suggest that millions of people should be taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, The New York Times has reported.Key officials with the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) have stood by the calculator despite increasing criticism.
The Times reported that Harvard professors Dr. Paul Ridker and Dr. Nancy Cook reportedly pointed out problems with the calculator a year ago, saying that it did not seem to work accurately when they tested it using patient data. Ridker and Cook again tested the calculator and reported serious flaws that could overestimate a person’s risk of heart disease by 75 percent to 150 percent. Their findings have been published in the medical journal The Lancet.
AHA and ACC officials have said that the Harvard professors’ analysis of the calculator relied on patient data from three heart studies involving people both younger and healthier than the average American. “These people exist in the U.S. population, but it’s a very healthy, skewed group,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Officials from both heart groups added that just because the calculator suggests some people would benefit from statins doesn’t mean they absolutely have to take them.
Instead, the calculator should prompt a conversation with their doctor about whether they need to take statins or undertake other lifestyle changes to lower their cholesterol.
Confusion Over New Guidelines
Cardiologists are concerned that the confusion surrounding the calculator and new cholesterol treatment guidelines could cause patients to refuse to take statins. Previously, doctors adhered to rigid clinical guidelines to prescribe a statin when cholesterol levels reached a certain threshold. Under the new guidelines, people will be advised to take statins based on a number of different health risk factors. These risk factors include if they already have heart disease, if their bad (LDL) cholesterol is extremely high (190 milligrams per deciliter of blood or more) or if they’re middle-aged with type 2 diabetes. Also people between 40 and 75 years of age with an estimated 10-year risk of heart disease of 7.5 percent or more are advised to take statins. Experts say this new rule could greatly alter the number of patients who will now be advised to take such a drug.
5 Tips For Hitting Your HDL Target
Regardless of the conflicting information on statins, the one thing we can all do, say the experts, is raise our HDL levels. Your lifestyle, rather than any single drug including statins, has the single greatest impact on your HDL cholesterol. Even small changes to your daily habits can help you to meet your HDL target.
Here are some great tips from the Mayo Clinic:
1. Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking can increase your HDL cholesterol by up to 10 percent. Quitting isn’t easy, but you can increase your odds of success by trying more than one strategy at a time. Perhaps trying wholesale vape might help you work towards quitting. Talk with your doctor about your options for quitting.
2. Lose weight. Extra pounds take a toll on HDL cholesterol. If you’re overweight, losing even a few pounds can improve your HDL level. For every 6 pounds (2.7 kilograms) you lose, your HDL may increase by 1 mg/dL (0.03 mmol/L). If you focus on becoming more physically active and choosing healthier foods, two other ways to increase your HDL cholesterol, you will likely move toward a healthier weight in the process.
3. Get more physical activity. Within two months of starting, frequent aerobic exercise can increase HDL cholesterol by about 5 percent in otherwise healthy sedentary adults. Your best bet for increasing HDL cholesterol is to exercise briskly for 30 minutes five times a week. Examples of brisk, aerobic exercise include walking, running, cycling, swimming, playing basketball, and raking leaves, anything that increases your heart rate. You can also break up your daily activity into three 10-minute segments if you’re having difficulty finding time to exercise.
4. Choose healthier fats. A healthy diet includes some fat, but there’s a limit. In a heart-healthy diet, between 25 and 35 percent of your total daily calories can come from fat, but saturated fat should account for less than 7 percent of your total daily calories. Avoid foods that contain saturated and trans fats, which raise LDL cholesterol and damage your blood vessels.Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in olive, peanut and canola oils tend to improve HDL’s anti-inflammatory abilities. Nuts, fish and other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are also good choices for improving your LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio.
5. Drink alcohol only in moderation. Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than 65, and up to two drinks a day for men aged 65 and younger. If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start just to try raising your HDL levels.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/18/health/risk-calculator-for-cholesterol-appears-flawed.html?hpw&rref=us&_r=0 – Risk Calculator for Cholesterol Appears Flawed – The New York Times
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8267876/Statins-the-drug-firms-goldmine.html – Statins: the drug firms’ goldmine – The Telegraph
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2004/07/21/statin-drugs-part-four.aspx – The Dangers of Statin Drugs: What You Haven’t Been Told About Cholesterol-Lowering Medication – Mercola.com
http://www.mayoclinic.com – The Mayo Clinic