Old Well: UNC Chapel Hill Campus

Thursday, July 12, 2012

i was reading somewhere....

I was reading somewhere that half of those who die from heart disease have low  cholesterol LDL, which of course flies in the face of long-standing medical emphasis on reducing the bad stuff.  But there's a new blood test in town that explains why you can have acceptable LDL, but still be in danger of a heart attack or stroke.  This test, performed by just two labs in the U.S., measures lipid particles for their size and density   Everyone should take this test on an annual basis at the very least. 
Unfortunately, the practice of relying on cholesterol scores can lead to fatal consequences, since it doesn't get at the causes of heart disease--poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and daily stress.  Statins don't even remotely touch on any of these factors, though It may be good for the pharmaceutical industry, contributing substantially to our bloated health costs.
In my last post, I mentioned the crucial role diet plays in preserving good health:  whole grains, fiber, and vegetables versus fats, sugar, refined flour, and lack of sufficient fiber.  As much as you can, focus on a plant based diet.
Writing in the Huffington Post, physician David Hyman cautions that "instead of looking just at the cholesterol numbers, we need to look at the cholesterol particle size. The real question is: Do you have small or large HDL or LDL particles. Small, dense particles are more atherogenic (more likely to cause the plaque in the arteries that leads to heart attacks), than large buoyant, fluffy cholesterol particles. Small particles are associated with pre-diabetes (or metabolic syndrome) and diabetes and are caused by insulin resistance."
What got me started on this entry is that I recently took the new test and was shocked to find I'm excessively high in small LDL particles.  Further that I'm experiencing insulin resistance, which can be a precursor to diabetes.
For years, I've been taking annual blood tests for cholesterol, and thinking everything is well.  Now I think again of that 50% fatality among people displaying low LDL cholesterol, many of them slender types like myself.
I'm actually thankful for the surprise results, as things aren't helpless.  You can decrease small LDL particles by adopting the eating habits I mentioned earlier and doing five thirty-minute exercise sessions weekly.  You might also try niacin supplements, but under a physician's monitoring.  Niacin has proven to be as effective as statins for many. 
One caution I need to add:  choose nutritious foods that have a low glycemic index, or convert to blood sugar more slowly.  Look out for the carbohydrates like white potatoes!
Do well and be well.