Why should I be concerned with high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a naturally occurring waxy, fat-like substance. It has several important functions in the body. It is required to make hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone cortisol and aldosterone. It is also required for our bodies to make vitamin D. Unfortunately, having too much cholesterol is not good. Too much increases the risk for cardiovascular events, which is a broad term referring to heart attacks, aneurysms and strokes.

How is cholesterol related to cardiovascular events?

Cholesterol is transported through the body in the bloodstream inside transport molecules called lipoproteins. The 2 main types of lipoproteins are Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) and High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL). LDL has a tendency to “leak” cholesterol as it travels through the blood vessels. The “leaked” cholesterol then sticks to walls of the blood vessel, and begins to form a plaque. Eventually, these plaques can impair the flow of blood to important parts of the body, such as the heart. For example, if the heart does not get enough fresh blood, the result could be a heart attack. Additionally, these plaques can lead to the formation of blood clots, which can cause a stroke, and they reduce the flexibility of the blood vessels, which can lead to a torn vessel, or aneurysm.

I was told I have high cholesterol. Now what?

Since high levels of cholesterol are a risk factor for cardiovascular events, one goal is to try to lower the cholesterol levels. The most common class of medications used to lower cholesterol is statins. Statins work by blocking the pathway for our body to make cholesterol. Statins are very successful in lowering cholesterol, but many patients suffer side effects such as muscle pain.

How can Naturopathic Medicine help high cholesterol?

High cholesterol is often related to diet and lifestyle. Inactivity, poor diet and smoking can increase cholesterol levels in the body. A naturopathic approach to improving cholesterol involves working on diet and lifestyle. Because cholesterol production can be modified by physical activity, smoking and diet, it is important to address these three factors, even if you are already on a statin[i].

Dr. Halldorson’s approach

When I am helping patients reduce their cholesterol, I employ the following treatments:

  • Assist with increasing physical activity[ii]
  • Help implement dietary changes[iii]
  • Consider cholesterol lowering supplements
    • Probiotics (specific strains)[iv]
    • Plant Sterols[v]
  • Minimize side effects of medications[vi]

If you are concerned with your cholesterol levels, book an appointment today.

 

References

[I][ii][iii] MD et al., “2016 Canadian Cardiovascular Society Guidelines for the Management of Dyslipidemia for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in the Adult;” Allan et al., “Simplified Lipid Guidelines Prevention and Management of Cardiovascular Disease in Primary Care.”

[iv] Shimizu et al., “Meta-Analysis: Effects of Probiotic Supplementation on Lipid Profiles in Normal to Mildly Hypercholesterolemic Individuals.”

[v] Clifton, “Lowering Cholesterol – a Review on the Role of Plant Sterols..”

[vi] Marcoff and Thompson, “The Role of Coenzyme Q10 in Statin-Associated Myopathy;” Gaby, “The Role of Coenzyme Q10 in Clinical Medicine: Part II. Cardiovascular Disease, Hypertension, Diabetes Mellitus and Infertility.”