I think I can safely say that we all have heard about cholesterol and that it can cause heart disease, but what exactly is cholesterol and what impact does it have on our health?
Cholesterol is a type of lipid or fat that is essential for all animal life …. in the right amounts.
It performs three essential functions:
- It helps make the outer coating of our cells,
- It makes up the bile acids that work to digest food in the intestine,
- It allows the body to make Vitamin D and hormones, such as testosterone in men and estrogen in women
Now cholesterol is oil based and blood is water based, so if cholesterol were just dumped into the bloodstream, it would congeal into unusable globs. But the body is clever and so it packages it up into minuscule protein particles called lipoproteins.
In most people, 60%-70% of their cholesterol is carried in LDL particles, which are considered “bad” cholesterol. This is where it can get confusing so I’ll try and simplify it.
LDL particles are not all “bad,” however, because they act as ‘ferries’, and they put the cholesterol to parts of the body that need it.
LDL cholesterol becomes “bad” if there is too much in the body — when the parts of the body have enough the ‘ferries’ start dumping the cholesterol into the bloodstream. Remember what I said about the fatty globs dumped in the blood?
Well that’s high cholesterol. It’s those fatty deposits that cause the problem because they clog blood vessels.
Coronary atherosclerosis is the clinical name for the build up of plaque, (the fatty globs), inside the artery walls. This in turn causes the inside walls to get narrow meaning the flow of blood is slowed down.
It’s now known that this plaque build up starts really early in life, like we’re talking toddlers, and progresses over the years before it becomes a medical problem.
100s of studies with over a million people have shown that those with higher LDL cholesterol are at far greater risk of heart disease.
High cholesterol itself typically does not have any symptoms, so many people are unaware they are at risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other heart diseases. It is recommended that all adults have their levels checked every five years.
Because pharmaceutical drugs start at around the age of 63, the problem is that the LDL cholesterol (the bad one) has been circulating in the body for years and so these drugs only reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by about a 20 – 30%.
Why not just take the drugs? Well like I just said, you only get a 20-30% reduction in the risk of heart disease and you have the added downside of the side effects of the drugs, plus you have to remember to take the pills.
High cholesterol runs in my family and my levels, even on a vegan diet were going up. It wasn’t until I switched to whole plant foods that I started to see a change and an even better drop when I cut out oil… oil is a processed food not a whole food. – just saying.
There is enough research, studies and clinical trials out there to prove that you can reduce and even reverse heart disease by eating whole plant based foods.
If you want to know more here’s a couple of reference links.
Have great food and …..
Be compassionate to all animals, including humans