Cholesterol – why all the hate?

What do the numbers 27, 46 and 1 have in common? These are the amounts of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen tied up in one tiny molecule of Cholesterol. If you are an animal or a human it would help to know that this molecule is absolutely essential to life. It helps keep stuff inside your cells and keep other stuff outside your cells. It gives structure to the cells and lucky for you it is very malleable, which means your cells can change shape. This is kind of important for movement for example. Cholesterol is also used in helping nerve fibers conduct electrical impulse. They form part of the myelin sheath that surround nerve fibers. Some of the fastest nerve fiber communication has been measured in the nerves that help you sense and evade danger. In some of these nerves the velocity has been measured to about 120 meters per second. That’s the equivalent of traveling the distance of a football field in one second. Cholesterol is also used to make steroid hormones, bile acids and vitamin D. These help you reproduce, deal with stress, absorb fats and calcium, magnesium and zinc.

A plant doesn’t make cholesterol. Instead, its cell walls are made of cellulose. That is what gives that delicious crunch when you bite into fresh lettuce.

So if cholesterol is so good for you, how did it get such a bad rap?


 

What do 8K, 1.5 Mil and 1 Bil have in common? That is how many people die each year from cardiovascular disease, the amount of people who have a heart attack or stroke each year and how much money is spent PER DAY on diseases related to our tiny friend the cholesterol molecule.

Money is spent on medicine, surgeries, diagnostic testing and some to pay the doctors who try to help people with these diseases. One of the most lucrative specialties for doctors to go into is Cardiology. Those are the doctors that show up before the nurses in the morning and leave after them in the evening.


As a primary care doctor I get to see a multitude of patients with diseases related to cholesterol. The problem is that our bodies can’t handle the amount of cholesterol we ingest. The body actually loves cholesterol so much that it smothers itself to death with it. The body naturally plans ahead, it will store excess fat just incase a long winter or dry season breaks out where food is scarce. This survival mechanism works overtime when we live in an abundance of food.


So what do we do? We have vilified the poor little cholesterol molecule. We have declared a war on it. But, we are losing. We are losing this battle fast. The numbers are getting worse every year. Obesity is increasing at a rapid pace. Heart attacks and strokes multiply.


We found some help in research. Certain medications (called Statins) have been developed to help lower cholesterol levels. Through research we have discovered other risk factors that contribute to strokes and heart attacks. Here’s how they did it.

Researchers took millions of people and sorted them in two categories. Those who have had a stroke or a heart attack (MI) and those who haven’t.

Then they looked at the stroke/MI group and divided them up further into categories like tobacco use, weight, height, sex, race, aspirin use, statin use.

The results were profound.

We found that smoking significantly increases your risk. Uncontrolled blood pressure and having diabetes also made a huge difference.

The American Heart Association put all this together in a convenient calculator in an attempt to predict the risk of you having one of these catastrophic events. Check it out. Stroke / Heart Attack Calculator


So what to do…

Stop smoking, control your blood pressure and diabetes.

Exercise daily

Eat fresh fruits and vegetables

Find within you the tiny little bit of willpower that can be fostered and kindled, fueled and coddled, to grow to a powerful force of life changing capacity, to burn strong inside you to resist the endless temptation of giving in to your natural urges to settle for your comforts. Push back on your urges and your life will deliver in abundance.

Good luck my friend.

Marthinus Zeeman

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