In my pre-paleo days, I honestly wasnt very aware of what cholesterol numbers stood for, and what the different component numbers meant (I thought for a long time that HDL & LDL stood for ‘heavy’ & ‘light’) And to be frank, I never really cared for them too. I reasoned that I was young, and healthy and at very low risk (if any at all) for heart disease in my 20s.
(This article is purely my own humble thoughts, and is not in any way intended to be a medical study or to be taken as medical advice. If anyone has questions on interpreting cholesterol, by all means lets discuss!! But please educate yourself, arm yourself with knowledge, and discuss any final points with your doctor/physician 🙂 Thank you for reading this )
Most of this is true. Heart disease is something of a ‘lifestyle’ ailment, and not something that’s pathogenic or transmitted (some might argue that high risk is transmitted genetically!! Well done sir, 10 points to Gryffindor for that excellent argument)
This excellent report from heart.org summarizes the picture – about 11% of humans in the 20-39 age group have Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) but an amazing 68% of adults in the 60-79 age group have CVD!
Since my humble article is not meant in any way to be a medical journal or anything remotely close to it, I’ll skip all the talk on how and why CVD develops in humans (Spoiler – its been recorded as far back as pre-modern as well as pre-agrarian cultures)
It is important to separate correlation from causation, especially when we are talking about heart disease which is responsible for 1 in every 3 deaths in USA ( more on correlation vs causation here )
One of my favourite articles, and a great technical treatise on cholesterol is one written by Dr Peter Attia who’s simultaneously the most charming and the most humble of writers on this topic. You’ll be treated to a great read 🙂 !
So cholesterol is ultimately an organic molecule that’s essential to our healthy daily functioning of the body (and mind). The body actually ‘creates’ its own cholesterol, and this is 75% of the total daily requirement; Only about 25% of our cholesterol needs are met through diet (if we begin to eat less cholesterol, our bodies adjust to try bridge that gap up to a point). Every cell membrane needs cholesterol, and most cells create their own cholesterol. Only a few cells need outside assistance.
All of this brings us to dietary Cholesterol. Cholesterol is at best misunderstood by the general public, mainly because of decades of media attention on the ‘correlation’ between cholesterol and heart disease. The word in quotes, correlation, is very important because even today, we truly have not been able to ‘implicate’ or say with certainty that cholesterol ’causes’ heart disease.
How does measuring cholesterol in my blood help determine my risk for heart disease?
Cholesterol has many components. In the most basic sense, there are 3 components – HDL, LDL & Triglycerides. HDL is the ‘good cholesterol’ meaning higher HDL numbers indicate better systemic health. LDL & TrigLycerides on the other hand are ‘bad cholesterol’ components, meaning lower numbers point to better systemic health.
But in reality, this is not 100% true, as we now know that LDL is not actually all bad – If LDL were a basket of apples, then there’s a few bad ones in there. But LDL in itself can only give us limited information (if I said I had 10 apples in my basket, could you know how many of them were bad? No Psychics allowed). There are advanced tests today that can directly measure the LDL (the standard tests we take for a Lipid Panel, uses an equation to ‘estimate’ the LDL number)
With all this said and done, what do my numbers mean?
My HDL is looking better than ever after 2 & 1/2 years of a high fat diet (good saturated fats). The same goes for my LDL (hovering around the 130 mark, but this is an estimated number so there’s a good chance my true LDL is closer to 100 ) and my Triglycerides although elevated from my test being close to a meal, are still well within the recommended healthy levels.
So all things considered, I’m in decent health according to my doctor as well as the last 30 months of medical history. My only honest regret? I don’t have a true month ‘zero’ before I began the paleo/primal journey……that would have been helpful to track my progress from day 1 instead of day 180.
Many of you may have different opinions on this topic, and I humbly agree to engage in a healthy conversation :). Cheers to knowledge and awareness. Sincerely, Vishnu.