Never a day goes by nowadays without our being reminded of the need to reduce our cholesterol level. In the United Kingdom we are presented with this spread for our toast and that yoghurt to have with it each of which will lower our cholesterol as long as we have ourselves in our overall lifestyle. A new industry has sprung up based upon an obsession with cholesterol that is encouraged by orthodox medicine.
There is good reason to be concerned with cardiovascular health. It is estimated that 2.6 million people in the United Kingdom have coronary heart disease. Countless others are in the earlier stages but are not yet diagnosed. About a third of all deaths both in the United Kingdom and the United States are associated with cardiovascular disease mainly coronary heart disease and stroke. In the United States about a third of all adults over the age of 20 suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure). Although men are at greater risk than women we are told that in the United Kingdom slightly more women die of coronary heart disease than of cancer. That is not to belittle the scourge of cancer but the statistical demonstrates just how great is the threat of coronary heart disease in large parts of the Western world.
The body needs cholesterol
To read or listen to the advertisements emanating from the cholesterol lowering industry one could be forgiven for not realizing that our bodies naturally produce cholesterol because they need it to function properly. Doctors will tell you that there are two types of cholesterol commonly referred to as “good” and “bad” cholesterol. But that description of the two different types of cholesterol is also somewhat misleading because the body needs both.
There is unduly a benefit in lowering cholesterol levels especially in those who have other risk factors and establishing the optimum proportion of the so-called “good” cholesterol to the so-called “bad” cholesterol is even more significant for reasons that I summarize below . But all too often doctors will prescribe statins to reduce cholesterol levels and when they achieve that opportunity then in the absence of other problems such as diabetes or hypertension they will declare, “Job Done”. The problem is that the job has not been done as a new school of cardiology has begun to recognize despite unfortunately their thinking and approach is not yet mainstream.
To digress for a moment I would also criticize doctors who prescribe statins without also ensuring that their patients take CoenzymeQ10 daily. Usually referred to in its abbreviated form as CoQ10 this is a vitamin-like substance that reenergises heart cells. It is a naturally occurring component of the electron-transport chain that is essential to heart muscle function (as well as other organs with high energy needs such as the liver and kidney). Statins have a side-effect of depleting levels of CoQ10 and that can result in heart failure particularly in older patients. My clinic prescribes CoQ10 on a regular basis in such cases when doctors have neglected to do so. I will refer again to CoQ10 shortly but let me return to the subject of cholesterol.
The function of cholesterol
The liver produces the amount of cholesterol the body needs to carry out a number of functions including the construction of an essential membrane around our cells and the repair of damaged cells. The liver should regulate the production of cholesterol according to how much cholesterol we ingest from the foods that we eat. It used to be thought that eating too much cholesterol rich food, such as eggs, was bad for us. It is now understood that that is not so. Likewise, lean red meat is fine whilst fatty red meat is not.
Cholesterol is combined with protein to enable it to pass through our circulatory system. This combination is referred to as lipoprotein (from the Greek “lipos” for fat). The liver sends out low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol into our bloodstream in order to carry out essential functions including in clinical construction and repair. It is classified as LDL – low density – because it combines mainly fat and not much protein. It is LDL or so-called “bad” cholesterol that has to be kept in check but each of us would be in serious trouble if we did not have the amount of it that our body needs.
Excess LDL cholesterol in circulation including in excess of the needs of individual cells is or should be transported back to the liver by high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (to some extent oversimplify the process). HDL or so-called “good” cholesterol enterprises mainly protein and not much fat. The cholesterol transported back to the liver is converted into bile salt that serves in the breaking down of dietary fat in the small intestine as a final benefit before being excreted via the colon.
Where the true risk lies
What is of very real importance is the proportion of HDL to LDL cholesterol because if there is more LDL cholesterol than the HDL can transport there is a risk of excess LDL cholesterol remaining in the system and causing damage by becoming oxidized by free radicals. Although they sound as though they might be a political movement free radicals are in fact dangerous atoms within our metabolism that attack and damage enzymes and proteins inhibiting and distorting normal cellular function. They attack LDL particles causing them to become oxidised. When that occurs oxidized LDL attaches itself to arterial tissue that has already been damaged and become inflamed, and in turn joins blood clotting elements that together form plaque and worsen the inflammation of damaged artery walls. If the plaque becomes unstable it can break off and cause a heart attack or a stroke. The stability of the plaque is the most important factor and it is important to understand that it is the process of inflammation that causes the plaque to rupture. But relaxing and opening up blood vessels is also important in order to improve blood flow and reverse the effect of plaque. Here is the significance of L-Arginine to which I refer below.
Cholesterol alone is there not the problem. There are other factors at work and despite the most significant of these are:
- Inflammation of the arterial tissue.
- Oxidisation of LDL by free radicals.
- Poor blood flow through constricted vessels.
Addressing the true risk factors
Without inflammation damage to the inner layer of the arterial walls even high levels of LDL would not pose a risk. Indeed, there are many patients with high levels of LDL cholesterol who live to a ripe old age. The process by which such damage occurs may not be fully understood but is associated with one or more of genetics, lifestyle (including smoking, lack of exercise, stress, poor diet, processed and micro-washed food, chemicals and preservatives in our food) , high blood pressure, elevated insulin and toxins in the environment in which we live.
Aloe Vera with its well know anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties is ideally suited over the longer term to defend against both the process by which arterial walls are damaged by inflammation and the oxidation of LDL cholesterol that is also liable for the formation of plaque as I have described above. Aloe Vera Gel drunk on a daily basis will provide a level of long term protection against such damage provided the Gel is processed to reserve the Aloe Vera in the purest form.
CoQ10 and L-Arginine
CoQ10 also has a protective influence. It circulates within the LDL preventing the oxidation by free radicals. It has the added benefit of increasing blood flow. Its importance for cardiovascular health can not be underestimated. For some it is literally a life saver.
Equally important is L-Arginine, sometimes referred to as the “Miracle Molecule”. L-Arginine is an amino acid that the body needs to produce adequate amounts of nitric oxide which in turn is vital to cardiovascular health. The nitric oxide produced from L-Arginine relaxes and dilates the body's blood vessels which facilitates greater blood flow. In terms of cardiovascular health there can be nothing that is more important than that. Further, L-Arginine is credited by the new school of cardiologists with an ability to block LDL oxidation by supplying an antioxidant effect. That is crucial for the reasons I have described above. Although this amino acid is available in nuts, meat, poultry, dairy products and fish, supplementation with L-Arginine is often required for a number of reasons. The first is the unfortunate deficiency of nutritional value in so much of the food consumed in Western society. Secondly, we make less nitric oxide as we get older. Thirdly, it is thought that those who suffer from type 2 diabetes which is on the rise have a lower conversion of L-Arginine to nitric oxide. They therefore need more L-Arginine than can be gained from food sources as do those already suffering from hardening of the arteries or to give the condition its technical name, atherosclerosis.
The American cardiologists, Drs Stephen Sinatra and James Roberts, in their groundbreaking book ” Reverse Heart Disease Now” have this important message for all of us who are concerned about cardiovascular health:
L-Arginine has value for the whole gamut of atherosclerosis-from early signs such as high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction to advanced cardiac events. We feel it offers promise for plaque stabilization and reversal. It is inexpensive and nontoxic.
There is an exciting new product on the market that takes this recommendation to a new level by adding to an appropriate daily dose of L-Arginine a variety of key vitamins plus pomegranate, well known for its strong antioxidant properties (I have already explained why that is so important), red wine extract to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and grape skin for cardiovascular and immune system health and berries that help neutralize free radicals (again I have already explained the significance of that).
Please feel free to contact me for further information.
Your heart will thank you for taking L-Arginine and CoQ10 on a daily basis.