For most people, the word cholesterol is synonymous with danger and bad health. This is NOT true. It has received so much attention in the media and our doctor’s offices, we have lost perspective understanding its relevance and necessity for HEALTHY LIVING.
An article entitled, “Benefits of Cholesterol: What Is It Good For?” by Marc Lallanilla provided a simple explanation of cholesterol and its ESSENTIAL ROLE for healthy living.
“Cholesterol performs several important functions in the body. Perhaps the most important of these is its role in forming and maintaining cell walls and structures. Cells also need cholesterol to help them adjust to changes in temperature, and it’s used by nerve cells for insulation. Additionally, cholesterol is essential for synthesizing a number of critical hormones, including the sex hormones testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. Bile, a fluid produced by the liver, plays a vital role in the processing and digestion of fats. To make bile, the liver uses cholesterol. Your body also needs cholesterol to make vitamin D; in the presence of sunlight, cholesterol is converted into vitamin D.”
As you can see, cholesterol ISN’T THE ENEMY!
Interestingly, when doctors are asked what the total cholesterol level should be, the most common answer is <200mg/dL. The reason this answer concerns me is that it lacks any RANGE. Can cholesterol be too low? The answer is YES, but the controversy over defining “too low” continues to be argued.
When doctor’s can’t agree based on the science, what is the consumer supposed to do and who should he or she believe?
To answer this question, we MUST first realize that “high cholesterol” is NOT A DISEASE.
It is a RESPONSE!
If the body begins destroying cells as a result of (ex. infections, inflammation, toxicity, EXERCISE, etc…) new cells must be produced REQUIRING CHOLESTEROL. If we medicate this condition with cholesterol lowering drugs without uncovering the ROOT CAUSE of its elevation, the blood cholesterol levels will chemically be forced to reduce. This, in turn, limits vital new cell production making the person more susceptible to additional health problems. This is why we must begin to understand
THE UNDERLYING CAUSES OF HEALTH PROBLEMS RATHER THAN SIMPLY MEDICATING THEIR SYMPTOMS.
If the CAUSE of elevated cholesterol is illness, inflammation or exercise, cholesterol lowering medication INTERFERES with the healing process. Cellular repair could be prevented by lowering cholesterol levels. If the cause is LIFESTYLE (poor eating habits and lack of exercise) an increase in cholesterol would be the bodies PROTECTIVE RESPONSE early on. In this case it would be a SIGNAL of internal disruption in the body and require a
CHANGE IN BEHAVIOR
TO FIX THE PROBLEM.
Ignoring the bodies message to CHANGE BEHAVIOR would result in other harmful events (plaquing of arteries causing heart attacks or strokes, gall badder disease, fatty liver disease, etc…). It is under this scenario that medication becomes beneficial WHILE the individual works to make the NECESSARY LIFESTYLE CHANGES.
Using medication IN PLACE OF exercise and healthier eating is like getting a Mercedes car loan when you’re already in debt. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
If the body is so broken that it loses the ability to regulate the amount of cholesterol needed, natural alternatives and/or pharmaceuticals would be indicated. Viewing medications in this light provides a safer and more beneficial use while providing the individual a better understanding of their role in health maintenance and health restoration. We need to make better decisions first before introducing pharmaceutical drugs into our bodies. There are no free rides in life and pharmaceutical drugs AND THEIR SIDE EFFECTS should
NOT be the FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE.
Finally, how LOW is TOO LOW for cholesterol levels to remain safe and healthy? With the answer STILL unclear I would offer (based on my research) a RANGE between 75-120mg/dL. There are more detailed factors that need to be taken into account deciding optimal ranges, but a range between 140-200mg/dL (slightly higher if the “good cholesterol” is high) will provide adequate cholesterol levels to allow the body to function in a healthy manner.