Cholesterol Has Never Been Clinically Demonstrated to Cause a Single Heart Attack

For a long period, cholesterol has been one of the trending topics in the health scene, particularly its link to heart illness. 

A lot of people associate high levels of cholesterol with serious health problems. And, this connection has been a fundamental principle in medical practice, dietary guidelines, and even policies aimed at public health.

But, recent debates happening in the medical community are challenging this traditional stance. Some experts argue that the link between cholesterol and cardiovascular health isn’t as direct as once believed.

Cholesterol Explained

Cholesterol is a waxy and fat-like substance naturally produced in our bodies. It’s pivotal for cell structures, nerve function, and the synthesis of specific vitamins and hormones.

Cholesterol is produced by the liver, but we also acquire it from food. Let’s take a look at the main roles of cholesterol in the body:

  • Several important hormones, including testosterone and estrogen as well as cortisol, are synthesized from cholesterol. These hormones are vital for bodily functions like immune response, reproduction, and metabolism regulation. 
  • Cholesterol is important for cell membrane structure as it maintains the balance between fluidity and permeability. It modulates the membrane’s physical state and influences the interaction of the cells with the environment. 
  • Cholesterol is vital for the production of liver bile acids vital for digestion. These acids emulsify fats in the foods that we consume and break them down so that the body can absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K, etc.). 

What Are the Different Types of Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is either LDL or HDL. The former stands for low-density lipoprotein and it’s known as the bad cholesterol. 

That is because higher levels of it can build up in the arterial walls and create plaques which cause the arteries to harden and become narrow, a condition known as atherosclerosis. 

This contributes to poor blood flow and increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and coronary artery disease.

The latter or the good cholesterol travels through the blood, eliminating surplus cholesterol, and carries it back to the liver where it’s processed and eliminated from the body. 

High levels of this cholesterol are beneficial due to their ability to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by reducing the risk of arterial plaque accumulation.

The Effects of Cholesterol 

Years of research have shown the opposite: lower cholesterol has been linked to higher death rates in older individuals. Moreover, low cholesterol has been linked to different neurological conditions like depression, Parkinson’s, and dementia. 

It seems that the “bad guy” of the dietary world that we know as cholesterol could be a brain-saving superhero. According to a study, higher cholesterol levels were linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s and dementia. 

The team analyzed data from various longitudinal studies with thousands of participants to discover the link between cholesterol and the risk of these cognitive diseases. 

Their finding challenges the long-held belief that cholesterol is only harmful. 

Furthermore, cholesterol is also important for the production of stomach bile, a vital component that promotes the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients. 

Research has found cholesterol to be essential for the production of stomach bile. When we eat food, the gallbladder releases bile with cholesterol to promote the breakdown of fats and the absorption of essential nutrients. Without cholesterol, the body would have difficulty digesting and absorbing the fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.

Moreover, a systematic review that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine tested the link between circulating, dietary, and supplement fatty acids and the risk of coronary artery disease.

The conclusion was that there’s limited evidence associating specific types of fat consumption with a higher risk of coronary heart disease.

Holistic Approach: The Best Approach for Optimal Health?

To ensure optimal health, we need to take a holistic approach to life, one that goes over the fixation on cholesterol. 

Let’s take a look at some tips aimed at a healthy and balanced lifestyle that help maintain optimal health and promote a healthy cardiovascular system: 

  • Follow a diet abundant in different whole foods and rich in important nutrients such as fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. Reduce the consumption of processed foods and foods abundant in salt and sugar. 
  • Have a regular physical activity routine. Exercise is vital for a strong heart, healthy blood flow, balanced weight, and balanced cholesterol levels. Opt for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week. 
  • Practice yoga, meditation, or some other relaxation method to lower stress and anxiety that can contribute to poor cardiovascular health. Finding a hobby that fulfills you and keeps you mentally and physically engaged strengthens your mental and physical health.
  • Don’t forget to do your annual routine health checkups of your overall health and measurements like blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc. These help detect health issues early on and prevent worsening of the symptoms.