While high cholesterol levels are a sign of poor health, cholesterol itself is not bad at all. In fact, without cholesterol we would not exist. So while too much is harmful, having the right amount is necessary for good health. Here is some of the important work that cholesterol does in the body:
- Synapses. Cholesterol helps form synapses in the brain. These synapses are how neurons in the brain communicate. This may explain why one of the side effects of cholesterol lowering statin drugs is brain fogginess and dementia. Your brain needs cholesterol to function.
- Vitamin D. This highly important vitamin is not only important for strong bones, it also protects against many cancers. Vitamin D is made from cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight.
- Cell membranes. All cells contain an outer layer called the cell membrane. Cholesterol provides structural integrity of this membrane.
- Sex hormones. Cholesterol is the precursor molecule for estrogen and testosterone and other hormones in the body.
- Bile acids. Cholesterol is an important component in the formation of bile. Bile helps your body break down fats and aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Myelin sheath. Cholesterol is a central component of myelin sheath. This is the fatty layer around nerve cells and without it nerve conduction cannot exist. Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative neurological disease where there is damage to this sheath.
So what is the perfect cholesterol level? If your doctor tells you it is less than 200mg/dl, it may be time to find a new one.
I have attached a PDF graph of a report on cholesterol levels vs. all cause mortality in 164 countries. Here is what the graph shows:
The optimal cholesterol level to limit your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease is between 200-215mg/dl.
The optimal cholesterol level to limit your risk of dying from all causes is between 220-225mg/dl.
I hope you notice from these numbers that if you get your cholesterol levels into the optimal range to lower your risk of heart disease you are INCREASING your risk of dying overall.
In addition to this, it is very important to note that as cholesterol levels drop below 200mg/dl the incidence of heart disease and all cause deaths skyrockets.
For instance, if your cholesterol level is below:
175mg/dl: your risk of having a heart attack doubles
150mg/dl: your risk of having a heart attack triples
Now look at the impact on all cause mortality
If your cholesterol is below:
175mg/dl and your risk of dying more than doubles
150mg/dl and your risk of dying quadruples
So if this is true, then why would the American Heart Association recommend that levels under 200mg/dl are optimal?
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) panel has defined what normal cholesterol levels should be and this has been endorsed by the American Heart Association. The NCEP is a panel of so called “experts” in the field of cardiovascular disease. The problem with this panel and it’s recommendations is that 8 of the 9 panel members have financial ties to companies that manufacture cholesterol lowering drugs. The lower the recommended level of blood cholesterol the more people who fall into the “high” category. This means more prescriptions and more money for big pharma.
If you are taking a statin medication and impressed that your blood cholesterol levels are below 200mg/dl, think again. The idea that lower is better is not the case and you are increasing, not decreasing, your risk of dying. The truth is in the numbers, not in what an “expert”, biased group announces to the media.
Cholesterol is a very important substance that your body needs to properly function, and low levels are just as dangerous as high ones. It is not a lethal poison that the drug companies want you to believe it is. If you do have elevated levels, addressing them with diet an exercise is a much healthier option than medication.