Why Cholesterol Levels Are Not the Best Predictor of Heart Disease

Individuals with higher-than-normal cholesterol levels are commonly prescribed statins in the hope of reducing their risk of heart disease or stroke. Yet, medical research to date indicates that statins actually have very limited usefulness in preventing heart disease unless the patient already has a personal history of the disease. This may be due, in part, to the fact that cholesterol is just one of a series of factors that put an individual at risk.

Furthermore, statin use over a prolonged period has been linked to an increased risk of Type II Diabetes. And a new and noteworthy study, published in spring 2015 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, is now citing this connection among healthy adults at baseline.

In the study – Statins and New-Onset Diabetes Mellitus and Diabetic Complications: A Retrospective Cohort Study of US Healthy Adults – researchers looked at a pool of 25,970 adult patients defined for the purposes of the study as “healthy” (i.e. free of heart disease, diabetes, and other severe chronic diseases). From this pool, 3351 statin users and 3351 non-users were propensity score-matched based on 42 baseline characteristics. The results were striking: statin users were almost twice as likely to develop diabetes, more than twice as likely to develop diabetic complications, and slightly more likely to become overweight/obese than their counterparts.

Inflammation as a predictor of heart disease

Inflammation is a much more reliable predictor of one’s risk of developing heart disease than cholesterol and is easily measured by looking at a patient’s C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. What’s also heartening (pun intended) is that inflammation can be reduced dramatically by making modest lifestyle changes, such as adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, engaging in regular exercise, practicing daily meditation, not smoking, and getting sufficient sleep.

Statins do have a place in treating heart disease, but before medical practitioners prescribe a statin whose side-effects can range from an increased risk of developing Type II Diabetes to muscle pain or weakness, headaches, sore throat, sinusitis, nausea, and liver problems, it makes sense to first look at alternative, natural, and inexpensive ways of lowering inflammation in the body.

Here are 4 simple steps that you can take immediately to reduce inflammation in your body (and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke):

1. If you smoke, stop.

Smoking unquestionably raises the inflammatory factors in the body and dramatically increases your risk, not only for heart attack and stroke but also for cancers.

2. Add Omega-3’s to your diet by increasing your intake of fatty fish, olive oil, and nuts.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in a wide variety of fish and nuts, help reduce inflammation in the body and are also effective in treating arthritis, depression, ADD, and ADHD. An anti-inflammatory diet is one that eliminates fatty and fried foods (especially foods containing trans fats and saturated fats) and includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

3. Exercise regularly.

Regular exercise (ideally 10,000 steps per day) has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and with it, our risk of developing a great number of diseases.

4. Meditate daily.

Meditation helps reduce inflammation by improving the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This axis is responsible for regulating the blood pressure and heart rate, as well as the body’s production of cortisone, an anti-inflammatory hormone.

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