Health: A new number for heart health
How’s your heart health? For years, you’ve probably heard that you need to be concerned about three numbers: HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Big surprise! Many cardiologists are throwing out the old lipid panel and simplifying their cholesterol approach to just one number: the oxidized LDL number.
“The data is through the roof that this is the best marker for monitoring cholesterol and heart disease,” said naturopathic cardiologist Decker Weiss, who was named one of the leading physicians in the world by the International Association of Cardiologists in 2012. “Most people aren’t even aware that the American College of Cardiology, the Cleveland Clinic and even the American Heart Association are looking at this one number to summarize if cholesterol is indeed a risk.”
Weiss said that when LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized ~ which can be caused by lifestyle factors including stress, chemical exposure, poor diet and smoking ~ its cells go from smooth to spongy and tacky. “That’s when inflammation begins, which puts you at greater risk for a heart attack.”
This is breakthrough knowledge. “Healthy LDL cholesterol can eventually condense into HDL, which is recycled by the liver. But when LDL floats around in your system for too long, nothing good happens. It makes you vulnerable to disease,” Weiss said.
To make his point, Weiss compared cholesterol to heart-healthy salmon. “Is it fresh or is it rancid? Whereas healthy cholesterol is cardio-protective, rancid ~ or oxidized ~ LDL cholesterol causes heart disease. There is no middle ground. When LDL cholesterol is oxidized, it attracts the immune system, just as rancid salmon attracts flies.”
Most people think that a heart attack happens when plaque builds up, then breaks away, just as a piece of ice might break from an iceberg. “It’s not like that at all,” Weiss said. “It’s more like a tear or eruption inside of a blood vessel that allows rancid cholesterol to rush into the space.”
Knowing your oxidized LDL number is the first step in interrupting this disease process. “There’s now a simple, non-fasting blood test that your physician can order through labs such as Neuroscience or Cleveland Clinic. Your oxidized LDL level should be less than 60 U/L. If it’s above that level, there are a number of actions you can take. Then re-test in 90 days to see if the changes are working.”
To improve your oxidized LDL number, Weiss advises:
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking accelerates LDL oxidation.
- Improve your diet. Choose fresh over processed foods. Eat a variety of foods. Make sure you eat a minimum of three cups of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Limit alcohol. Alcohol ~ even wine ~ can also accelerate LDL oxidation.
- Increase your activity. Exercise helps to protect your heart health, in part by lowering stress.
- Consider supplementing your diet. Some antioxidants have been shown to reduce oxidized LDL.
“We are also now starting to see nutritional supplements come onto the market that are clinically tested and shown to lower oxidized LDL. The first is NovaHue Cardio, a synergistic blend of natural, non-GMO tomato extract and phytosterols. It already has six well-controlled human clinical studies supporting its claims,” Weiss said. “If you choose to try a nutritional supplement, be selective. One huge deciding factor should be whether the finished product has been researched and evaluated for its effectiveness, not just the individual ingredients.
“Healthcare is becoming more individualized and customized than ever. Know your oxidized LDL number. If you’re not testing regularly, you won’t know if you are gaining the desired benefits. There is a lot you can do to support your heart naturally.”