I am a regular on the The Survival Podcast, as an expert on Primal health, nutrition and exercise. I share a lot of great information during this question and answer format. I have realized I cover a lot of information that may not be contained on my website or blog. So from here on out I will share it with you on my website as well. Below is the audio of my answer to the listener question. In addition, you will find the entire transcript below as well. Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section, and I will make sure to answer it.
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Below is the complete transcript:
If I have high cholesterol and I’m Paleo, how do I fix this? or is it really something to be concerned about?
Details: I’ve been Primal/Paleo for about 4 years. My diet consists of meats, eggs, dairy (cheese, cream for coffee, etc), fruits and vegetables. I’ve essentially eliminated bread, pasta, grains from my diet for 4 years. I just had a physical and they did my blood work.
Family history: my grandmother died of a heart attack and was always overweight. (my Mom is also overweight and struggles with many health concerns). I personally have none of these issues, but I understand it could be a hereditary risk.
The doctor was concerned because my overall cholesterol because was high, and recommended some dietary changes. Much of what I have seen and heard leads me to believe that cholesterol isn’t so much of a concern, rather the inflammation caused from gluten and crappy foods, which indirectly causes the cholesterol to build up. So I’m wondering if I misunderstood this and I should be concerned about my cholesterol. If so, what dietary changes would you recommend. Thanks, Mike
Gary Collins (Answer): Hi, everyone. This is Gary Collins, best selling author and creator of www.thesimplelifenow.com. We have another question, cholesterol related question. I’ve gotten quite a few of these over the years.
Actually, I went into great depth on cholesterol in one of our TSP expert council questions. I cannot remember when it was. I want to say maybe six months ago, maybe a year, but I went into great details when I had another great question.
With this one, Mike has a concern. His total cholesterol is 249 and he’s been going to his doctor. He is a primal/paleo follower for about four years. There’s some heart disease in his family and he is wondering. He knows doctor is concerned that his cholesterol 249. In the modern medical world anything over 200 is considered high.
That is not correct from the research and for me working with clients over the years and talking with numerous naturopathy doctors or doctors more in tune with ancestral life, paleo life, primal lifestyle.
The general rule is any time you get in the range of 300 and above, that’s when you might want to discuss it with your doctor and start possibly thinking about statins.
The last time I talked about this, I went deep into statins as well. Statin medications are prescription drugs made to lower your cholesterol. Well, there’s a huge boom in that, and that’s one of the most prescribed drugs in the world is cholesterol or statin medications.
When I was with FDA, it was either between the rectal dysfunction drugs and the cholesterol‑lowering drugs. Those were the two most counterfeited drugs worldwide. There’s good reason behind that, because they’re the most popular. These are the ones that doctors are prescribing to everyone.
With that being said, I believe that the medical and drug companies created a problem that was not there previously. Cholesterol levels through all the research, it is very difficult to pinpoint a number that directly correlates to heart attack, a coronary heart disease. It just doesn’t exist.
Actually, you have a higher incidence of complications taking statins or cholesterol‑lowering drugs than you do not taking them. That is a fact. There are a ton of negative side effects taking statin drugs, and I only recommend those in severe cases which are very rare, like I said, when you’re in the 300s, your total cholesterol.
Mike also gave me his HDL number which is 64, which is your high density lipoprotein level, and then your LDL, or your low density lipoprotein level. There’s some misnomer and some misinformation there too is we’ve been told that our LDL levels cholesterol is bad and HDL is good. There really is no good or bad cholesterol.
Primarily you need to understand that without cholesterol, we will die. You cannot live without cholesterol in your body. Another thing is 75 percent of the cholesterol in your bloodstream is produced by your liver. Only about 25 percent can be attributed to your diet and only about 15 percent of that 25 percent will actually end in your bloodstream. As you can see diet is a factor, but I’ll get into that later how that works.
When you look at his total cholesterol level and there’s two easy ways to figure out if you’re in that category of a concern for coronary heart disease. The simplest one is divide your LDL by your total cholesterol. It should be about 25 percent‑ish or higher. Mike is not. Mike is fine. Mike is right around 25 percent if I remember my numbers right when I did it.
Then the second one is divide your total triglycerides by your HDL and get your ratio. It should be under four preferably under two. That’s the simplest, easiest way to understand your numbers that your doctor gives you. Because when they look and say, “Well, your total cholesterol high. It’s over 200.Well, your LDL’s high.”
Now, high triglycerides, yes ‑‑ but again the easiest way to figure out if your ratio is off, is to divide your triglycerides by your HDL. That will give you a true number. With that, as I told you without cholesterol you will die.
Cholesterol is vital in the lining of your arteries and your vascular system repair. It’s essential for the production of sex hormones and your cellular structure. It actually keeps the integrity of your cellular wall. If you do not have cholesterol, your cells would actually collapse on themselves and you would die. That’s what I’m saying. Cholesterol is what we have to have.
The concern is also that, he believes he has a family history. His grandmother died of a heart attack and was always overweight. His mom is overweight and struggles with many health concerns. Well, the key indicator for poor health and coronary heart disease primarily is guess what, being overweight.
I’ve talked also about your waist size. Your waist is the primary determinant of your health. We call it skinny fat where people are lean, but they have a puto belly, I call it. A lot of people call it beer belly because alcohol will cause you to store a large propensity of fat in your abdominal area.
That being said, that’s the easiest indicator. If your waistline is outside of the realm of where it should be, then that’s the primary indicator. There’s a very simple ways to figure this out, and my easiest way is if you’re healthy and your waist is at its appropriate size for your height and weight, you’re fine. It’s not perfect but that’s the easiest way.
Also, Mike doesn’t have any of this. He doesn’t have these issues. He is not overweight. He doesn’t have any health concerns. At least he did tell me. The doctor also recommended primarily some dietary changes. Anyone is concerned about high cholesterol or if their cholesterol seems to be a little high.
It also could be due to inflammation. Inflammation is the primary cause of all of our health problems today. Chronic inflammation is caused by our simple lifestyle of too much bread, pasta, sugars, lack of sleep, too much caffeine, not enough exercise. Break it down.
That’s a typical American today and what that lifestyle does is, it causes high inflammation in the body, which causes cellular degeneration, causes degeneration in our vascular system walls, which causes plaques to form.
We end up with too much or I call it unhealthy cholesterol. That is due, like is said, to chronic inflammation. You don’t have chronic inflammation, you’re not going to usually have these issues.
Everything starts with inflammation. I actually saw an anti‑inflammatory package that consists of organic greens, omega‑3, fish oil and turmeric.
Turmeric depending how you want to say it. I know Jack. We’re both big proponents of turmeric. It is an amazing, amazing herb. I recommend that to clients and I’ve had great success. You can also take ginger, which has anti‑inflammatory effects and also helps to reduce cholesterol.
There are many ways if you have high cholesterol to possibly reduce it. In Mike’s case it’s not high. I’ll be honest with you, most people float. Healthy people exercise, eat, live the primal life style. A lot of us are in that 200 to 250 range. I’ve always floated in that range myself and as you age your total cholesterol will actually get higher.
That is not necessarily negative. It’s just part of the aging process. You will tend to have more inflammation as you age. That could elevate your cholesterol levels a little bit, but nothing major.
I think Mike is fine. Like I said, he could take anti‑inflammatory package see if that helps. In one way too is sometimes people may be consuming a little too much saturated fat. That is one an area I’ve seen people reduce the intake of saturated fat and their cholesterol levels will seem to dip.
I hope that helps. Cholesterol is a very complicated subject. Especially if you go out there and start Googling it, you will lose your mind. I mean you’ll be more confused than you ever were before.
What I have given you is very, very basic information. The simplest way to figure out what your cholesterol really means. What’s your HDL level, your LDL level and your triglycerides. With those four numbers, you can use the formulas I gave you, to determine whether it’s a problem or not.
That is going to decide whether you are actually a higher risk for coronary heart disease. Obviously, like I said, if you’re overweight, have a gut, that’s the key indicator. That’s the one that I always look at.
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