Thursday, July 16, 2015

The myth of the high cholesterol

On April 14, 2015, I picked up my cholesterol test results and, even if I expected to find a couple of high values, I must admit that I was shocked when I read the number next to the LDL level (LDL is the so-called "bad cholesterol"): an amazingly high 208! Luckily, this value was somehow mitigated by a decent HDL level (the "good cholesterol") of 52 and a low level of triglycerides. How was it possible? Ok, I am 39, no more a teenager (well, I guess my psychological age is 19), my weight is 64 kg (140 pounds), my height 1.74 (5 feet and 8,5 inches). A real average Joe. What knocked my socks off was the fact that I am a would-be long-distance runner and I've been training for the last 4 years. Although I've never completed a half marathon, I am still working on it and on 2011/12 I ran 6 days a week. Last summer I used to run at least 10 km every other day (reaching the longest distance of 14 km). I write this because running is one of the most effective way to keep your cholesterol levels down. 
So, what went wrong? 
Discussing it over with my doctor, we agreed that the high levels detected in my blood were the result of  the combination of my recent winter sedentary attitude, my unhealthy eating and a familial hypercholesterolemia. Considering my relatively young age and my general good health conditions, we also agreed that I didn't need any medicament, but only a change in my lifestyle. 
Actually I am very suspicious about all this high-cholesterol-hysteria, created purposely by the medical industry to maximize its profit and to take advantage of ill-informed citizens. Isn't it strange that the risk of heart diseases are associated with ever-increasing levels of cholesterol? (now the threshold value of total cholesterol is 200, 20 years ago it was 250 and you can bet that it will be set lower and lower in the near future). And doesn't it sound weird that new silver-bullet pills have been invading the market, promising to solve "the problem of high cholesterol"? (which, in fact, it's not a problem but a mere index of a risk). 
What I am trying to say here is that a high level of cholesterol in itself is not the end of the world. It should be seen within a context of other measures. It shouldn't be "cured" by magical medicament. And, if necessary, it can be tackled by changes our lifestyle. 
In my post "How to lower your cholesterol level" you can find a list of steps I took to decrease my total cholesterol value by 10% in three months. With no magic pill.

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