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 Naturopathic Medicine: Cholesterol 
High Cholesterol
The standard definition of high cholesterol is having an excess of cholesterol in the blood, usually more than 200 mg/dl, although many doctors are now citing 180 mg/dl as the maximum of the reference range.

The reason you have "high cholesterol" is probably because you hae eaten too much saturated fat (from animals) over the years. Some people, however, have an inherited type of high cholesterol. For more information on familial hypercholesterolemia please see the conventional diagnosis section.

Clinical high cholesterol is usually found in the blood values on a annual check-up. No signs or symptoms may be present even with life threatening atherosclerotic disease. This diagnosis may be a result of a life of poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive drinking, etc. You may be experiencing angina, hypertension, or kidney disease as well as the elevated blood lipids. Even though it's quite likely you can control your high cholesterol with some basic dietary changes, there are some other disease problems which can cause this syndrome. Make sure your doctor has discussed the "rule-outs" with you; in other words make sure your high cholesterol is NOT because of:

  • von Gierke's disease
  • "sluggish" liver syndrome
  • hypothyroidism
  • pregnancy
  • pancreatic dysfunction
  • nephrosis

In industrial countries, people who are apparently symptom-free may suddenly have a massive MI (myocardial infarction, or heart attack). It may be the first indicator of disease. Therefore yearly cholesterol screens are highly recommended. Hypercholesterolemia in Western countries seems well-linked to significant morbidity (hypertension, angina) and mortality (MI, CVA or cerebral vascular accident, which usually refers to stroke). It is estimated that half the population in the U.S. will die from Congestive Heart Disease (CHD) and the results of atherosclerosis. Coronary bypass surgery is one of the most common operations now performed, even though it carries inherent risks and research has shown that its effect is generally transient, with patients often experiencing repeat symptoms only 2-3 years post-surgery. Chelation therapy offers some hope, but it remains controversial and only a few physicians have adequate training to perform this technique. New research suggests that prevention and natural treatment offer the healthiest, most lasting and least costly route to recovery.

Cholesterol levels have become the source of much national fear, even though cholesterol is one of the most valuable substances in the human body. Cholesterol is needed for strong cell walls, as a precursor for hormone production, and as a coating around nerves, to name just a few of its very important functions. Cholesterol is made in the liver in amounts up to 2000 mg/day. Cholesterol associated with high density lipoprotein, HDL (and Apolipoprotein A-1), is generally considered to be beneficial to the body, as it works to remove cholesterol from blood vessel walls and the the blood itself, bringing it to the liver for processing and excretion. Cholesterol associated with the low density lipoprotein, LDL (and Apolipoprotein B), is generally thought to be harmful to the body as it carries cholesterol into the bloodstream and can therefore place it into the intima of the arterial walls, promoting atherosclerotic processes. Very low density lipoproteins, VLDLs, become LDLs in the liver and are therefore also generally thought to be harmful.

For many years, this theory placed the effect of high cholesterol as the major etiologic agent in the epidemic of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease experienced in Western nations. However, recent evidence suggests other important factors, such as atherosclerosis.

The best approach to prevention of high cholesterol is regular aerobic exercise and a low animal-fat diet. There are also specific nutritional approaches which include eating a low sugar diet (because where there's sugar, there's often fat too), with a high fiber content and, of course, low or no extra cholesterol and a low Sodium or Sodium-restricted diet . To get to the point of prevention, in other words to bring down you high cholesterol at the beginning of your therapy, try 2 or 3 weeks of a vegetarian cleansing diet or a series of short juice-only fasts . Do not attempt a fast unsupervised. Work with a doctor or an experienced friend.

Foods that have specific ability to dissolve blood fats and therefore can hlep reduce high cholesterol include:

  • garlic, wheat germ, liquid chlorophyll, alfalfa sprouts, buckwheat, watercress, rice polishings, apple, celery, cherries

  • foods high in water-soluble fiber: flax seed, pectin, guar gum, oat bran

  • onions, beans, legumes, soy, ginger, alf

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 About The Author
Emily Kane NDA graduate of Bastyr University in Seattle, she completed both the Naturopathic and Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine programs. Her preceptor work (similar to residencies) took place in Seattle, West Virginia and China,......more
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