By Judy Piersall

I was in my 20s the first time my cholesterol was checked. With a result of 202, I was given a bag full of information on statins (cholesterol lowering drugs) and was charged to make a decision ASAP on which one I wanted to use. Because my parents took them, I was well aware of the side effects of statins. I chose not to take them. 

Good integrative medicine doctors don’t care one iota about the overall cholesterol number; they understand it’s the breakdown that’s important. Total cholesterol consists of HDL, LDL and triglycerides; this article focuses on HDL and LDL. 

HDL cholesterol (the good kind) is highly beneficial. An HDL level of 60 or greater protects against and reduces the risk for heart disease. 

Conversely, high LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) is associated with increased risk for heart disease. However, LDL in and of itself is not bad because the body requires a certain level of cholesterol. Think about olive oil – which is good. But what happens if it sits out in a bowl for a few days? It congeals, or oxidizes, and isn’t good anymore. The same principle applies to LDL. What is the oxidation level of yours? And how big are your LDL particles? What’s your VLDL? To know the answers requires a physician that knows not only to test for such things, but also understands what the results mean. 

Several years ago, my primary care physician admitted that, in my case, I’d been right not to take statins because there was a ratio the American Heart Association was now using to determine cardiac risk. It divides total cholesterol by HDL. Today, while my total number is still over 200 (it’s hardly changed in 30 years), my cholesterol ratio is well below the benchmark of 3.5; though my LDL is considered high by standards, there’s no tissue damage or inflammation because my LDL is not oxidized. However, even with an HDL close to 90, certain charts and guidelines still indicate I should be taking statins. 

Question your doctors, do research and most importantly, know and understand your numbers! Had I chosen the recommended path, I would have been on a statin for many years. My liver and kidneys would be taxed, my joints shot, and I would be at an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, not to mention having those unsightly purple splotches on my skin (all common side effects of cholesterol meds) — and for no good reason. 

Until next time, here’s to healthy living, and remember… 

“You always have choices.” 

The information in this article is intended solely as a sharing of information and knowledge based on real life experience. It is not a substitute for professional care, but a complement to it. It should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem; always consult your healthcare provider relating to any suspected health issues you may have.