Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Cholesterol Confusion and Heart Disease: Learn about the important factors related to heart disease, strokes and heart attacks, as described by Michelle Retz, NMD, in Phoenix

Oct 01, 2012 07:59PM ● By Michelle Retz, NMD

In recent years, studies examining the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease have shown some conflicting results. Patients are often confused about their risk of heart disease and their current cholesterol levels. All too often, they are told they have high “bad (LDL) cholesterol” or low “good (HDL) cholesterol,” and are prescribed a statin drug, but not properly educated about important factors related to heart disease, strokes and heart attacks.

This may cause undue anxiety and does not empower individuals to take real control of their health and minimize risks. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk is different for men and women; environmental factors play an extremely large role in heart disease. There is additional testing that can be done, and naturopathic medicine is very successful at lowering lipids and reducing/preventing heart disease risk.

In women, a lower HDL and high triglycerides are a higher risk for CVD than high cholesterol or LDL. In men, high LDL (over 130) is more associated with a heart attack than other lipids. Also, low testosterone is strongly associated with high cholesterol and triglycerides, and often is not checked in men with high lipids. In 50 percent of heart attacks, however, cholesterol wasn’t shown to be a factor. They were more commonly associated with poor nutrition, stress, weight gain and environmental factors, all leading to increased inflammation. Diet is far more important than cholesterol levels for heart disease risk, and exercise is not only more important than cholesterol, but being unfit is a greater risk for CVD overall.

To get a better idea of true CVD risk, advanced, but simple blood tests can be done. The reality is about what type of LDL and HDL is found, and how much of each is present. Two people with the same LDL levels can be at completely opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to CVD risk. If LDL levels are too high, individuals should consider having advanced testing done.

Because cholesterol may not be the most significant factor related to CVD, we need to consider diet, as well. Refining our food removes protective antioxidants. Our soil has fewer nutrients. Pesticides and heavy metals poison our foods. Water filtration removes minerals. Fluoride in water can raise lipids and plastic packaging leaches harmful chemicals, all of which cause free radical damage. Environmental and lifestyle causes are, in fact, more strongly associated to heart attacks and strokes than anything else.

Ultimately, most of what goes on with our health has to do with how we live our lives now. Most preventive medicine has to do with living our life in a truly balanced, healthy way. Eating a Mediterranean diet is almost three times more effective than a statin for preventing CVD and deaths. Proper education on the most and least sprayed foods will help guide us to know which ones we need to buy organically and which ones we do not. Decreasing red meat, increasing “safe” fish, eating soy and high antioxidant foods like berries goes farther than any drug could.

Vitamin and mineral repletion is equally important. Vitamins C, D, and E, selenium, glutathione and alpha lipoic acid are the most protective of cholesterol. Regular exercise does everything we could ask for: lower cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL and increase HDL. Stress coping mechanisms and reduction are necessary, as well. Proper weight loss, individualized nutritional counseling, addressing food sensitivities and providing support for smoking cessation and moderate alcohol use are several other aspects that need to be addressed for complete heart health. Avoiding sources of heavy metals, solvents and pesticides, and detoxification, if needed, will also minimize free radical damage and CVD risk.

Knowing that cholesterol may be related to only 50 percent of cardiac events, what about the other 50 percent? Genuine diet and lifestyle modification, weight loss, stress reduction and avoidance of environmental toxins will make all the difference, not only in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, but in preventing free-radical damage that is known to be the cause of CVD. Don’t hesitate to learn more about healthy preventative measures and safe drug alternatives from a naturopathic physician today.

Michelle Retz is a primary care naturopathic physician who focuses on treating chronic digestive disturbances, anxiety, depression, women’s health issues and endocrine disorders, using homeopathy, acupuncture, botanical medicine and nutritional counseling. For more information, call 602-493-2273 or visit

Upcoming Events Near You