Arteriosclerosis, commonly known as “hardening of the arteries,” is the most common change in adults as they age. Compounded with increased blood pressure as we age and the fat building up in the arteries, called atherosclerosis, one can see how every patient and every longevity provider needs to take every step possible in identifying and delaying the onset of heart disease. Early detection and intervention, combined with preventative measures, provide you with the best opportunity to minimize the effects of heart disease on your longevity.
The Root Cause of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol can lead to many medical problems, including heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol is a necessary fat or lipid used to build healthy cells. Contrary to widely held belief, it is not just the excess of cholesterol that leads to heart disease but how inflammation, oxidation, and glycation affect the cholesterol in your body. These factors can transform cholesterol from soft, fluffy fat into dense, dangerous fat.
The cause of high cholesterol is a mixture of genetics, diet, and exercise. Many cardiac genes are inherited from your parents, and in these familial cases the cholesterol can be astonishingly high. Even with treatment with some of the strongest cholesterol-lowering medications, these patients struggle to maintain a healthy heart.
We cannot emphasize the importance of diet and exercise enough. Our daily high-calorie intake, usually processed sugar and trans-fats, combined with decreased exercise, provides the perfect storm for heart disease.
Types of High Cholesterol
The combination of cholesterol attached to proteins when it is carried through your blood is called a lipoprotein. There are two distinct types of lipoproteins in your body.
Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL), the Bad Cholesterol: This lipoprotein transports cholesterol through your bloodstream. This type is “bad” because it can be responsible for building up in your arteries.
High-density Lipoprotein (HDL), the Good Cholesterol: This type of lipoprotein is considered good because it removes excess cholesterol from artery walls and returns it to your liver for excretion.
Though high cholesterol can be inherited genetically, it is more often the result of poor lifestyle choices, especially concerning diet and exercise. Fortunately, this means that high cholesterol is entirely preventable and, in most cases, treatable.
Causes of High Cholesterol
Some factors can contribute to high cholesterol that is beyond your control. We have already mentioned genetics, but here are some other causes which trigger elevated levels of cholesterol:
Glycation (eating sugar)
Chronic kidney disease
Medications for High Blood Pressure, Acne, HIV, Depression
Unfortunately, high cholesterol has been dubbed a “silent killer,” as there are no identifiable symptoms, including an individual’s appearance. Regular screenings every five years, starting between the ages of 9 and 11, are necessary to detect and treat high cholesterol.
High cholesterol can affect any age, but the risks increase as you age, so to be proactive, we recommend more frequent screenings every two years for men starting at 45 and women starting at 55. After 65, screenings are done annually.
Treating Heart Disease
There are many methods of approaching heart disease; none is better than a comprehensive, traditional test mixed with a non-traditional approach to optimize your heart health.
Cholesterol is both made by your liver and absorbed from your diet. Cholesterol is carried to the cells by carriers made of protein, LDL lipoproteins, to be exact. These LDL carriers come in all sizes, from big and fluffy to small and dense. The LDL is generally big and fluffy until acted upon by inflammation, oxidation, and glycation, which turns this big and fluffy mass into a small and dense particles. These small dense LDL are like bullets speeding through your arteries and colliding with the arterial wall. When this occurs, an inflammatory response is initiated, and the artery tries to heal itself, often with the cholesterol still inside the artery wall.
Treating heart disease starts by examining your diet, exercise, stress levels, sleep, and social habits like smoking. In addition, advanced testing is performed to analyze all the facets of your heart disease, ensuring that a proper and balanced approach to your health is formulated.
There are many Advanced Testing methods for heart disease that our providers keep in their toolboxes. We take a “big look” at all the factors influencing heart disease and high cholesterol, such as toxins, hormones, and nutrient deficiencies.
Viewing the anatomy through a Coronary artery calcium score CT and the visceral fat through the Body Composition scan are a few methods we utilized to assess your current and future risk. The critical thing to remember is that you, as a unique individual, may require more or fewer tests than others. After an in-depth evaluation of your personal and family health history, your provider will determine which test is necessary for heart disease prevention and treatment.
Our comprehensive method of Testing for Heart Disease:
Body Composition Scan
As we age, our body composition changes, and it's essential to understand what these changes are and how they can affect us. A body composition scan is one of the best ways to accurately picture your current body composition.
Coronary Artery Calcium Score CT, or CT Heart and Cardiac CT, are all names for a specialized type of scan that allows medical professionals to assess the level of calcium build-up in your heart arteries.
Throughout her life, a woman's hormonal fluctuations are greatly influenced by outside forces such as stress and infections, and genetics inherited from her mother. These can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in a woman's body due to inadequate production or excess amounts.
Early detection is critical to successfully treating many forms of cancer, yet most cancers remain undetected until they have advanced and are too often incurable. Along with cancer, early detection of aneurysms and organ abnormalities can be game changers.
Everyone has unique variations in their DNA, known as genetic variants. Specific genetic variants called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs, can increase the risk of chronic diseases. Our providers can recognize your potential vulnerability to particular illnesses by undergoing a genetic test and developing tailored treatments that will help you best avoid them.
As we age, the importance of maintaining healthy arteries is crucial. The sooner you know and treat your heart disease and cholesterol, the better. Refrain from relying on the testing that insurance carriers cover because the insurance industry is based on taking in more money than it pays out.
Hormone testing in men is essential in evaluating a man's general health. Whether you're a man of a certain age or have experienced symptoms, such as fatigue, depression, weight gain, erectile dysfunction, or lack of sex drive, hormone testing can help identify the root cause of your problem.
Your metabolism is the rate at which your body consumes energy. That's why it's important to understand and monitor your metabolic health. Glucose is crucial for the body as it provides instant energy. However, sugar has damaging side effects - coating proteins and leading to cellular damage and inflammation.
Nutritional testing can help you identify which nutrients your body is lacking. Our digestive system becomes weaker as we age due to decreased stomach acid production, and pancreatic enzymes, beneficial bacteria, and hazardous microorganisms begin replacing those helpful for meeting nutrient needs.
Toxins are a significant threat to our health. Our environment contains toxins in food, air, and water. Our bodies are constantly exposed to these toxins, so we must know how much of each toxin we consume. As we age, our bodies cannot handle these toxins effectively, which can cause serious health problems.
Contrary to traditional medicine, our doctors in Longevity Medicine use a multiarmed approach to treating heart disease. Our physicians will construct a plan for you which may include the following:
Detox and Cleanse Therapy
Detoxification is an essential but often misunderstood and misconstrued process. Despite popular belief associated with trendy "detox" drinks that promise quick results without lasting impact, the real power behind detox stems from making small lifestyle changes to help your body flush out unnecessary toxins for improved health and well-being over time.
Toxins are a pervasive danger in our environment, far beyond the traditional scope of heavy metals. Discovering plastics, petroleum products, herbicides, pesticides, and traces of medications and other contaminants in significant quantities inside your body is common.
As we age, it can become increasingly challenging to stay in shape. Our bodies start to shift, and we may find ourselves struggling more than ever before. Extra weight brings down your self-esteem and saps the energy out of you, not to mention that it has a detrimental effect on your sex life - even worse than smoking!
We value fact over opinion. Please refer to our FAQs for the most commonly asked questions. In addition, we have listed the medical references for the facts stated on the website.
To review the articles and references cited on this topic of Heart Disease, click here
What is an acceptable level of cholesterol in the body?
Physicians recommend that your cholesterol level remains below 200 md/dL, but most providers of Longevity believe the number is much lower than that. Anything between 200-239 is borderline, and anything 240 and above is considered high. However, as mentioned previously, we focus more on the particles, inflammation, oxidation, and glycation.
What is the level difference between LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol?
It is not just having a satisfactory level of total cholesterol that is important, but the right balance between LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol.
Since LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol, you do not want your levels to exceed 189. Anything 190 or above will put you at serious risk of heart problems like a heart attack or stroke.
Since HDL cholesterol is considered the “good cholesterol,” you have to be concerned if HDL cholesterol levels are too low. If so, your body will not remove excess cholesterol from your arteries and transport them to the liver. HDL levels should never drop below 40, or you will be considered at risk, and ideal levels of HDL are 60 or above.
Can high cholesterol shorten the expected lifespan?
Yes, if left untreated or not adequately treated, high cholesterol can shorten the expected lifespan because of its relation to heart disease and stroke. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with diet, exercise, moderation of alcohol, and no smoking, a study in the Circulation journal found an association with 12 more years of life with men and 14 more years with women.
Is high cholesterol associated with fatigue?
No, high cholesterol does not cause fatigue. Illnesses associated with high cholesterol, like coronary artery disease, can cause fatigue. If you are already taking medication for high cholesterol treatment, look at the side effects on the bottle’s label, as fatigue could be one. If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your physician.
What can I do if I have bad genes which put me at risk for heart disease?
If you exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, your high cholesterol may be genetic. Approximately 1 in 250 people in the U.S. has familial hypercholesterolemia, a possibly life-threatening disorder that causes high cholesterol. Since genetics can play a significant factor, getting regular screenings and discussing family health challenges with your physician is crucial.
What is the best test to determine if I have silent heart disease?
A Coronary artery calcium score CT is the best test to determine if you have silent heart disease, and it is an easy, non-invasive test providing information about coronary artery plaque. The test has consistently proven to identify those at risk for silent heart disease.
When should I see a provider?
You should get regular screenings for high cholesterol every 4 to 6 years, starting at 20. If you are experiencing any symptoms of heart disease, like chest discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting, you should see a provider as soon as possible.