WAC Magazine

May/June 2012

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Page 29 of 79

Wellness By Paul Dompé, ND Tamela Thomas, Wellness Manager tamelat@wac.net 206.464.4639 Beat heart disease with plaque smarts I f only things were as simple as we think. Heart disease kills—that's bad. Cholesterol causes heart disease— so cholesterol is also bad, right? Not so fast. In fact, cholesterol is required to carry out all kinds of essential processes in our bod- ies, and our bodies' utilization of cholesterol to manufacture and lay down plaque in our arteries is their way of repairing themselves. Essentially, our bodies react to inflammation and arterial cell damage by manufacturing this protective coating—plaque—and placing it over the perceived injury. This elegant healing response, however, becomes a problem when we remain in a continuous state of inflammation and experience con- sistent cellular damage. Doctor Paul Dompé explains more in this month's Wellness arti- cle. He refines our thinking about cholesterol and educates us on the latest medical advances in test- ing to determine our risk of heart disease. Once we know our risk, we can start minimizing it and reverse heart disease. High cholesterol does not cause heart disease Clearing the confusion about cholesterol H cholesterol levels. Unless your cholesterol is well above 300 milligrams per deciliter, using total cholesterol to determine your risk of heart disease is worthless. Case in point: The French population has an average total cholesterol level of 250 milligrams per deciliter. It also has the lowest incidence of heart disease in Europe. Less than 20 percent of the cholesterol found in most people comes from the food they eat. Our bodies make cholesterol—primarily in the liver and brain— because it plays many important roles in supporting our health. Cholesterol makes healthy cell membranes and is essential in creating hormones, vitamin D and bile salts. It also plays a pivotal role in ensuring healthy brain function. Cholesterol also takes part in the healing process of damaged blood vessel walls. igh cholesterol does not cause heart disease. In fact, for most of us, high cholesterol isn't even a risk factor for heart disease. Sound shocking? Read on. More than 50 percent of people who have heart attacks have normal Contrary to popular belief, it's not the cause of the damage. Inflammatory compounds, free radicals and toxins are often the true culprits. Moreover, commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications called statins can have dire health consequences. Progressive cardiology is now moving away from the belief that cholesterol causes heart disease and focusing more on the causes of inflammation in arterial walls. Blood tests are available to look for markers of inflammation and for the presence of elevated molecules known to cause damage. Reducing inflammation and harmful molecules in our bodies can be achieved through proper nutrition, exercise and stress management. So why does high cholesterol still elicit fears of heart attack and death? In short, because doctors warn us of the health risks associated with high cholesterol and 30 | Washington Athletic Club Magazine | MAY / JUNE 2012

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