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Most people are told to get their cholesterol numbers to know whether they’re at risk for cardiovascular disease, but is high cholesterol a reliable predictor? We disagree. Cholesterol is a type of lipid (fat) essential for physiological functions in the body. It’s only when there’s an imbalance that it becomes a problem. Here are the markers to test if you want to know your risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Cholesterol Isn’t the Bad Guy

The mainstream medical system checks cardiovascular risk with a blood pressure test and a standard lipid panel. This lipid panel gives you your cholesterol numbers, including HDL, LDL, the HDL to LDL ratio, and triglycerides.  

But cholesterol isn’t the bad guy cardiologists tell us it is. Cholesterol is a lipoprotein molecule the body needs for hormone production and a healthy immune response.  

HDL and LDL aren’t “good” and “bad” cholesterol. They are high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or low-density lipoproteins (LDL) made by the liver and designed for different purposes. LDL stores cholesterol in the bloodstream, and HDL regulates LDL storage and promotes elimination through the liver.  

A standard lipid panel includes total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides, but knowing these numbers doesn’t give you a good idea of whether you’ll develop heart disease. In fact, you can have normal cholesterol numbers and still develop plaque in your arteries. 

Yes, it is common for these markers to be elevated when you have heart disease. However, it’s also common for them to be elevated if you have an injury, chronic inflammation, or low hormone levels. 

While The Wellness Way still uses the lipid panel consistently, we go deeper and add more tests to get a complete picture.   

Important Tests for Determining Your Cardiovascular Risk

Monitoring blood pressure is still essential, as high blood pressure (hypertension) is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Knowing your body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference can also help, as excess body weight and abdominal obesity are linked to cardiovascular risk. Beyond those, here are less-known tests that can give you some real stats on your risk for cardiovascular disease: 

1 – LDL Particle Size

Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol isn’t bad. It’s simply a protein carrier of cholesterol. The LDL number doesn’t matter when you’re looking at cardiovascular risk because it’s the particle size that matters. LDL cholesterol can be large and fluffy or small and dense.  

These large, buoyant LDL cholesterol particles float through the system but never enter the arteries. But then there are smaller, dense LDLs. Those small, dense LDLs can permeate the artery walls, creating plaque. [1] 

So, to say LDL is “bad” cholesterol makes no clinical sense. It all depends on particle size, which you can measure. You can look at the particle size and other cardiovascular markers and have a much better idea of your risk.  

2 – VLDL Cholesterol

VLDL (Very Low-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol is a crucial marker to watch. While LDL mainly carries cholesterol to your tissues, VLDL particles mainly carry triglycerides to your tissues. When VLDL is high, it means your triglycerides are elevated. What increases your triglycerides? SUGAR. 

If your LDL is high, you need more cholesterol! If your VLDL is high, you’re probably eating too much sugar. High blood sugar levels can cause all kinds of damage, and your body needs cholesterol to repair tissues and make hormones.  

It’s important to note that you can have normal LDL but very high VLDL. At the same time, you could have not yet discovered atherosclerosis, making you a ticking time bomb for a heart attack or stroke. [2] 

3 – Lipoprotein-A

Some (but not all) LDLs have lipoprotein(a) or “Lp(a)” in them. Lp(a) is a marker associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Your risk of a heart attack increases at 30 mg/dl, and the higher the Lp(a), the greater the cardiovascular risk. [3] 

Doctors blame this cardiovascular marker on genetics and don’t have a drug to treat it. So, they may run a test, but they’ll do nothing to address it when it’s higher than normal. 

Elevated Lp(a) isn’t necessarily due to genetics. It can go up in response to several situations: 

  • High cholesterol 
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Uncontrolled diabetes 
  • Kidney failure 
  • Nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder 

So, is Lp(a) the problem? No. The last three on the above list are all partly due to increased blood sugar levels. Sugar can be very damaging. All the other imbalances lead to increases in cholesterol for healing and repair.  

Is high Lp(a) really genetic? Again, no. Your body is responding to what you’re doing to it. As we always say, your body doesn’t make mistakes! It’s innately intelligent. It adapts to low hormone levels by increasing LDL to supply the compounds needed to make hormones. 

4 – Apo-Lipoprotein B

Apo-Lipoprotein B (ApoB) is a protein that helps carry fat and cholesterol through your body. It’s the main protein part of LDL you can measure. It’s a marker that can be highly predictive when it comes to cardiovascular disease.  

While the amount of cholesterol in LDL varies, each LDL holds one ApoB protein. So, ApoB is a better indicator of your circulating LDL than your LDL cholesterol number.  

As a result, ApoB is a better marker for cardiovascular disease. It’s strongly associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. [4] 

5 – Heart (Coronary) Calcium Scoring

This test can tell you whether you have the beginnings of calcification (plaque) in your arteries long before you have any symptoms of cardiovascular disease.  

Heart calcium scoring is a CT scan of the heart that can measure the amount of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries, providing insights into the presence and severity of coronary artery disease. [5] 

Dr. Flynn himself did this testing at the local hospital. His score was Zero. He had absolutely no calcium buildup in his arteries, putting him at “Very Low Risk.” Doc gets his calcium score done every four to five years. 

Get your calcium scoring done –even if you’ve already had a heart attack. See where it’s at and start working to lower it. Doc has had people with scores of 400, and even 1200 get it back down into normal ranges. It can be done! 

6 – High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP)

A high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) test can measure inflammation in the body, which can be an indicator of an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Even The American Heart Association believes hs-CRP is a good predictor of heart attack risk. [6] 

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that men with the highest C-reactive protein had triple the risk of a heart attack and twice the risk of stroke compared to men with the lowest CRP. [7]  

Got Bad Numbers? The Wellness Way Can Help!

Assessing cardiovascular risk is a comprehensive process that must consider all contributing factors: traumas, toxins, and thoughts. A Wellness Way practitioner will recommend tests based on each patient’s family history, medical history, lifestyle factors, and symptoms. The great news is that our Cardiometabolic Panel tests all these markers except the heart calcium score. That one you can usually get at your local hospital for about $50. Set your mind at ease about your cardiovascular risk.

Contact a Wellness Way clinic today for comprehensive testing and personalized nutrition coaching. We do health differently!  

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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