Perhaps this scenario describes you: You went for a regular medical check-up and to monitor your heart health, your doctor ordered the standard lipid panel lab to check your cholesterol levels. The time came for your follow-up appointment and your doctor began calling out one cholesterol number after another. They all began to run together.
You may have even been told you have borderline or high cholesterol levels. The next thing you know, you’ve been told to eat right, exercise, and that you need to get started right away on a cholesterol lowering pharmaceutical drug “to reduce your heart attack risk”. But not so fast.
What do all the numbers really mean in regards to heart health and what can be done in a more natural way to achieve normal cholesterol levels?
Clearing the confusion about cholesterol
The truth is, when it comes to cholesterol, confusion and misinformation often abounds. It doesn’t help that we’ve all been pushed into thinking that cholesterol is an evil enemy lurking in our arteries. But cholesterol is neither evil nor dangerous, and its presence is absolutely essential for the body to function properly. It is used to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest foods – among many other functions. So what are “normal” cholesterol levels and why is it important that yours are in the normal range?
What are normal cholesterol levels?
So what do the numbers on your lab report mean and what are the optimal target ranges? Cholesterol is produced by the liver and carried in the blood by molecules called lipoproteins – a conglomerate of protein and lipids (fats). LDL, HDL, and all the other measurements obtained from a standard “lipid panel” at the doctor’s office are actually different types of lipoprotein tests:
Why are normal cholesterol levels important for me?
Research published in the American Heart Journal in January 2009 revealed that 72% of patients admitted in American hospitals for their first heart attack actually had normal cholesterol levels. The bottom line is that having high cholesterol does not equate to having heart disease, and having a ”normal” cholesterol reading does not necessarily put you in the clear. In other words, in order to reduce your risk for heart disease, you have to get to the real root of the problem – and that’s not the type of cholesterol that gets measured in your lab report.
If cholesterol is not the problem, why should I worry if my numbers are bad?
Even though cholesterol is not the villain in heart disease like it’s made out to be, abnormal cholesterol numbers do serve a vital purpose. They tell us the liver is pumping out extra amounts of cholesterol because of something that is going on in the body. Therefore, that should give us incentive to identify and then correct the underlying issue that is causing this abnormal cholesterol production by the liver. The truth is that inflammation is almost always the real root cause of abnormal cholesterol levels, and excessive inflammation is a genuine heart disease risk that does need correcting.If excessive damage is occurring in the arteries, it is necessary for the liver to manufacture and distribute extra cholesterol in the bloodstream so it can do its work repairing cells. Therefore, it is certainly counterproductive to merely lower the cholesterol (with a drug) and not deal with the inflammation that causes the cholesterol to be there in the first place. It is much smarter to reduce the extra need for the cholesterol; that is, to determine why the inflammatory artery damage is occurring in the first place and then work to reduce those causative factors.
The good news is there are several proven effective natural healing approaches that integrative physicians are using successfully with thousands of patients to reduce inflammation and the abnormal cholesterol levels that come along.
 International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2009 January; 63(1): 151–159.
This post originally appeared in 2013 and has been updated.