I recently had my first physical in four years (please, fellow Degenerates, if you have health insurance, utilize it, as you’ll be wishing you had it if you are ever without like so many are). I’m proud to report a clean bill of health. But here’s the thing: When you get the results of your blood work in the mail you’re sort of left to decipher the hieroglyphics on your own. Clearly, you can call the office…if you remember and actually make the time. But do we? No. Have I? Nope. But I might, considering on a scale of 130 – 200, the latter being the high end of the “you’re in the clear” for cholesterol levels, I am at 199. It’s all very confusing.
It led me to reexamine what exactly causes high cholesterol. I am extremely active. I eat well (mostly). I am also a self-professed lover of eggs. In passing conversations, I’ve talked about eating eggs every day and even how many eggs I’ve eaten in a day. The response I most often hear is, “Jesus! Your cholesterol must be through the roof!” Not so, but it’s climbing, and not for the reason most people may assume.
After conducting some research, I was reminded of a few surprising facts:
First, we need cholesterol, the way we need good carbs and fats. It acts as an essential support structure in making sure our immune systems and brain systems are functioning optimally (one of the most common side effects of cholesterol medication is memory loss). In addition, our bodies utilize cholesterol molecule to make estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. Its used to help digest and absorb necessary fats and nutrients. In other words: Cholesterol is essential for our most crucial physical and emotional balancing acts.
Secondly, saturated fat is not the biggest culprit responsible for high levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol). In terms of fat, trans fats are the all-around shitty instigators and will absolutely nudge those bad levels up, but know what else will? Sugar. Rather than freaking out over the nutrient-rich egg yolk (which is teaming with Vitamin D, something we could all use more of right now in the overcast days and early dark nights of winter), how about becoming more aware of sugar intake. This goes back to education on sugar in its many forms (including booze and grain intake).
Another factor here is stress, which causes inflammation. More and more, doctors are recognizing inflammation as a common occurrence with those battling heart disease, which is the primary reason we monitor our cholesterol levels in the first place.
Some of us are genetically pre-disposed to high cholesterol. If that’s the case, then listen to your doctor regarding medications, nutrition, lifestyle and all of that.
For the rest of us, here are some natural ways to avoid or combat high LDL levels: Keep active. Eat healthy, whole foods. Don’t smoke. Limit the alcohol. Relax. Mostly, don’t skip the gym, order pizza, pick up a twelver and veg out on the couch (at least not every night).
If cholesterol is an issue for you, take a good, honest look at your habits, figure out which ones are feeding the LDL demons and, as with all roads to degenerate recovery, take baby steps.