3/1/16

I Am *Dying* From Heart Disease

The most recent commercial for a popular statin (cholesterol lowering drug) called Lipitor starts off on a crisp lake surrounded by beautiful evergreen trees. On the water Dr. Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart, is rowing in a kayak causing ripples in the water. The camera then pans off to him giving a speech on how high cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease, but softly mentions that it may not be recommended for everyone. Which is ironic, because 53 million more Americans – on top of the already high 25 million – have been added to the recommended list of users in the past year. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal, if our understanding of heart disease, cholesterol, and health were a clear picture.

Sadly, the health industry is a universal boxing match between progress and profit. Sometimes one trumps the other; normally in the form of profit. A recent documentary called “Prescription Thugs” goes into detail over the wickedness of the pharmaceutical juggernauts whom own this countries medical system. The primary focus of this documentary, which I highly recommend you watch, is the addiction to pain medication and high rates of over diagnosing and medicating in the US. However, they touch on the topic of statin prescription in the US. I’ve known a lot of relatively healthy people on Lipitor who took it as a just in case medicine because their doctor said too. This is primarily because a lot of research has suggested that increased cholesterol also increases the risk of heart disease. And yet, no one talks about how low levels of cholesterol increase mortality more than high (according to the documentary). That makes me scratch my head and wonder, “why would anyone prescribe a drug for ‘just in case cholesterol’ when low levels increase the risk of death more than high?


Profit.

I recently got blood work done to assess my general health levels and to see if I qualify for life insurance. I expected “unhealthy” levels of blood urea nitrogen and creatinine due to my high protein and creatine lifestyle.  But I had some other markers that made my health screen look less healthy. But before I dive into those and why they may or may not matter, let’s look at my lifestyle for 3 weeks prior to this.

I participated in a high intensity training regimen and I was simultaneously losing weight. I was consuming a diet that was high in fat (50% total kilocalorie) and protein (40% total kilocalorie) and low in carbohydrate (10% kilocalorie) was used that also included a mild calorie deficit (5-10% less calories than BMR). I started every day with some saturated fat and caffeine; aka bullet proof coffee. Some research has shown that bullet proof coffee alone can increase cholesterol and LDL. On top of that I was eating red meat like a cave man and most of my carbohydrates came from fibrous vegetables. According to the stereotypical data in medical journals, I should be dying from heart disease any day. And maybe I am.

My blood work showed unhealthily high levels of cholesterol (229 mg/dl) and high levels of the LDL molecule (150 mg/dl) - healthy cholesterol is 140-199 mg/dl and LDL is 0-129 mg/dl. I was a dead man according to old research paid for by pharmaceutical companies done on inactive high carbohydrate & high fat consuming red blooded Americans. Luckily my health screen came with even more information. My HDL levels, on the other hand, were higher than normal (66 mg/dl) which is a very good thing. Both my cholesterol/HDL and my LDL/HDL ratios where in the very healthy range. To put it frank, I had a ton of bad cholesterol but I also had a ton of good cholesterol to make up the difference. So it averaged out to me being healthier gorilla. Yet the question remains, “Will I die from Heart Disease?”

Although having high cholesterol and high LDL put me at risk, and make me a candidate for just in case Lipitor, I am theoretically fine. My lifestyle habits are not comparable to those of the people whom the heart disease studies were primarily done on which eliminates me from their demographic group. If a study were done on my kind of people (heavy lifting low carbohydrate consuming red meat eating) then it may apply to me more.

Now remember that this is a case study, and that I may be able to get away with this lifestyle and you may not. But this is a good beginning to understand how a high fat (ketogenic – carb back loading) diet can affect blood work. Although I had only been on a strict ketogenic diet for 3 weeks, I have been on and off the protocol for around 3 years now. A big point I’m trying to make is that we should focus on building our temples for God based on evidence that isn’t profit driven. Do you remember what Jesus did to those who tried to make money at the synagogue? He whipped them. Like literally, with a whip. I believe that you can use this evidence to decide for yourself whether or not this is a worthwhile lifestyle – as for me I’m not changing anything anytime soon.

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.