What Your Cholesterol Test Isn't Telling You: Keys to Maintaining a Healthy Heart

Responsible for the deaths of more than 500,000 people each year, heart disease is a critical health concern for men and women in the US... Unfortunately, many people do not know they are at risk until it's too late. Normal results from a standard cholesterol test are misleading. Dr. Sinatra, on the Healthy Heart Blog, explains that “the standard blood lipid tests most doctors use to monitor cholesterol belong in the age of dinosaurs.” Let's leave the standard blood lipid tests in the Triassic period where they belong and invest in exams that give accurate and relevant information about heart health.
What are Standard Lipid Tests Doing Wrong?
1) Incomplete. Standard lipid tests answer the question “how much” but they should be asking “how much of what.” They calculate LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and triglycerides, and measure HDL (also called “bad” cholesterol), but neglect to dig deeper and find out what kinds of LDL and HDL you have.
2) Outdated, inaccurate methods. Standard lipid tests do not measure but rather calculate the amount of LDL in a blood sample. This lack of precision leads to a high incidence of error and inaccuracy.
Are there better alternatives?
Yes! There are tests, such as Atherotech's VAP (Vertical Auto Profile) cholesterol test, that break down cholesterol beyond HDL, LDL and triglycerides. Such tests are accurate, affordable and effective. Most insurance, as well as Medicare/Medicaid, pay for the VAP cholesterol test. Even if your insurance doesn't cover it, the tests are only $39. They are easy to administer and do not require a 12 hour fast like most standard lipid panels. The VAP test also measures 22 different components of cholesterol, much more than a standard lipid panel. It also gives a risk assessment of Type II diabetes and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Statin: A Dangerous and Over-prescribed Drug
Since arriving on the market in the 1980s, statins have been among the most prescribed drugs in the U.S., topping over 17 million users. Statins work by blocking the liver enzyme responsible for producing cholesterol. This lowers triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol levels, and raises HDL cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, in addition to many detrimental side effects, statin does nothing for secondary health conditions which often develop concurrently with high blood pressure, such as Type II diabetes.
Common side effects:
-        headache
-        difficulty sleeping
-        skin flushing
-        muscle aches, tenderness, weakness
-        dizziness
-        nausea and/or vomiting
-        abdominal cramping or pain
-        bloating and/or gas
-        diarrhea
-        constipation
-        rash
Serious side effects:
-        myositis, or inflammation of the muscles
-        myalgia, or intense muscle pain
-        elevated CPK (creatine kinase), a muscle enzyme which can pose a health risk to your kidneys
-        rhabdomyolysis, where muscles all over the body become painful and weakened because of extreme muscle inflammation and damage. This condition can result in kidney failure and death.
Medication: Not the Only Answer
While doctors and scientists agree that genes play a critical role in the onset of illnesses such as heart disease, our diet and lifestyle choices are equally powerful. Medication is neither the only nor the best way of improving our heart health. The following are some simple and effective ways of strengthening your heart without relying on medications.

  1. Get your digits. Get blood tested periodically to know your numbers. Take blood tests that measure, rather than calculate, cholesterol levels. Once you know your risk levels, you can make appropriate dietary and life style changes.
  2. Quit smoking. The American Heart Association says that quitting smoking reduces risk of heart disease and repeat heart attacks and death by heart disease by 50%.
  3. Exercise. USDA recommends physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days. Find a way to incorporate movement into your daily routine through walking, sports, dance, or anything else that is fun for you.
  4. Eat a healthful diet. Get a food allergy test and remove trigger foods. Select foods that are low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, which are primarily found in animal products. Eat plenty of organic fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods and sugars. Be mindful of proportion sizes.
  5. Take supplements as needed. Supplements such as red yeast rice, slow release niacin (one of the B vitamins) and high quality fish oil have been shown to be as effective as statins in lowering cholesterol.

The VAP and other similar cholesterol tests are an effective step in the right direction towards total heart, and body, health. Named “Ten Ways to Live Longer” by Forbes.com and selected as one of “Five Tests Worth Paying For” by the Wall Street Journal, this useful tool has saved many lives. To learn more, check out this article in Men's Journal. The cost of the VAP test is covered by all insurance regardless of the size of your deductible.  If you are interested in getting the truth about your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, please call Ann Arbor Holistic Health to schedule a VAP test.
Call us today at 734-222-8210 to set up a free consultation and evaluation.  
At Ann Arbor Holistic Health we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.