Oxidized LDL Cholesterol: The Better Heart Risk Indicator
What is LDL Cholesterol?
LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) Cholesterol plays many important functions in our body: transporting antioxidants, building muscles, and fighting infection. The information around oxidized LDL is new and evolving.
Conventional medicine focuses on lowering total cholesterol, and even more so, LDL Cholesterol. That’s what statin drugs will do–lower your LDL cholesterol. While there is some benefit to it, there are several risks associated with cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Recent research has shown that measuring oxidized LDL, or damaged LDL cholesterol, is important. Most doctors still test for the common markers: total cholesterol, LDL (or “bad” cholesterol), HDL (or “good” cholesterol–this transports cholesterol out of your arteries), and triglycerides. There is some value to this type of test that’s been done for decades, but studies show that only 25%-30% of your cardiovascular risk is revealed in these tests.
Over the past five years, there has been more emphasis on testing your LDL particle size–not just your LDL number, but the actual size of the particles. The larger, fluffier particles are the ones least likely to damage your arteries. And now with even more research, we fine-tune that, and cutting-edge physicians are measuring the damaged (oxidized) LDL count.
What is oxidization?
What we’re talking about is heart disease at a much deeper level–actual damage (oxidization) that is occurring to your LDL cholesterol. What happens when your LDL cholesterol becomes damaged is eventually inflammation in your arteries. That attracts immune cells into your arteries, which creates more inflammation which starts to form plaque in your arteries and makes your blood vessels less elastic. Blood vessels actually have some flexibility to them. So the less flexible your arteries are, the more apt you are to rupture. So not only do you build plaque more readily when your LDL becomes oxidized, your arteries become less flexible and more prone to rupture and the formation of blood clots.
How does cholesterol become oxidized?
When LDL becomes oxidized or damaged, it causes inflammation in the arteries and starts that cascading inflammation where plaque begins to form. There are many different reasons why cholesterol becomes oxidized:
- Too few antioxidants. Good antioxidants come from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, as well as whole grains.
- Pollution. Being exposed to pollution in the air or water can cause oxidized LDL
- Stress. Studies show stress is a factor in inflammation and the oxidization of LDL
How do you treat oxidation damage in your LDL conventionally?
Right now, there is not a standard test done to check LDL oxidation in conventional medicine, and therefore no conventional treatment. The test is available at our clinic, and there are different ratings. With LDL cholesterol oxidation, you can have a normal, mild, moderate, or severe amounts. People with a strong family history of heart disease or have had a test that shows plaque in the arteries should seriously consider getting this test.
Will statin drugs lower oxidized LDL levels?
No, there has been no research that shows statins lower oxidized LDL levels. One of my major concerns is letting people know the risks of statin drugs:
- Statin drugs have been shown to increase your risk of diabetes in women and men. One study showed an increased risk of as much as 48%!
- Memory Loss
- Increased risk of cancer
- Liver, Kidney, and irreversible muscle damage
In conventional medicine, most doctors aren’t testing LDL, but in the next three to five years, it will likely be a pretty routine test. Plus, there are studies out there now that show the value in expanded cholesterol testing. Evidence Based Medicine did a study that covered 65,000 people that found there is no relationship between cholesterol levels and survival rate in regards to heart disease.
Want to do something to impact positive change in your cholesterol right away? Give us a call to get your oxidized LDL cholesterol checked in our clinic.