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Understanding Cholesterol

Take Control Of Your Health!

Posted by jmboiardi - August 21st, 2015

I wanted to write this article as many people have been confused, sometimes on purpose, as to how to read the cholesterol results from blood tests and determine what is considered “high” and “normal” levels.  While I am not a doctor, and this article is not meant to replace the guidance of a licensed healthcare practitioner, there is enough information available for one to make an informed decision especially when it comes to the use of Statins.  This article is written in this regard.

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Cholesterol Guidelines

These are the cholesterol guidelines communicated to us today: less than 200 total cholesterol, less than 130 LDL, less than 150 for Triglycerides, and more than 40 for HDL. These are the metrics used to determine whether your cholesterol levels are “normal” or “high” and whether you are at high risk for a heart attack and/or need Statin therapy.  

Unfortunately, cholesterol levels and how cholesterol works in your body and the true cause of heart disease is much more complicated than this.  There is only one case when one would be deemed to truly have "high cholesterol" and that is if you have been diagnosed with Hypercholesterolemia, which is a rare genetic trait that runs in entire families. With Hypercholesterolemia, the feedback mechanism between the liver and the amount of cholesterol ingested in the diet is broken such that the liver does not reduce cholesterol production when dietary cholesterol increases.  These are the ONLY people clearly shown to derive benefit from Statin therapy.  All the studies on the general public without this condition have not significantly benefited from Statins in relation to the serious risks they pose regardless of what the AHA and pharmaceutical industry want you to believe.

Statins come with a litany of serious side effects that get “swept under the rug” unless you do your own research and weigh the pros and cons of these medications.

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Cholesterol & Your Blood

When you get your blood work done, your total cholesterol is your LDL, HDL, VDL (very low density lipoproteins), and 1/5th of your Triglyceride totals. However, the only two numbers that matter and are most predictive of potential heart attack risk are your HDL and Triglyceride numbers and their ratios to your total cholesterol.

Ironically, LDL and HDL are NOT cholesterol. They are lipoproteins used to TRANSPORT cholesterol in the body as cholesterol is not soluble in blood plasma. LDL brings cholesterol too your body tissues and HDL brings any unused or excess cholesterol back to your liver for processing. This is why they get labeled "good" and "bad" cholesterol which is total nonsense. They are both "good" because without cholesterol you will die – this is why your liver produces 70% of what you need because it is so critical for life.

LDL has two different types of particles – a big fluffy non-oxidized version called LipoB and a smaller oxidized and dangerous version called LipoA. Oxidation of your LDL comes from two things – too much sugar in your diet and having levels of triglycerides which are too high. Triglycerides are the measurement of fat in your blood not cholesterol.

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The Real Cause For Concern

The reason your HDL number and ratio of HDL to total cholesterol and your triglyceride number and ratio of total cholesterol to triglycerides are the only numbers that matter is the following:

High triglycerides are the result of amounts of simple sugars, which are too high, being processed by the liver (a direct result of the typical American diet of processed food, simple sugars, and man-made fats like trans-fats, as well as alcohol metabolism). Higher sugar and triglycerides leads to inflammation of the arterial walls (Endothelium) and oxidation of LDL from beneficial LipoB to detrimental LipoA. This inflammation leads to tiny tears in the Endothelium which trap these small oxidized LDL particles behind it and push the Endothelium wall outwards.

The body senses this inflammation and damage and sends immune cells as it is reacting to the inflammation as if it is an infection. It also sends the only thing it has to repair cell walls to prevent a breach in the artery that would kill you – cholesterol via LDL particles. This creates a perfect storm of oxidized LDL, immune cells, and cholesterol on the Endothelium wall. This constant build up over time due to continued poor eating habits and high blood sugar and triglycerides leads to plaque build up in the artery and eventual blockage. This is why LDL and cholesterol get blamed for something they did not cause but are rather the body's response to the inflammation damage as a result of poor eating and nutrition – like blaming fire fighters for fires because you always see them at a fire instead of seeing them as the RESPONSE to the fire.

The Triglyceride Connection

The higher your triglycerides the higher amounts of oxidized (bad) LDL particles you have. Since HDL carries cholesterol back to the liver, having higher HDL levels will gather more of this oxidized LDL and its cholesterol payload out of the blood and bring it back to the liver.

Unfortunately when triglycerides levels are high they reduce HDL levels.  Total cholesterol numbers are meaningless because if you have high LDL AND HDL this number will be "high". Unless you get a particle test to determine what types of LDL particles you have, your LDL number is useless. However, having high triglycerides is indicative of and very consistent with having bad LipoA LDL. Therefore, if your HDL is high – it needs to be at least 40 but high 50s to low 60s is best – and your triglycerides are low (under 150), especially if under 100, then it doesn't matter if your total cholesterol is 275, you are at lower risk for a heart attack than someone with cholesterol of 150 but their HDL is 20 and their triglycerides are 250 (remember total cholesterol takes 1/5th of your Triglyceride number) and LDL of 80.

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Doctors and pharmaceutical companies don't always want you to understand how to interpret blood cholesterol levels because their very profitable Statin drugs only lower LDL. They do nothing for HDL or triglycerides and since LDL is a bigger part of your total cholesterol number they bring your total cholesterol down below the 200 threshold which is a total arbitrary number and threshold to begin with. These guidelines are used to coerce people into thinking they are at risk for heart disease when in many instances they aren’t and thus will pursue Statin therapy. The majority of cholesterol and blood lipid issues can be solved with proper nutrition – a much cheaper way with no dangerous side effects.  

It takes commitment on the part of the individual as the easy and “lazy” way is just to take a pill which is how our medical system works today.  One needs to remember that you control your health and you do not have to take any medication you don’t want, regardless of what doctors may say.  If you do the research, you will find more often than not the majority of chronic diseases we accept as part of aging or part of the modern world we live in can be easily fixed with proper nutrition.

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George Leonard was a writer, editor, and teacher whose passion was the exploration of human potential. In the early 1990s, he...


Good article @jmboiardi ! Well done!


awesome article John :) its good to get this out for everyone to learn


Nice article John @jmboiardi.  Good to see an article written on this subject that so many don't understand even our general practitioners.  I've seen firsthand the ill effets Statins can cause.  It is a travesty, as you know, that people don't take ownership of their own lives by eating and exercising properly.  It is much easier to take a pill and that's what we are brainwahsed to think.


Thanks Scott for posting and sharing and thanks everyone for the comments.  It is a contentious subject and I am glad people find it useful.

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shared it on facebook as well. Will be live in a few hours ;)


Great information @jmboiardi, so many people don't understand cholesterol.  Awesome job!


Under control, very important topic when gaining muscle! 


Really interesting topic and I'm sure a friend could find it useful, thanks for writing this John :)


Very in-depth @jmboiardi! A lot of information which will hopefully help people better understand cholesterol :)


another amazing article John. My mother actually has a difficult time understanding all this fuss about cholesterol and triglycerides so this will greatly help our family :D