Two weeks ago, a study published in the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine sent shockwaves through the medical industry. The mainstay of interventional cardiology, implanting stents to stretch open cholesterol-clogged arteries in people with stable coronary artery disease, was found to be useless or worse. This procedure, performed between 300,000 to 500,000 times a year in the United States at the cost of billions, has, as the Chief Editor put it, “no known benefit and there are definite harms.”
What’s their alternative to surgical intervention? Medical intervention, with a cocktail of four drugs—an ACE inhibitor, aspirin, a beta blocker, and a statin. But neither route gets to the root of the problem. In the video I featured on Care2 last week, Statin Muscle Toxicity, I address the question of whether we have to take drugs every day for the rest of our lives to reduce the risk of damage to our heart muscle at the risk of damaging our skeletal muscles? The answer is no, according to the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, Dr. William Clifford Roberts.
In my video Heart Attacks and Cholesterol: Purely a Question of Diet, I profile Dr. Roberts’ new editorial “It’s the Cholesterol, Stupid!” He writes: “For the build-up of plaque in our arteries to cease, it appears that the serum total cholesterol needs to be lowered to the 150 area. In other words the serum total cholesterol must be lowered to that of the average pure vegetarian. Because relatively few persons are willing to abide by the vegetarian lifestyle, lipid-lowering drugs are required in most to reach the 150 level.” He concludes: “Whether or not we are willing to alter our diet sufficiently and/or to spend the money necessary to obtain the lipid-lowering drugs, and then take them religiously to achieve this goal is up to us.”
In my NutritionFacts.org video pick today, I highlight Dr. Roberts’ prescription for essentially eliminating heart disease, the great scourge of the Western world (see above).
So having a “normal” cholesterol in a society where it’s normal to die of heart disease is not necessarily a good thing (see my 90-second video New Target Cholesterol). How do we lower it without drugs? In Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero (2 min.), I detail how to prevent heart disease naturally by avoiding the three things that increase bad cholesterol (LDL) levels: 1) trans fats, which come mostly from junk food and animal products, 2) saturated fat, mostly from dairy products and chicken, and 3) dietary cholesterol, the leading sources being eggs and poultry. Any intake above zero appears to increase LDL cholesterol, so consumption of meat, eggs, dairy, and junk food should be as low as possible.
Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: Dr. William C. Roberts / Wikimedia Commons