One of the biggest misperceptions about heart disease is that it is impossible to predict when a heart attack or stroke might happen. When it occurs, it usually seems like a bolt from out of the blue. But this is not true. Like all chronic diseases, heart attacks and strokes (known as cardiovascular disease) are many years in the making. Knowing your risk is key.
For too long, our focus has been on cholesterol for risk calculation. You might have heard of the Framingham Risk Calculator. One study from Norway found that cholesterol doesn’t correlate with cardiovascular risk. Women with the highest cholesterol were at the lowest risk of death and lowest risk of cardiovascular disease. In their conclusion they said: “If our findings are generalizable, clinical and public health recommendations regarding the ‘dangers’ of cholesterol should be revised. This is especially true for women, for whom moderately elevated cholesterol (by current standards) may prove to be not only harmless but even beneficial.”
Cholesterol is not some isolated molecule that solely impacts cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol is part of our immune system response. Lowering cholesterol with “statin” drugs lowers our ability to fight cancer. People on “statins” have increased cancer risk. For those women on “statin” medication for cholesterol lowering, the risks are even greater from treatment. “Statins” cause increased rates of diabetes, which means higher heart attacks and strokes. “Statins” also undo the benefits of exercise by weakening our muscles.
So, the first step in lowering heart attack and stroke is to change our focus from cholesterol as the villain.