Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Confusing Cholesterol

Having high cholesterol is considered a health risk for cardiovascular disease.  The current approach to managing cholesterol has been the use of statin drugs, which carry considerable side effects like muscle pain and mental confusion.  Doctors also realize that cholesterol is made up of good and bad cholesterol.  The bad cholesterol (LDL) needs to be lowered, but the good cholesterol (HDL) needs to remain healthy and high.  The statins lower cholesterol, but they leave a person vulnerable by not building up the the good cholesterol.  Drug companies have tried to formulate a statin with chemicals to raise the good cholesterol, but these have not worked and keep people at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Since the prescription drugs are failing at boosting the good cholesterol, many doctors are looking at lifestyle to do the job.  Certain lifestyle behaviors will build up the good cholesterol in no time.  These behaviors include:
  1. Regular exercise
  2. Having one serving of alcohol daily
  3. Quitting smoking
  4. Losing weight
  5. Eating fish and using olive oil for cooking and dressings
  6. Avoiding carbohydrates, especially ones that are not whole grain  
The funny thing is that these same behaviors will lower the bad cholesterol as well.  Someone who uses these lifestyle changes can avoid the side effects and expense of statins.  Why aren't doctors pushing the healthy lifestyle more?  One reason may be that prescription drugs are profitable and a healthy lifestyle is not.  Putting aside the business side of it, some doctors know the importance of a healthy lifestyle but are unable to get their patients to do it.  Many people have trouble making changes and they prefer the illusion of a pill making everything all better. 

The solution is a health coach.  Some people are self changers, but many people are not.  They know they need a change, but they have a hard time getting started.  A coach can move you forward in small, easy steps within the context of a relationship which holds you accountable.  Many times the blocks keeping you from a healthy lifestyle are a little deeper and more complicated than you think.  A good coach helps you discover them and move you forward.

Yes, the statin thing seems easier, but it really isn't doing the job that it should.  You deserve something better.  Maybe one day prescription drug manufacturers, doctors and health insurers will realize that too.

Stay healthy & well,

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