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Friday, May 11, 2007

Cholesterol - How low is too low?

I have written previously about the dangers of taking cholesterol lowering drugs. Each time I read up on this topic, it appears the bar for what is considered "high" cholesterol has been lowered yet again.

High was once 6.0
Then is was 5.5
Then it became 5.0
Then it dropoped to 4.5
And now it is 4.0 (Source NZ Heart Foundation)

A total of 4.0 being the threshold now means that almost the entire adult population is liable to medication to reduce their "high" cholesterol. This is ridiculous.

Cholesterol is the essence of cellular life. Without cholesterol, our cells can't survive. They become soggy and die. Cholesterol is essential for the formation and function of hormones. Without it we cease to function properly. Low levels cause depression, inferitlity and loss of sex drive etc, etc - the list is too long. We get sick and we die.

People who "suffer" high cholesterol have more energy, they are not depressed, they are sexually active, they have babies, they think better and they keep well. Once a person is medicated to reduce their "high" cholesterol, the ill health and rapid decline with age takes off. Hmmm! Their cholesterol problem gets blamed - "Thank goodness the Dr discovered my high cholesterol just in time and got me on medication, otherwise things would surely be much worse!"

The crux of the problem is that population health decisions are being made by myopic specialists who can not see beyond their narrow view of what consitutes human health. Sure, lowering cholesterol below 4.0 brings slightly more reductions in deaths by heart disease in large populations; but at what cost in other areas? Incidentally, it is not cholesterol per se that causes heart disease. We see a similar problem with dermatologists driving the policy to do with sunlight exposure and, in so doing, are causing a raft of more serious health problems than what they are setting out to prevent.

Meanwhile dementia rates soar as do accidents due to the mental fog caused by these misguided strategies to reduce heart disease by a smidgen.

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