What Is Cholesterol’s Relation To Heart Symptoms?

October 21, 2011

A new study has negatively impacted sales of a drug—Niaspan—which was prescribed to raise good levels of cholesterol alongside drugs whose purpose was reducing cholesterol that’s “bad”. The study (from NIH) found that there’s no reduction in heart symptoms like heart attacks by taking Niaspan and raising good levels of cholesterol in patients who already had heart symptoms.

Although further studies may change this opinion, it bears repeating that lowering levels of cholesterol does not necessarily correspond to diseased heart symptoms, and prescribing heart medication before heart symptoms (like a heart attack) appear has no positive effect (unless a very specific heart symptom’s gene is active).

So, What Is Cholesterol’s Effect On Heart Symptoms?

About cholesterol: Cholesterol mostly comes from the liver, where fat from the diet is converted into cholesterol which the body then distributes through the blood stream (its transportation system).

Too much cholesterol in the blood stream is thought to lead to bad heart health: weakness, and eventually heart attack. However, current thought is beginning to think that levels of cholesterol (good or bad) is one of many poor heart symptoms, rather than a cause of bad heart symptoms. After a heart attack, however, there’s evidence that medications that regulate things like cholesterol levels may actually be helpul.

Reducing cholesterol is still a good thing: remember, it’s fat, and being overweight leads to many health complications, not just bad heart symptoms. One important note: when you lose weight, that cholesterol is transported back, meaning you could still be tested for high levels of cholesterol, except now your body’s getting rid of it rather than storing fat.

Eating healthy and getting moderate exercise under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner is the best way to have healthy levels of cholesterol and encourage healthy heart symptoms.

What strategies do you use for talking to your doctor about the latest studies and medications she prescribes?

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