If you’ve had your blood cholesterol tested recently, you ought to know that many researchers now agree with what I’ve believed for years – it’s a dubious guide to your health status.
But it’s a persistent medical myth – the notion that your cholesterol levels determine your future well-being and your heart health.
Meanwhile, studies now show there’s a different blood analysis that actually does offer valuable information about your health future. Keep reading for this exciting news. . .
First I want to point out that when you look at studies of how accurately cholesterol test results correlate with things like life expectancy or even heart disease risk, you find this medical measurement doesn’t hold up to careful analysis.
For instance, research at the University of Copenhagen shows that having a very high HDL level – the “good” cholesterol that is supposed to protect against heart and artery problems and improve your health – actually can increase your risk of dying from heart disease and other causes.
During this six-year Danish study of 116,000 people, men with the highest HDLs had a 106 percent increased risk of dying compared to men with a lower HDL measurement. Women with the highest amounts of HDL experienced a 68 percent increased chance of dying.1
“These results radically change the way we understand ‘good’ cholesterol,” says researcher Børge Nordestgaard. “Doctors like myself have been used to congratulating patients who had a very high level of HDL in their blood. But we should no longer do so, as this study shows a dramatically higher mortality rate.”
In another investigation, this same group of Danish researchers discovered that high HDL levels also meant being at a higher risk of developing an infectious disease – like the flu or C. difficile bacterial infection – that require hospitalization.2
In general, these findings found that HDL levels between 54 and 77 mg/dL for men and between 69 to 97 in women were the healthiest. Above and below that amount signaled an increased risk of dying during the study.
Omega 3s Give a More Accurate Prediction
Instead of measuring your blood cholesterol, say a group of scientists who are investigating longevity and chronic disease, we should be measuring blood for its levels of omega-3 fats – the type of fats found in fish oil. This test predicts health, well-being and potential life expectancy.
A seven-year study observed 2,500 people as they aged from 66 years old to 73. Conducted by researchers at Harvard and several other institutions, the investigation shows that having higher levels of these fats in your blood improves the odds of living longer. It also bestows a lower chance of suffering heart disease.3
The researchers say that analyzing blood levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – the primary omega-3 fish oil components – provides the kind of accurate information about health that cholesterol measurements don’t.
A Potent, Natural Anti-Inflammatory
If you’re wondering why measurements of your omega-3 levels so accurately predict your health, a study in Norway can help make it clear.
The Norwegian scientists took a close look at how omega-3s help control chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation occurs when your immune cells become overactive and begin to harm your organs instead of protecting them.
As you age, chronic inflammation becomes an increasing problem. It’s now thought to be the root cause of arthritis, many cancers, autoimmune disorders (like multiple sclerosis) and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Norwegian research shows that omega-3s dampen inflammatory processes that can take place inside immune cells called macrophages. These priceless fatty acids also keep the macrophages from releasing substances that would otherwise spur other immune cells from going rogue and causing harmful inflammation.4
All of this means that if you’ve been obsessing over your cholesterol level, you can relax. Those numbers aren’t totally meaningless, but they’re close, and far too much medical attention is showered on them. Worst of all, far too many people are put on harmful cholesterol drugs to chase the chimera of low cholesterol.
You’re better off forgetting about cholesterol and eating fish and/or taking fish oil supplements. This one, simple health habit can increase your blood levels of omega-3s and give you a better chance for a long life and healthier future.