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High cholesterol, known as hypercholesterolemia, is the presence of elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood, a fatty substance crucial for bodily functions. Elevated “bad” cholesterol (LDL) can lead to artery plaque buildup, raising the risk of heart disease and stroke, while “good” cholesterol (HDL) helps eliminate excess cholesterol.
The root cause of high cholesterol is often a combination of genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors. Genetics can play a role in how your body processes and regulates cholesterol levels. However, lifestyle choices such as an unhealthy diet high in saturated and trans fats, lack of physical activity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and being overweight or obese can contribute significantly to elevated cholesterol levels.
How western medicine treats cholesterol
Statins are a class of medications commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes. While statins can be effective in managing cholesterol and preventing heart disease, they are not without potential drawbacks and concerns.
One significant issue with statins is the occurrence of side effects. Some individuals experience muscle pain, weakness, or cramps, a condition known as statin-associated muscle symptoms (SAMS). In rare cases, statins can lead to a severe muscle condition called rhabdomyolysis, which can cause muscle breakdown and kidney damage. Additionally, statins may lead to liver enzyme abnormalities in some individuals, necessitating regular monitoring.
Another concern is the potential for statins to affect other bodily functions beyond cholesterol regulation. Some studies have suggested a link between statin use and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Other research has explored potential cognitive effects of statins, including memory issues.
What does Chinese Medicine say
In Chinese medicine high cholesterol is often understood as a result of imbalances in the body’s internal systems, particularly the interactions between organ systems, energy flow, and the influence of external factors.
- Spleen and Stomach Imbalance: TCM places great emphasis on the health of the spleen and stomach systems, which are responsible for digestion and transforming food into nutrients. An imbalance in these systems can lead to poor digestion, improper nutrient absorption, and the accumulation of “dampness” or “phlegm,” which may contribute to high cholesterol.
- Liver Qi Stagnation: The liver is seen as vital for the smooth flow of Qi (energy) and blood in the body. Emotional stress, frustration, and repressed emotions can lead to liver Qi stagnation, which might hinder the proper circulation of blood and contribute to high cholesterol.
- Kidney and Essence Deficiency: In TCM, the kidneys are associated with the storage of vital essence and the regulation of water metabolism. A deficiency in kidney energy can impact lipid metabolism and contribute to cholesterol imbalances.
- Blood Stagnation: TCM views blood circulation as crucial for overall health. Blood stagnation, often caused by Qi or energy stagnation, can lead to the buildup of cholesterol and other substances in blood vessels.
Studies suggest that acupuncture and herbal medicine might have a positive impact on lipid metabolism and could help improve cholesterol levels and lowering LDL.
In perspective of Nutrition
Research reveal a growing body of evidence supporting that dietary interventions play a major role in managing high cholosterol. Numerous studies have explored the impact of various diets, nutrients, and dietary patterns on cholesterol levels and blood sugar control. But it is important to keep in mind that there is not one size fits all and a personalized plan is highly recommended.