Cholesterol and high blood pressure: enemies of the heart?

selective focus photography of heart organ illustration

The latest guidelines revisit a false myth: “diet is not the only source of danger to the heart”. Are cholesterol and high blood pressure the major enemies of the heart? Cardiologist Marco Bobbio was among the first to question the role of cholesterol as the bane of a healthy lifestyle. In a 1993 paper outlining the myths and realities of cholesterol, he underlined the fact that many of the allegations against this molecule had not been scientifically proven. Now, a consultative committee in the US government responsible for reviewing dietary guidelines has concluded that there is no correlation between cholesterol ingested through food and its levels in the blood: it is therefore safe to consume foods such as butter and eggs.

Let us hear from the professor.

Have we definitively rehabilitated cholesterol? “Not entirely: it continues to be considered one of the factors responsible for arterial damage, but shouldn’t be condemned as a solitary killer. It is as I had claimed over 20 years ago. The information available is the same but the attitudes of many scientists have changed, and we have adopted a less reductive outlook.”

In the past few decades, we have witnessed a decrease in heart attacks: is this thanks to the campaign against fat and cholesterol? “Any epidemiologic change depends on a combination of a variety of factors: namely dietary, therapeutic, environmental, cultural, sanitary and behavioral. It is hard to identify what is uniquely responsible for the change. Once we forbade fat, we witnessed an increase in the use of sugars, which could explain the rising rates of obesity and diabetes.”

What is the role of anti-cholesterol drugs? “A reduction in the risk of heart attacks and death has only been convincingly demonstrated for statins in men who have already experienced heart attacks. There is still controversy over their efficacy in women, the elderly, and those who do not suffer from cardiovascular disease. Many other drugs that reduce levels of cholesterol have not been proven to reduce the risk of heart attack. The relation: less cholesterol = less heart attacks does not always hold, it depends on how the cholesterol is reduced”.

So is it a suspect for heart attack or not? “Certainly. Arterial plaques that are responsible for heart attacks are mostly made up of cholesterol. It is fairly logical to assume that it is connected to one’s diet. It was however demonized before we had the elements to prove it. This is supported by a study on 50 thousand women, in the group that was put on a low fat diet the heart attack rate was the same as in the group that was not. The vast majority of cholesterol in the bloodstream does not come from food but from synthesis in the liver. Essentially, while diet does play a part, it is not an essential one”.

We at AMICOMED suggest that you always keep your cholesterol levels and blood pressure under control as you never know, prevention is better than any cure.

Click here to read the original article (italian language).