Heart Doctors Claim Other Factors More Important
The link between high cholesterol and heart disease has been known and accepted for decades now, but some new research is questioning just how strong that link is. A new book called "The Great Cholesterol Myth" by Dr. Jonny Bowden and Dr. Stephen Sinatra claims the connection between cholesterol and heart disease has been overplayed. Dr. Bowden argues that high cholesterol is actually only a predictor of heart disease about 50% of the time. The authors claim that cholesterol gets far too much attention and focus by the medical community at the expense of other, more serious factors.
KTRH's medical expert Dr. Joe Galati tends to agree with the basic point of the book. "Too many times people will say 'gee, my cholesterol is normal,' but they don't realize that they're 40 pounds overweight and they haven't exercised in ten years," he tells KTRH. Dr. Galati says family genetics and other factors tend to be better predictors of heart disease. "Obesity, smoking, inflammation in other parts of the body related to obesity, sugars, diabetes" are all problems that can have as much or more of an impact on cardiovascular problems, he says. The book also takes doctors to task for over-prescribing cholesterol-lowering drugs, when those drugs haven't even been proven effective for many people. Dr. Galati says it's important for doctors to take a balanced approach. "You cannot just simply treat the cholesterol and forget about all the other factors that you have to look at."
The book argues that eating a healthier diet rich in antioxidants, increasing exercise, and reducing stress are the best ways to reduce the risk of heart disease. Dr. Galati tends to agree with those conclusions, but that doesn't mean he completely endorses the idea of a so-called "cholesterol myth." "I would say it's an oversimplification of a very large public health problem," he says. "But, do not get hung up on the cholesterol and look at all the other co-factors such as diabetes, obesity, and smoking."