Cholesterol is not as important as the Particles it lives in. Immediately after discovering I had the wrong particle pattern, I altered my diet and successfully obtained a reversed cholesterol particle number.
I thought the standard American diet or food pyramid I was following was a healthy choice. I always chose whole grain and whole wheat over refined grains (white bread and white pasta).
I’ve always had good cholesterol numbers. However, a new blood test my cardiologist ordered said I am “High Risk” for heart disease!
My LDL Particle Number was Pattern B. Pattern B is “High Risk” for heart disease! OMG! I thought I was eating right!
At the time I was in my late 30’s with a healthy BMI of 24.7, which is considered normal. I passed the cardiac stress test (treadmill test) with flying colors. My cardiologist said I outperformed some of the professional basketball players on the Phoenix Suns team who were also his patients. Undeniably I was proud and shocked by that statement.
I consistently worked out 5 days per week, avoided refined sugars, rarely consumed alcohol, never smoked cigarettes, and would never drink sugary beverages like soda.
How was I at high risk for a heart attack with a lifestyle as follows?
Weekly Workout Routine:
- Monday: Basketball 90+ minutes
- Tuesday: Strength training
- Wednesday: Basketball 90+ minutes
- Thursday: Strength training
- Friday: Basketball 1 hour
I ate the same breakfast every day. 2 scrambled eggs with little extra egg whites and plenty of spinach. A little bowl of heart-healthy raw whole-grain steel-cut oatmeal with mixed frozen berries.
For lunch, I typically had sandwiches with thin-cut whole wheat or whole grain bread, deli meat, a slice of cheese, some spinach, and mustard. Some days I’d have a Chipotle chicken burrito bowl, or leftover homemade whole wheat/whole grain pasta, with red sauce and chicken.
Dinners were of a larger variety, but always healthy. Generally consisted of lean white meat, veggies, and some sort of grain. I would also include a weekly fish, veggies, and rice meal as well. On the weekends I would have takeout food. And always get the whole wheat / whole grain option for anything that contains wheat flour. For example, pizza, pasta, sandwiches, or burgers. If they didn’t have a whole option, I would normally order something else, like a salad.
Sure, I would have a little ice cream, a brownie, or a cookie for a snack sometimes, but my main snack was granola. And I’m not talking about the store pre-packaged granola, I’m talking about my own minimal ingredient homemade whole-grain granola. The grocery stores granola usually contained unnecessary ingredients and syrups, so I made my own.
My homemade whole-grain granola recipe:
- 4 cups granola
- 2 cups oat bran
- 2 cups of nuts and seeds mixed (I would crush them)
- 1 cup of honey or maple syrup or coconut oil (I rotated between these each batch)
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
HIGH RISK FOR A HEART ATTACK
So why was I high risk for heart disease if I would exercise regularly, follow a healthy diet, and had good cholesterol numbers? Shouldn’t I have been low risk?
After reviewing my results from a new kind of blood test (discussed below), my cardiologist recommended a “red yeast rice extract” (RYRE) supplement, which contains monacolins, also known as lovastatin, which is known to lower cholesterol. He said this approach could help fix my Particle Number. He also said the next step would be to prescribe a statin drug which could help achieve a reversed cholesterol particle number. Well, I didn’t want to take a drug every day for the rest of my life.
This is the point when I became curious why so many people with low LDL “bad” cholesterol and high HDL “good” cholesterol have heart attacks? I read many articles and clinical tests that were publicly available on the Internet, and here is what I learned and changed about my diet.
I am not a doctor by any means. So, what follows is just my interpretation of what all of this means, and to what I credit my success with lowering my LDL Particle Number (LDL-P) and converting from Pattern B to Pattern A.
STANDARD BLOOD TESTING IS NOT ENOUGH
The standard lipid testing that I received every year has always said my HDL cholesterol (HDL-C), LDL cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglyceride numbers are well within normal ranges. This is the test that is usually automatically included in my annual physical from my doctor or primary care physician. Surely if I had continued only paying attention to this test alone, I would not have achieved a reversed cholesterol particle number.
For so long the LDL-C concentration was the focus, however many people with optimal LDL-C experience cardiovascular disease (CVD), strokes, and other issues. Atherosclerosis is the largest cause of these diseases. Atherosclerosis is when plaque builds up inside arterial walls. Plaque is a combination of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in the blood.
Cholesterol is not just floating around in our bloodstream, it is actually encapsulated within and transported by Lipoproteins (particles).
Image by: Mayo Clinic Laboratories
It’s not the small, dense low-density lipoprotein (sdLDL) cholesterol we need to be testing. It’s the small, dense low-density lipoprotein (sdLDL) particles that we need to be testing. The cholesterol cannot penetrate the artery wall unless it is transported there by particles. After a particle gets into the arterial wall, it causes inflammation, which makes it easier for more particles to get in.
CHOLESTEROL VS PARTICLE STUDIES
So many new studies are showing discordance between cholesterol and particle testing. This discordance increases with the number of metabolic syndrome risk factors present. In other words, the more metabolic syndrome risk factors a person has, the greater the disagreement between LDL-C testing and LDL-P testing.
|48 years old||48 years old|
|LDL-C: 94 mg/dL||LDL-C: 94 mg/dL|
|LDL-P: 923 nmol/L||LDL-P: 1806 nmol/L|
Both patients have the same low cholesterol of 94, however, they each have a drastically different particle concentration. Charles is at a much lower risk than Edward for heart disease.
LDL-P testing is a superior predictor of coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease. Risk and association of Atherosclerotic disease follow lipid particle concentration rather than cholesterol content of lipid particles.
All these years my doctor has been ordering the wrong blood test. What I should have been asking for was an Advanced Lipid Profile blood test called “Cardio IQ®”. The Cardio IQ Advanced Lipid Panel measures the size and number of particles in the blood. It does not test the cholesterol itself. Fasting is required for this new test.
Particle size matters because small, dense particles stick to the inside of artery walls. Large more buoyant particles don’t stick to arteries as easily, they bounce off the arteries wall and flow better. People with mostly small LDL particles tend to have a higher particle concentration.
While particle size is important, particle concentration is the most critical factor. Imagine a road as an Artery, vehicles as Particles, and people as Cholesterol. Transporting 100 people by cars would cause more congestion than buses.
Both examples are defined by a Pattern classification. Many studies show that a person with Pattern B (mostly small vehicles) has up to three times greater risk than a person with Pattern A (mostly large vehicles). You need fewer vehicles if they can carry more people.
PATTERN A (Large LDL) PATTERN B (Small LDL)
Image by: Mayo Clinic Laboratories
OK, so now the difference between cholesterol and particles should make sense. In short, particles are responsible for transporting cholesterol. Cholesterol gets stuck in artery walls if it is transported there by a small, dense LDL particle. Cholesterol is good and required for life, but if it gets stuck in the artery, you develop plaque.
I no longer pay too much attention to what my cholesterol test says. I now predominantly care about what my particle number test says.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, TRY, TRY, TRY AGAIN
So now the BIG question! How did I reverse my cholesterol LDL Particle Number (LDL-P) with no drugs or supplements? As I mentioned earlier, my cardiologist recommended I start taking an extract supplement that contains statin. Instead of jumping right into a pill, I decided to do some testing of my own on myself. I tried making a few adjustments to my diet.
My first adjustment was going 90% whole. In other words, when eating bread, pizza, or pasta, I would only consume whole wheat and whole-grain flour. I stayed away from refined grains (enriched white/wheat flour). After 2 1/2 years of eating whole, my triglycerides and cholesterol improved slightly, but I was still Pattern B. This was unquestionably depressing, but I was not ready to give up.
I then started researching blood glucose levels, blood sugar spikes, and APOE genotype. I read articles and studies and came up with a new plan.
After sticking to my new plan for 6 months, I requested another blood test. My LDL Particle Number converted from Pattern B to Pattern A! I was so relieved. I figured it out! All of my research and diet change commitments paid off. Other important health markers improved as well. As of today, I have maintained the same diet, and I am still a Pattern A.
REVERSED CHOLESTEROL PARTICLE NUMBER
So what worked? Here is the answer. Forget switching refined grains for whole grains. They both cause a huge blood sugar spike. Additionally wheat isn’t what it used to be. There is so much more on that topic, so I’ll write about it in another blog later. My new plan was to just eliminate as much wheat flour from my diet as possible. Without overeating, I still have pizza 2 times per week (order thin crust and do not eat the outer crust), an occasional bowl of pasta, and an open face sandwich or burger (only eat half of the bun).
Wait for a second, that sounds a lot like my original diet. But there is a small, kind of weird trick that took a couple of weeks to get used to. Nevertheless, I think this trick is what makes the difference. For a small fee, I’ll tell you the trick. LOL Sorry Just Kidding. Here it is for FREE!
I am sure you will roll your eyes. I don’t blame you, this will sound strange. But my trick is to pre-load extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). I buy the best one I can find, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Key points I look for are cold-pressed, organic, and sometimes I can find raw as well. I add 1-2 tablespoons to that oatmeal I eat every morning. Additionally, I have 1-2 tablespoons immediately before eating any kind of wheat flour, like pizza, pasta, sandwiches, or burgers.
Additionally, I started eating 1 large avocado per day. I eat half with my morning eggs and the other half with either lunch or dinner. It is beneficial to split it up so that healthy fat is constantly circulating throughout my body.
So, why did I add so much fat? Because it reduces the blood sugar spike effect that carbohydrates have. Especially wheat. Additionally, my APOE genotype said I would benefit from a high-fat diet. The reduction in wheat flour and increase of healthy monounsaturated fats have extended my life. I have a successfully reversed cholesterol particle number!
HELP ME HELP YOU AND HELP OTHERS
I wrote this in hopes of helping anyone else out there who is like me… please share…