Beyond Cholestrol Introduction

Imagine taking your car in for servicing and only having the oil checked. It wouldn’t make sense, would it? Yet that’s essentially what you’re doing if you focus only on your cholesterol counts to gauge the health of your arteries. True, those numbers are a strong indication of your risk of heart disease. But they don’t tell the whole story. In fact, as many as half of all people with heart disease have normal cholesterol levels.

What else is going on here? Researchers are beginning to uncover the answers to that question, and those answers include myriad factors, ranging from blood components like C-reactive protein and interleukin-18 to your state of mind and even the length of your legs.

Sometimes it seems as if the risk factors and markers for heart disease grow as fast as grass during a rainy July. There are so many, in fact, that one study found just 18 percent of American adults had no risk factors for heart attack. If you have only one risk factor, the odds of trouble are probably relatively low (depending on the factor, of course). Chalk up more than one, however, and the danger becomes compounded. In this phenomenon, called synergism, the total risk is greater—and much more dangerous—than the sum of its parts.

Think of the formation of plaque as a process that is controlled by various “on” switches. High cholesterol is only one of them, Starting on the next page you’ll read about 11 other switches—and discover what you can do to turn them “off.”

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