It fascinates me that, even though the biggest killers in the Western world are heart disease and diabetes and they are very preventable, they are probably the two things I get asked to test the least! Why is that?
Surely, if you had a way of looking at your markers and could take early interventions to prevent them progressing, you would do it? But it seems not. I reckon it is an education issue; maybe people think the tests they get from mainstream medicine tells them everything they need to know, but there is SO much more useful information out there that could be helping.
LDL or Oxidised LDL Cholesterol?
Let’s take LDL cholesterol, for example. Your GP tests you for the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol – LDL – and tells you it is fine or elevated. However, if you look at data studying cardiovascular risk, there is not much correlation between higher levels of LDL and heart attacks happening. In other words, simple LDL is not a great marker for risk of a heart attack. BUT, if you look at Oxidised LDL (which your GP test doesn’t usually), that is a real teller. The higher the level of oxidised LDL, the higher the risk of heart attacks.
The risk gets higher because the oxidised LDL isn’t recognised by the normal APO-B receptor in the arteries and it is therefore seen as a foreign invader. This starts a whole inflammatory cascade, and we know that inflammation is a major factor in causing cardiovascular disease and triggering heart attacks.
Here’s a useful piece on oxidised LDL from Life Extension that explains it a bit more technically for you:
If you have ever smelled rancid butter, cooking oil, or grease, you have experienced first-hand the impact of oxidation on fats. Fat molecules are especially vulnerable to oxygen,71 which is found in abundance in arterial blood. When the fat and oxidation come together, the resulting chemical reactions change the shape and the function of fat molecules.72 Your body tries to handle oxidized fat molecules with antioxidants, but if the antioxidants become overwhelmed, then the cholesterol molecules including LDL and HDL become oxidized. This oxidized LDL will damage the walls of the artery. Once there, specialized cells called macrophages identify oxidized fats as “foreign” materials, and engulf them to take them out of circulation.73,74 But these oxidized LDL laden macrophages can accumulate in the arterial wall, beneath the delicate endothelial layer, where they reside as so-called foam cells.75,76 And foam cells, in turn, trigger inflammatory changes in the arterial wall, which eventually lead to the formation of an inflammatory plaque.16, 77-79 Since oxidized LDL is a powerful initiator of this devastating process, it is important to keep oxidized LDL levels at a minimum.
Inflammatory plaque contains white blood cells and cellular debris, along with inflammatory signaling molecules.80-82 Drawn by oxidized fats, macrophages from the immune system swarm into the inflamed plaque area, consume the oxidized LDL, release toxic chemicals that cause swelling and inflammation and form foam cells.14 These foam cells then die creating debris that fill the inflamed tissue and perpetuate even more inflammation.81,83 Levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol within plaques are nearly 70 timesgreater than in circulating blood.14
An inflammatory plaque bulging into an artery can significantly reduce blood flow through that artery.84,85 Worse, if the plaque ruptures, it sends a shower of debris, including oxidized fats, cell fragments, and clumped platelets, downstream to where it can become trapped in the narrowing vessel. When that happens, blood flow suddenly becomes reduced or blocked and the victim experiences a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or an ischemic stroke.86-88 The recent onset of inflammation affecting atherosclerotic plaques is known to be related to acute coronary syndromes (including chest pain, characteristic ECG changes, and eventually heart attack).8
Currently, doctors measure levels of inflammation in order to try to understand a person’s cardiovascular risk in the face of apparently normal lipid levels.89,90 Such measurements reinforce the connections between oxidation, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease. For example, among apparently healthy men, those with the highest baseline levels of inflammation, as measured by C-reactive protein (CRP), were at a nearly 3-fold risk of heart attack and almost double the risk of ischemic stroke, compared with those at the lowest levels of inflammation.91 Similar risk elevations of 2- to 3-fold have been shown in other studies measuring inflammatory changes in addition to standard lipid levels.89, 90,92 Mainstream medicine has finally begun to target inflammation as a drug-treatable risk factor for atherosclerosis.93
So, which would you want to know about? I’d want to know about the oxidised type and then I’d want to know what I can do to stop the LDL oxidising, wouldn’t you?!
Oxidised LDL is just one of lots of markers included in the DD CardioMetabolic profile, a blood test that measures some really important cardiovascular, obesity and diabetes factors that you can actually work on.
HBA1c or Glycomark?
Let’s now take a look at a diabetes risk marker. Most of us have heard of HBA1c, which is a marker often used to give an indication of blood sugar control over the past three months. So far, so good. However, there is a marker called Glycomark (1,5-Anhydroglucitol) which gives an idea if you have had frequent high blood sugar episodes or spikes, often after meals, within the past two weeks. In other words, it detects significant swings in glucose – even if the HBA1c looks OK. That’s important because you can alter your diet or blood sugar control accordingly.
Here’s a quick video about it from the makers of Glycomark, the marker test. Bit salesy but I like the comparison between Sue and Bob about half way through.
And here’s a factsheet explaining about it.
Again, I’d want to see that if I was at risk of diabetes, wouldn’t you?
As I say, I’m amazed more people don’t use this sort of test as part of a heart disease and diabetes prevention programme so I thought I’d profile it for you this week and hopefully you can educate any at-risk loved ones! If I get chance, I’ll talk about some of the other important markers too soon for you, or do my long-overdue Heart Disease and Diabetes factsheets!
Meantime, you can read more and see collection instructions and a sample report in the lab tests Special Conditions section on the shop. Just cursor down to the Cardiovascular/Heart Disease section.
Hope that was interesting for you 🙂