When it comes to heart health, there are a dizzying array of numbers thrown at us.
We have HDL, LDL, total cholesterol, and triglyceride counts. We have blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index, and heart rate. And that’s just the beginning.
One of the world’s top cardiologists says that the most important number for your heart is one that you might not know.
It is called oxidized LDL or oxLDL, for short.
Decker Weiss, M.D., founder of the Scottsdale Heart Institute in Arizona, tells Newsmax Health that more cardiologists are using oxidized LDL levels to determine cardiac risk.
“I tell my patients there is no simple number that does it all,” he says.
“However, the most important number related to heart disease is oxidized LDL.”
Dr. Weiss explains that the heart danger of high oxLDL levels has been proven in study after study.
“Oxidized LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol that’s been modified by oxidation and then triggers inflammation leading to formation of plaque in the arteries,” he says.
“By the time conventional risk factors such as large waistline, high triglycerides, low HDL or ‘good cholesterol,’ high blood sugar, or high blood pressure show up, much of the damage has already been done to the body by oxLDL.”
Oxidized LDL raises the amount of triglycerides the body produces, as well as increasing the amount of fat deposited in the body. In turn, fat tissue enhances the oxidation of LDL, creating a destructive cycle.
“Think of it like rust in your body, corroding the arteries,” he says.
Many lifestyle factors can cause this harmful process, including stress, smoking, chemical exposure, and poor nutrition.
“Knowing your oxidized LDL number is the first step in interrupting the disease process,” says Dr. Weiss.
“This can be done with a simple, non-fasting blood test called the oxLDL test. Your physician can order this test through laboratories such as NeuroScience and the Cleveland Clinic.”
The Cleveland Clinic recommends oxLDL readings be less than 45 U/L (units per liter). Dr. Weiss says he prefers to get his patients below 25 U/L.
Dr. Weiss says that if your oxidized LDL is elevated, there are steps you can take to rectify the situation.
“My first line of defense is a really good antioxidant supplement, preferably one containing lycopene, which has been clinically tested to reduce oxidized LDL,” he says. “Of course, as a physician, I will talk about lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, exercising, smoking cessation, and stress reduction. But supplements are fast acting and can produce results in as little as 90 days. They also give you a learning curve to start behavior modification.
“Eating lots of fruits and vegetables — at least three cups a day — and limiting alcohol also are important steps to take to reduce oxidized LDL,” he says. “Daily exercise helps to protect your heart in part by lowering stress.”
Doing these things can prevent and even reverse heart disease, he says. Blood tests are needed every four months until the desired level of oxLDL is achieved.
Dr. Weiss says that reducing oxidized LDL with antioxidants has shown dramatic results in his patients.
“In terms of heart health, it’s difficult to measure the improvement simply by observation,” he says. “But in my patients who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they are thinking more clearly within a week or two as the arteries become cleaner and healthier.
“More mainstream doctors, such as those at the Cleveland Clinic and elsewhere, are coming to regard oxidized LDL as the magic bullet to prevent heart disease and even help patients with age-related cognitive problems.”
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