12 things in your home that Lead to Heart Disease
Searching for products?

Cardiologist Explains Symptoms and Causes of High Cholesterol

  This post may contain affiliate links
How to Reduce Cholesterol

Cholesterol may be the most misunderstood molecule in modern medicine today. Many people, and even some physicians, are mistaken in their perception of cholesterol by associating a high level of it with poor diet, heart disease, clogged arteries, and death.

That message is one created and controlled by pHARMa. 

We are here to tell you cholesterol is not the enemy! Cholesterol is so vital that the human race would cease to exist without it. In fact, all animals contain cholesterol, which is vital to breast milk and chicken embryos (eggs!). 

Cholesterol is an integral part of all the cells in the body. It is the backbone of hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol. It keeps the brain healthy, is necessary for digestion, and is a powerful antioxidant.

Oh, cholesterol gets converted to vitamin D by sunshine exposure. 

So now you may be thinking, if cholesterol is so great, I should keep my cholesterol levels high. 

It’s not quite that simple. 

Cholesterol explained

Cholesterol is a lipid, and for it to travel through the bloodstream, it must be packaged in a lipoprotein to deliver it to designated destinations throughout the body. 

Lipoproteins are characterized by their size and contents and are divided into five categories:

  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL)
  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
  • Very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL)
  • Intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDL)
  • Chylomicrons

High HDL levels are generally good because HDL cleans up excess cholesterol and plaque build-up in the arteries and takes them back to the liver to cleanse them from the body.

Even though it is often labeled the “bad” cholesterol, LDL isn’t always bad. LDL’s job is to package cholesterol and other needed products and deliver them to cells around the body. LDL is well-intentioned. Unfortunately, sometimes its good deeds can cause damage since it can end up stuck in the lining of arteries. LDL tries to mend damaged arteries, but as it goes to the site of a problem, the immune cells stick to it, and before long, this lipoprotein full of cholesterol is stuck and calcifies inside the artery.

The size of LDL particles determines whether they will be cardioprotective or damaging. Generally, small, dense LDL particles are the ones causing damage to blood vessels.

To go one step further, lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a), is an LDL particle subtype and a good predictor of overall cardiovascular health. Lp(a), however, is unlike other lipoproteins because the amount you have in your body is unrelated to diet or lifestyle. Instead, your level of Lp(a) is determined by the genes passed on to you by your parents at birth.

Small amounts of Lp(a) are normal, but high levels increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. It’s important to know your Lp(a) numbers. You can read more HERE.

While testing for cholesterol has traditionally been limited to LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol, more specialized testing can look more into the type of lipoprotein and what is packaged inside. 

Symptoms of high cholesterol

Even though dietary and lifestyle factors can cause high cholesterol, symptoms can be elusive. You can have significantly elevated lipid levels and still feel well. Unfortunately, just like cardiovascular disease is the “silent killer” because it has few symptoms until it’s too late, high cholesterol often isn’t apparent until appropriate testing reveals the real numbers. It’s crucial to find out your numbers before it’s too late.

Causes of high cholesterol

Understanding that dietary fat does not raise cholesterol levels or heart disease is crucial. Instead, the real cause of abnormal lipid levels and an increase in the small, dense, dangerous LDL particles traveling in the bloodstream is poor diet, lack of physical activity, and an overall toxic lifestyle.

· The pro-inflammatory diet

Eating processed foods high in fructose and high-fructose corn syrup is linked to poor metabolic health, including obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver, cancer, and chronic kidney disease. Fructose also increases inflammation within the lining of blood vessels, where the small, dense LDL cholesterol aggregates for the best of intentions to protect—unfortunately, repeated damage and aggregation cause plaque buildup within the endothelial wall.

· Vegetable and seed oils

Edible oils extracted from plants are generally non-organic and genetically modified. These oils are also extracted using a chemical solvent and bathed in multiple other chemicals to preserve the color.

Vegetable oils also have an excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids are good in moderation and can be found in avocados or eggs. Still, the high amount in vegetable oils promotes inflammation and keeps healthy omega-3 fatty acids from doing their job.

Excessive omega-6 fatty acids also pose a problem since they are not fully saturated and react to oxygen in the air by deteriorating. These oxidized polyunsaturated fats can begin changing the structure within cell membranes.

· Refined carbohydrates

There are plenty of good carbohydrates, including grasses, roots, and fruits. Unfortunately, refined carbohydrates are far more easily accessible in our diet today. Most have little to no fiber, which will raise blood sugar quickly and increase inflammatory gut bacteria.

· Artificial trans-fatty acids

The word artificial should be the first warning sign since trans-fatty acids are manufactured and unnatural. They are created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils, which increases their shelf-life. They raise LDL cholesterol, lower HDL cholesterol, and are pro-inflammatory.

· Sedentary lifestyle

Computers have made it so we never have to leave the house. We can conduct business, get entertainment, and communicate without getting out of bed! Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you are not one of the people who spend most of your time sitting in front of the computer because you risk early death.

Sitting for long periods slows blood flow and the build-up of fatty acids in arteries. It also makes it harder to burn fat and increases fat storage. Lack of physical activity also leads to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, weak bones, weight gain, and stress. These factors contribute to inflammation, increased blood vessel damage, and increased LDL cholesterol accumulation at the injury site, eventually leading to heart disease.

· Chronic stress

It doesn’t matter whether stress is physical or emotional; experiencing it day after day significantly affects all of your body systems.  Stress hormones activate the release of triglycerides and free fatty acids and lead to increased LDL levels. 

You’re also more likely to make poor diet and lifestyle choices with chronic stress that will also negatively impact your lipid levels.

· Lack of sunshine 

Doctors should prescribe sunshine to lower cholesterol rather than a statin. As your skin absorbs the sun’s rays, it also penetrates your bloodstream and uses its energy to convert circulating cholesterol into vitamin D. 

Converting cholesterol to vitamin D lowers circulating LDL. It also lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity, and strengthens your bones. Get outside and reap the benefits of the warm sun on your skin!

· Inadequate sleep

You won’t get the maximum results from regular exercise, preferably outside in the sun, and a healthy diet if you don’t give your body enough time to rest and repair with adequate sleep.

Sleeping less than six hours a night can lead to abnormal lipid levels, high blood pressure, inflammation, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A regular sleep routine will benefit your heart and your mind.

If you think you may be at risk because of a poor diet or other unhealthy habits, the good news is that simple lifestyle changes can have an enormously positive effect on abnormal cholesterol levels and overall health.

Modifying your diet to include organic saturated fats, regular physical activity, reduced alcohol intake, improved gut health, less stress, better sleep, and ample sunshine are all productive steps to get you back on track to healthy living.

Next Steps

If doctors and the pharmaceutical industry have misled you into believing cholesterol is the enemy, you are not alone. Millions of others worldwide have been prescribed a statin, thinking that LDL cholesterol needs to be purged from the body to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Maybe you thought that since taking a statin, you can eat whatever you want and never worry about cholesterol, heart disease, or poor metabolic health. Hopefully, we’ve shed some light and helped you understand that the only way to a healthy life is not a pill but a clean diet and lifestyle modifications. 

If you’re just starting on this journey, you must know everyone here at the Natural Heart Doctor is here to guide you through this life-changing transition. We offer a complimentary 20-minute health consultation with an experienced NHD health coach to be your expert guide to a healthier heart and happier, healthier you. 

NHD also offers advanced lipid testing through an Advanced Cardiac Panel to provide a baseline of your lipid levels and help guide your treatment over the coming months.

You’ve taken the first step by seeking in-depth, accurate information about cholesterol and your heart. We are here to walk you through the rest of your heart-healthy journey.


You may also enjoy these posts...

About Dr. Keith Smigiel NP, DC

Dr. Keith Smigiel

Dr. Keith Smigiel is a regenerative medicine physician and pain management specialist. He takes an integrative approach to medicine, focusing on customized solutions tailored to individual needs. Using advanced, non-surgical treatments, Dr. Smigiel stimulates your body’s ability to naturally heal itself.

Dr. Smigiel helps people suffering from conditions such as chronic pain and erectile dysfunction, to hair loss and weight gain. Combining treatments such as PRP Therapy, Ozone, Neural Prolotherapy, and IV Infusions with functional rehabilitation, he helps you look and feel better.

He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

Dr. Smigiel is married to Angela and has two children, Sophia and Larz. When he’s not busy helping patients, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, motocross, and boating.

About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

Beyond guideline-directed therapies, Kneller is passionate about optimized personal health. With a deep interest in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), he strives to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, and exposure to harmful radiation. With Natural Heart Doctor, he strives to help each and every client to Live Well, Eat Well, and Think Well to attain their 100-year heart!

About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

Dr. Lattanza Office Visit with Patient

As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

Dr. Wolfson Office Visit with Patient

Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

He has been named one of America’s Top Functional Medicine Doctors and is a five-time winner of the Natural Choice Awards as a holistic M.D. Dr. Wolfson’s work has been covered by more than 100 media outlets, including NBC, CNN, and the Washington Post. His book “The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health” was an Amazon #1 best-seller.

Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.


Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

IV Therapy

We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.


Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Cardio Tests

We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Office Visits

Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.