Ronald Grisanti D.C., D.A.B.C.O., DACBN, MS, CFMP
When you have a routine physical or blood work done, cholesterol panels are usually included to not only look at total cholesterol, but to look at the other types of cholesterol that can have both beneficial and detrimental effects on your health.
Cholesterol is needed for a number of essential functions in the body including production of sex hormones, a building block for human tissue, and assists in bile production in the liver.
Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream attached to several different types of protein. The two most common types are: High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and Low-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol is considered to be good for your cardiovascular system, helps remove cholesterol from your blood stream and protects against heart disease. LDL cholesterol is considered to be bad for your cardiovascular system and when elevated can clog arteries and contribute to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Your body needs thyroid hormones to make cholesterol and to get rid of the cholesterol it doesn’t need.
When thyroid hormone levels are low (hypothyroidism), your body doesn’t break down and remove LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as efficiently as usual. LDL cholesterol can then build up in your blood contributing to cardiovascular disease.
Thyroid hormone levels don’t have to be very low to increase cholesterol. Even people with mildly low thyroid levels, called subclinical hypothyroidism, can have higher than normal LDL cholesterol.
A 2012 study found that high TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels alone can directly raise cholesterol levels, even if thyroid hormone levels aren’t low.
Studies reported that patients with TSH levels at the upper limit of the normal range (thus with normal thyroid hormone levels) were more likely to have higher cholesterol levels as compared with those with lower TSH levels. TSH levels have an inverse relation to thyroid hormones. As thyroid hormone levels drop, your body makes more TSH in an attempt to increase your thyroid hormone levels.
Normal TSH is 1.4 — with an ideal range of 0.7 to 2.0. Anything above 2.5 indicates some combination of Metabolic Syndrome and/or Thyroid Insufficiency.
The takeaway is to give focus to your TSH levels in the event you have elevated cholesterol levels, especially LDL cholesterol.
Improving unfavorable cholesterol could be as simple as fixing the thyroid.