For decades, doctors have told millions of Americans with high cholesterol that they're at risk of heart disease...
It's exaggerated nonsense, of course. Longtime readers know cholesterol isn't the danger mainstream medicine wants you to think it is.
I guarantee that I'll have doctors e-mailing me (send your letters, good or bad, to [email protected]), but cholesterol has nothing to do with the real cause of heart disease.
When it comes to your cholesterol, your doctor will probably focus on a single number – your "total cholesterol." That number reflects your high-density lipoprotein (HDL), your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and one-fifth of your triglycerides.
HDL is commonly referred to as "good" cholesterol and LDL is referred to as "bad" cholesterol. Triglycerides are another type of fat that create fat stores to use as energy. (You can read more about these in my issue "Don't Be a Lab Result.")
Doctors regularly overtreat folks with high cholesterol using statins, even if their LDL is barely over the threshold.
And as if that weren't enough, now we have panic-inducing headlines from the other side...
Researchers now claim that women with low LDL numbers have a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
There were lots of issues with this study, which came from researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Most significant, researchers only measured cholesterol levels once and, on average, checked in with participants 19 years later. Nobody recorded cholesterol levels at the time of the stroke for the purposes of the study.
Here's the thing... A woman's overall risk of having extremely low cholesterol is low. One study found only about 3% of women have what you'd consider "too low" LDL levels (around 50 mg/dL). And hemorrhagic strokes are rare. Ischemic strokes, which happen when a plaque is blocking the blood vessel, account for about 87% of all strokes.
So the increased risk the researchers found was small. And for most folks, it's not something they'd face.
Still, we're happy to see researchers challenging the standard myth that high cholesterol causes heart disease, the No. 1 one killer in the U.S. We're not surprised that they confirmed that our brains need cholesterol to function properly. Having levels that are too low is dangerous.
Do what I do... Don't worry much about cholesterol. And pay no attention to the headlines as they switch back and forth about whether eggs are good or bad for you. Cholesterol-heavy foods like eggs, butter, and fish all have great health benefits... and they always will.
Q: I really dislike the taste of coffee, but I've developed a taste for Frappuccino. Will this give me the same benefits as coffee or does the added sugar offset any positive gains? – J.H.
A: Both regular and decaf coffee contain antioxidants. The main ones are hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols. Caffeine is also a type of antioxidant.
What the antioxidants do well is fight off inflammation. You trigger chronic inflammation from a poor diet, meaning lots of processed foods. It also comes from a sedentary lifestyle.
But drinking coffee with a ton of sugar effectively cancels out the benefits, since sugar and sugar substitutes cause inflammation.
If you order a grande (medium) caramel Frappuccino at Starbucks, you're drinking 66 grams of sugar. To put that in perspective, that's about five chocolate frosted donuts.
That means you're likely not just undoing any benefits from the coffee, you're actually setting yourself up for a host of health problems... like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
So if you can't stomach coffee without mounds of sugar, skip it.
Q: In response to J. W., I have a brokerage account, a Traditional IRA account and a Roth IRA account at Fidelity. I have all three accounts qualified for spread options. The IRA accounts do not have margin approval, Fidelity does not allow it for IRA accounts. (Actually, it maybe because you cannot pledge or borrow on an IRA account, so Fidelity is being conservative to make sure something is not done to disqualify the IRA's and cause them to become taxable. I also sell naked puts in the IRA accounts, the catch being I must have enough cash in the IRA account to cover buying the stock if the option is exercised.
I suggest that J.W. actually call Fidelity, if he hasn't already, they have been very helpful when I call them. – B.M.
A: We've had several subscribers write in about problems with their brokers, so thanks for sharing this tip, B.M.
Q: I use iPhones Screen Time my daily average is four hours (I use it 56 min for social media, email, texting and phoning, and I guess another hour online, researching and reading I don't know where the other two hours go. – B.A.
A: In our issue about cell phone dangers, we recommended the app QualityTime. It tracks how many times you unlock your phone and breaks down your usage by app as well.
QualityTime, however, is only available on Android phones. If you have an iPhone, Screen Time is a good program, but a bit tricky to navigate. We recommend checking all of your settings, which you can see here.
But one of our proofreaders clued us in to another time tracker hack for iPhones. Simply go to Settings, then Battery. You'll see an option for 24 hours or one for either seven or 10 days (depending on your software version). Below that is a list of apps you've used and the percentage of battery used on each one. But if you click on Show Activity, it will change the percentages to time – in other words, how long you've spent on each app. If your phone runs the iOS 12 operating system, you should be able to access this.
If you have any other suggestions for good time management apps, feel free to send them our way: [email protected].
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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
July 5, 2019