Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra and nutritionist Jonny Bowden have written a book called "The Great Cholesterol Myth." In it they argue that contrary to what we're often told by doctors (and always told by the purveyors of such medications as Lipitor and other cholesterol-lowering drugs), cholesterol in general is not the cause of heart attacks.
Good and bad cholesterol? Talk of LDL and HDL has become common in the past 20 years, but Sinatra and Bowden have a persuasive new angle on that too: There are different types of LDL, one of which - far more common - they say is harmless. You can get tests now that will analyze your LDL profile to determine if it's mostly Type A (not harmful) or Type B (the really bad stuff). Only if yours is heavily "B," do the authors recommend statins, absent known heart problems.
Sounds right to me! I've always supposed this was the case. I imagine that to the extent it probably arises from a fat-heavy diet, a high cholesterol reading might be a sign of other health problems that could affect the heart, such as obesity. But I've never been persuaded that cholesterol itself was a villain, so I've turned down suggestions from physicians who hint of prescribing statins for my borderline* cholesterol, which shows a good percentage of HDL, the "good" version.
*A borderline that, like many another health parameter, keeps moving, inducing further doubt about how meaningful it is.
I can't say that the views expressed in "The Great Cholesterol Myth" are a great relief to me, because I've never modified my diet much just to reduce cholesterol anyway. But it is good to see medical thinking coming around to what I consider is a more sensible approach on this topic.
With a little more work, I'm sure they'll eventually get around to vindicating another of my own personal biases: that high blood pressure is not a cause of heart disease. I consider that it may be a symptom of something not quite right, so I do take a daily dose of something that's supposed to moderate my blood pressure, but I have no confidence whatsoever that it can really prevent any heart problems. Hypertension is the post hoc, but - as in economics - not the prompter hoc.
I may never know, since there's no history of heart problems in my family line. Very possibly, genes are more important than trying to control the uncontrollable. Meanwhile, I'll continue to gnaw on a sausage now and again ... and again.