Worried About Future Heart Attack? Check Your LDL Cholesterol Particle Number (LDL-P)

…according to Drs. Thomas Dayspring and James Underberg. I don’t know if these guys are right or not. I bet it’s more complicated than simple LDL particle number.

Even if you eat lots of eggs, most of your cholesterol is made by your liver. That's where statin drugs work.

Even if you eat lots of eggs, most of your cholesterol is made by your liver. That’s where statin drugs work.

Most heart attacks (aka myocardial infarctions) do indeed seem to be caused by acute rupture of an atherosclerotic plaque that’s been present for years. Two key questions are:

  1. What causes the plaque?
  2. Why causes them to rupture?

Underberg and Dayspring write:

The only absolute requirement for plaque development is the presence of cholesterol in the artery: although there are additional heart risk factors like smoking, hypertension, obesity, family history, diabetes, kidney disease, etc., none of those need to be present. Unfortunately, measuring cholesterol in the blood, where it cannot cause plaque, until recently has been the standard of risk-testing. That belief was erroneous and we now have much better biomarkers to use for CV risk-assessment. The graveyard and coronary care units are filled with individuals whose pre-death cholesterol levels were perfect. We now understand that the major way cholesterol gets into the arteries is as a passenger, in protein-enwrapped particles, called lipoproteins.

Particle entry into the artery wall is driven by the amount of particles (particle number) not by how much cholesterol they contain. Coronary heart disease is very often found in those with normal total or LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) levels in the presence of a high LDL particle number (LDL-P). By far, the most common underlying condition that increases LDL particle concentration is insulin resistance, or prediabetes, a state where the body actually resists the action of the sugar controlling hormone insulin. This is the most common scenario where patients have significant heart attack risk with perfectly normal cholesterol levels. The good news is that we can easily fix this, sometimes without medication. The key to understanding how comes with the knowledge that the driving forces are dietary carbohydrates, especially fructose and high-fructose corn syrup. In the past, we’ve often been told that elimination of saturated fats from the diet would help solve the problem. That was bad advice. The fact is that until those predisposed to insulin resistance drastically reduce their carbohydrate intake, sudden deaths from coronary heart disease and the exploding diabetes epidemic will continue to prematurely kill those so afflicted.


And for goodness’ sake, if you want to live longer, start reducing the amount of dietary carbohydrates, including bread, potatoes, rice, soda and sweetened beverages (including fruit juices), cereal, candy – the list is large).

Underberg and Dayspring don’t mention don’t mention LDL particle size, such as small/dense and large/fluffy; the former are thought by many to be much more highly atherogenic. Is that outdated?

Whoever figures out the immediate cause of plaque rupture and how to reliably prevent it will win a Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Read the whole enchilada.

Steve Parker, M.D.

About Dayspring and Underberg:

Thomas Dayspring MD, FACP, FNLA   Director of Cardiovascular Education, The Foundation for Health Improvement and Technology, Richmond, VA. Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School.

James Underberg MD, FACP, FNLA   Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at NYU Medical School and the NYU Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention . Director of the Bellevue Hospital Primary Care Lipid Management Clinic.

h/t Dr. Axel Sigurdsson


Filed under coronary heart disease, Heart Disease, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Worried About Future Heart Attack? Check Your LDL Cholesterol Particle Number (LDL-P)

  1. David

    Didn’t Linus Pauling figure this out already and came up with a solution using Vit C, Lysine and Proline.

  2. Bill

    Dr. Peter Attia has done a series of posts on cholesterol.
    In this one he shows why LDL-P matters most:


  3. I recently had a full lipid panel done by Spectra Cell. My total LDL was in a perfect range and I did have plenty of Type A particles, but my LDL(a) type IV particles were slightly elevated. The MD I talked to said to take 1000mg of turmeric. I’m also a little low in oleic acid, so I’m focusing more on olive oil, avocados, and almonds than on the coconut oil and MCTs I was using all summer.