On this site we share a lot of great information on how we can better control our cholesterol numbers and support our efforts in discovering new ways to lower our counts to healthier levels, be it through more effective medication, diet, new therapies, or exercise. However, there can be too much of a good thing as recent studies have pointed out to the negative effects that a very low cholesterol count can have on one's mental health.
Because May is Mental Health Month, it is important to better understand the relationship between mental health and heart health. As it turns out, some studies have associated low total cholesterol level with depression and anxiety, perhaps because low cholesterol may reduce levels of the brain chemical serotonin - decreased serotonin is linked to depression, anger, sleep loss and other problems. Additionally, pregnant women who have low total cholesterol may be more likely to give birth prematurely and have babies who have low birth weights.
Normally, this will occur when total cholesterol numbers drop below 160 mg/dl, as reported by Lisa Nelson, RN, in this HealthCentral article from October. Additionally, as Lisa points out in her excellent article, cholesterol is actually a "healing agent" and is needed to produce new cells whenever healing is required. For example, cholesterol levels drastically increase after surgery, infections, and even heart attacks as part of the healing process.
In another HealthCentral article published by Dr. William Davis, Dr. Davis points to a very interesting relationship between low levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and stress. As he summarized, high levels of stress can almost literally eat away at HDL levels, which in turn can increase the risk of depression. While it is understood that a low cholesterol count is generally a very good thing, a study published by the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2009 found that men with low total cholesterol and depression were at very high risk for premature death from "external causes" including suicide, drug overdose, accidental poisoning and unintended injuries.
As we continue to navigate through our journey to better heart health it is important to maintain vigilance and better understanding over one's cholesterol numbers, and I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining high levels of HDL (check out my entry title Altering Lifestyle Can Make a Difference in Your Fight Against High Cholesterol) by being more optimistic and engaging in activities that bring you happiness and satisfaction, especially during this Mental Health Month.
Published On: May 18, 2010