Cholesterol & Lower Back Pain

Cholesterol & Lower Back Pain
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High cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis in the vertebral arteries that nourish our spine, and result in disc degeneration and lower back pain—a leading cause of disability.

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Every part of the body needs sufficient blood flow to function properly. Cholesterol can clog arteries in our inner and outer organs, causing heart attacks, strokes, and sexual dysfunction. But what about blood flow to our spine?

Our spines are very vascular, and cholesterol clogs in the vertebral arteries can lead to the degeneration of our disks and lower back pain—the second leading cause of disability. Autopsy studies confirm this is what happens when your cholesterol gets too high. This is what the openings to the arteries in your back should look like (on the left), and on the right, you can see how clogged off they are.

With the standard Western diet, atheromatous plaques begin to appear early in adult life, and by the age of 20, roughly 10% of the population already has advanced lesions.

Smoking and high serum cholesterol levels were found to have the most consistent associations with disc degeneration and low back pain. Much of back pain-related disability appears to be an open or shut case, depending on our diet.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to LadyofHats via Wikimedia Commons.

Every part of the body needs sufficient blood flow to function properly. Cholesterol can clog arteries in our inner and outer organs, causing heart attacks, strokes, and sexual dysfunction. But what about blood flow to our spine?

Our spines are very vascular, and cholesterol clogs in the vertebral arteries can lead to the degeneration of our disks and lower back pain—the second leading cause of disability. Autopsy studies confirm this is what happens when your cholesterol gets too high. This is what the openings to the arteries in your back should look like (on the left), and on the right, you can see how clogged off they are.

With the standard Western diet, atheromatous plaques begin to appear early in adult life, and by the age of 20, roughly 10% of the population already has advanced lesions.

Smoking and high serum cholesterol levels were found to have the most consistent associations with disc degeneration and low back pain. Much of back pain-related disability appears to be an open or shut case, depending on our diet.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to LadyofHats via Wikimedia Commons.

Doctor's Note

The three most common causes of disability in the United States are arthritis, lower back pain, and heart disease, all of which can be affected by diet. For arthritis, see Diet & Rheumatoid Arthritis and Preventing Arthritis. Also, be sure to check out my many videos on heart disease. Good places to start include the story about my own grandmother’s disability—Resuscitating Medicare—as well as Heart Attacks and Cholesterol: Purely a Question of DietOur Number One Killer Can Be StoppedChina Study On Sudden Cardiac ArrestConvergence of Evidence; and Eliminating the #1 Cause of Death. And for more on the impact of cholesterol on quality of life issues, see Cholesterol and Female Sexual Dysfunction

Also, be sure to check out my associated blog posts for more context:  The Most Anti-Inflammatory Mushroom, and Plant-Based Diets for Psoriasis.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

32 responses to “Cholesterol & Lower Back Pain

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  1. The three most common causes of disability in the United States are arthritis, lower back pain, and heart disease, all of which can be affected by diet. For arthritis, see Diet & Rheumatoid Arthritis and Preventing Arthritis. There are 89 videos on heart disease. Good places to start include the story about my own grandmother’s disability, Resuscitating Medicare, as well as Heart Attacks and Cholesterol: Purely a Question of Diet, Our Number One Killer Can Be Stopped, China Study On Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Convergence of Evidence and Eliminating the #1 Cause of Death. And for more on the impact of cholesterol on quality of life issues, see yesterday’s video. FYI, there are also hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.




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  2. Absolutely fascinating Dr Gregor!

    Perhaps this information can truly be extrapolated to a great deal of the chronic pain and dysfunction many Americans suffer daily — which also leads to many surgeries for joint replacement and arthroplasty. Let’s not forget replacement or surgically altered contours are not better than Nature’s original…….let alone the cost and associated surgical complications.

    The health perhaps of our intervertebral discs and the cartilage lining the knees, hip and shoulder joints would all seem to benefit from improved widened and clear arteries. How could they not?

    In short, just another good reason to follow a low-fat vegan diet.
    Thank you!




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  3. Thank you for your informative videos. I really enjoy the human body vascular system visual you used in the last few videos in order to show the connection between all these diseases of poor circulation (heart disease, erectile dysfunction, degenerative disk disease). I know your grandmother had intermittent claudication and got better very quickly on the Pritikin diet. Would it be possible for you to do a short 1-2 minute video on intermittent claudication and how quickly it can be reversed on a plant-based diet? I have a few family members who could benefit from such a video. Similarly, the visual concept could be extended to discuss other serious diseases associated with poor circulation like macular degeneration, hearing loss, periodontitis, aortic aneurysm, bowel infarction, kidney failure, and gangrene.




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  4. Thank you for making all of this information available in such a concise format. I was recently informed about this website and it truly is a gold mine for knowledge. Consider this a blanket appreciation post otherwise you would find similar posts on each video and blog :). Love and respect your way for all the effort you put into this website.




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    1.  You are so sweet, Rudy, to take the time to write such kind words. As you can imagine the site has totally taken over my life yet it’s all worth it when I hear such heartfelt appreciation and see people describing how it’s helped themselves and their families eat healthier–I hope you’re having a great weekend!




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  5. So if a plant based diet will help or “cure” intermittent claudication what will it actually do to help lower back pain? 




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  6. Reading your information here in Phuket Dr Greger. Thanks so much for the hours and hours of reading, deciphering and summarizing!! If your married, your wife must be the patient lady on earth!! I love the way all the information is not only informative but easy to understand. As a non medical person, the sheer volume of complicated terminology and the complicated layout of volumes of medical journals out there would drive anyone crazy. Your passion and the sense of purpose to enable anyone lucky enough to find your website, to become healthier, happier and far more aware of their

    own bodies and how easy it is to healthy. I just keep sending my husband and all my friends your brilliant videos!!!
    Thanks

    Debra




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  7. I have been exercising my dietary choices by eliminating all animal products and switching to a mostly raw food menu. Dr. Gregor may have lengthened my life by his videos. My personal physician told me recently that my pre-hypertension was progressing and graduating to hypertension. I’m hoping that by losing 26 lbs I might be able to reverse this degeneration of my body. Tonight I made a Tabbouleh and it was delicious. Thanks Dr. Gregor. You deserve an award.




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    1. Frank you might also want to search for The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall. His eating plan is so successful and painless for weight loss, is plant based, whole food and no oil. Please take a look.




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  8. Looking into nutrition for resolving back pain is like looking into the cavemen diet for resolving the coronary artery disease. If you study the work of Prof. Dr. McGill (e.g. Low Back Disorders, Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation) you will see that nearly ALL cases of back pain are due to mechanical factors. But, of course, at first this might be hard to believe because the industry says otherwise – but once you look at the RESEARCH (where load bearing and injury mechanisms are actually MEASURED and not just totally and 100% ignored) you will understand.




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    1. having that statement out of the way, I find a link between diet and atherosclerosis and back pain refreshing and interesting, but as a high-carb vegan and follower of Dr. Greger’s advice not surprising.




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  9. Dr Gregor!

    I went vegan 6 months ago after being in so much back pain (2 slipped disks), where no physiotherapist that i saw could fix it. It was horrible and debilitating. 2 days after eating so many fruits and vegetables and getting rid of animal products i had no pain.. even to the point where i could swim, cycle and run again at a very fast pace. Since then i got back into exercise and it has been great. Until last week i noticed i was eating less and sleeping less due to exams at university and the pain came back. Then once again i upped my caloric intake of fruits, vegetables and grains and the pain just goes away! I find it so astonishing! The strange thing was that the pain that came back was just as chronic as it was before. Im 27 year old female. Anyway just thought i would share because everyone thinks I’m crazy that i healed my body with a plant based diet and they think it was just the placebo effect!

    Keep doing what your doing Dr Gregor because you are helping make a huge impact on people!! <3




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  10. Good Morning Mister Gregor and Team,
    I have a generally understanding question. Like we known is the Cholesterol responsible for the Plaque in the Arteries (simple spoken). Here in Germany is the blood test ok, if the Cholesterol is between 150 – 200 mg/dl. Most of physicians and normal people believe than, that they are save for plaque in there Arteries. At China Study of Mister Champbell I read, that the generally measured part of Bloodcholesterol by Chinese has been enormously under them of the western world. And you mention in a video, according to a study, that a lots of young people under 20 already developed arteriosclerosis (at leased has been plaque seen).
    Now my question – is it wrong when I made the conclusion that also a man oder a women can develop low back pain as a early stadium of bad supply of there discs because the start to develop a arteriosclerosis, despite they have a measured cholesterol between 150 to 200 mg/dl bloodcholesterol?
    Or is this thinking totally out of way?




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    1. Steffen, I know that many medical establishments say that a total cholesterol between 150 and 200 is OK. But Dr. Esselstyn (in his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease – as well as some free videos on the web) says that the ideal is to get under 150 total (and under 70 LDL). Dr. Greger also has a videos and articles about the “magic” 150/70 numbers. Here is one such video:
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-prevent-high-blood-pressure-with-diet/
      Bottom line is: a total cholesterol over 150 is still too high.

      So, I’m thinking that yes, someone could have a total cholesterol between 150 and 200 and have lower back pain due to problems with blood circulation/heart disease. But I don’t know if this is true for any particular person/situation. And I’m not an expert. Just giving you my understanding as a lay person.




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  11. Is there another source of information about lower back pain that is equal to the caliber or Dr. Greger? I’m seeking stretching and exercise instructions.




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  12. I knew it!!! My husband’s doctors are completely clueless. When his back pain started to improve some after we went plantbased they had no explanation and were shocked.

    He became disabled at 21 year and old with four herniated discs and degenerative disc disease.

    After going plantbased at 31, his pain has started to improve some and his quality of life is better, although he’s still in pain.

    It make sure perfect sense that the same fat that can clog the heart can also clog the arteries around the spine and cause issues.




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  13. On your last Q&A session last week when you were running on a treadmill, someone asked what you drank everyday and you said that you drank something I can’t remember and what the reason was for .. but it was either Pomegranate or cherry juice I think?? Can you let me know
    Karen from the UK




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  14. Yet another reason to get your cholesterol under control… Just don’t think that statins are the answer! There are things you can do that actually fix the root of the problem instead of using a bandaid solution like statins.

    A good place to start – and I’m sure people are tired of hearing it by now – fix your diet and start exercising. No excuses.




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