What is the CAC test and why should you care?
If you’ve been following a low-carb or ketogenic diet for a while, there’s a chance your cholesterol has gone up. And not just your HDL, but also your LDL—the so-called “bad cholesterol” (even though that’s a total misnomer). Maybe your cholesterol has actually gone sky-high, and your doctor not only wants you to start taking medication immediately, but she’s also ordered you to quit your “crazy” high fat diet. Even if you follow some other kind of diet—Paleo, vegetarian, low fat, or no special plan at all—maybe your cholesterol is high, and you’ve been told you need medication, or that you should exercise more.
Your doctor is only looking out for your best interest, but if they’re not up on the latest research, they might not know that your cholesterol level tells you very little about your risk for cardiovascular disease or a heart attack:
There’s “a growing volume of knowledge that challenges the validity of the cholesterol hypothesis and the utility of cholesterol as a surrogate end point.” (DuBroff, 2017)
It’s possible to have low cholesterol but massive heart disease, or to have very high cholesterol but be in great cardiovascular shape.
If you don’t want to start a war with your doctor, but you also don’t want to abandon a way of eating that’s helped you lose weight, have more energy, and maybe even reduce or eliminate diabetes medications, you can experiment with lowering your cholesterol by using the Feldman Protocol, which we featured here at Heads Up Health. But there’s a much better way to evaluate your cardiovascular health than just looking at cholesterol. It’s called the coronary artery calcium test (CAC). We’ll explore it in detail in a bit. First, let’s look a little closer at the problems with using cholesterol as an indicator of heart health.