Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the No. 1 cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. CVD is one of the most misdiagnosed and mistreated conditions in medicine. The top risk factors for CVD include hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes and obesity, a.k.a. diobesity, and smoking, which are poorly treated and often with toxic pharmaceutical drugs. Many physicians fail to measure or are completely unaware of the other risk factors and, therefore, do not treat them.
The basic mechanisms of CVD (and just about every disease known to man) are inflammation, oxidative stress, autoimmune dysfunction (which leads to endothelial dysfunction), and arterial compliance abnormalities.
What causes heart disease? Your heart disease risk at age 70 or 80 is determined by risk factors at age 40. The risk factors we have direct control over include: smoking, lack of exercise, low vitamin D levels, nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, obesity, blood sugar dysregulation, diabetes, stress and unhealthy food choices.
Contrary to popular belief, dietary intake of cholesterol (grass-fed meats, coconut oil, pastured butter and eggs) does NOT elevate cholesterol, actually quite the opposite. The real villains that are poisonous to your heart and waistline include white flour, wheat, hydrogenated frankenfats and trans fats, gluten, sugar, fake fats such as margarine, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, flavors and colorings, and omega-6 fats from vegetable oils.
About heart disease and heart health
1. Blood markers: elevated C-Reactive Protein (CRP), Homocysteine, HbA1c and Insulin
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is a simple blood test used as a marker of inflammation in the arteries and to determine cardiovascular risk. CRP is a component of the immune system and becomes elevated when inflammation is present in the body whether due to food sensitivities, bacterial or viral infections, diabetes and pre-diabetes, over-exercising, poor diet, obesity, cancer, metabolic syndrome or heart-related conditions. Elevated CRP values do not produce physical symptoms making it an important marker to include as it’s the only way to know if your level is high.
Fasting insulin is a test that screens for diabetes and heart disease, and also a marker for inflammation. The higher your insulin levels are, the more inflammation your body is producing. Hyperglycemia and diabetes are both associated with increased risk of heart disease.
Glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is a form of hemoglobin that identifies the average glucose concentration over prolonged periods of time. HbA1C is a marker that reveals an individual’s diet and the amount of sugar in their system from the previous two to three months. Elevated levels indicate excessive consumption of processed carbs, grains, sugars and/or alcohol.
Elevated HbA1C is strongly linked to chronic hyperglycemia, diabetes, reduced insulin sensitivity, and an increased rick of degenerative and autoimmune disease. It’s also a marker for inflammation and heart damage.
Homocysteine is an amino acid whose balance with methionine reflects methylation status, sulfur metabolism, detoxification and epigenetic modulation. An elevated homocysteine is associated with an increased risk heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis.
Be smart. A simple blood test will determine your homocysteine, insulin, HbA1c, glucose and CRP values.
Sources of Inflammation. A poor diet (high in trans fats, HFCS, vegetable oils, GMOs, sugar, grains, gluten, processed foods), oxidative stress, unresolved emotions, gum disease, being overweight, injuries, eating foods you’re sensitive to, smoking, underlying infections, existing heart condition, diabetes and pre-diabetes, and too little or too much exercise all increase inflammation.
2. Saturated fat. Contrary to popular belief, saturated fat is actually healthy for your heart. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who regularly eat the highest amounts of saturated fats have the least amount of plaque buildup in their arteries, and had a healthier balance of HDL and LDL cholesterols. A large meta-analysis of studies with 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease.
Saturated fats such as coconut oil actually reduce your risk of heart disease and improve lipid profiles, prevent bone loss, kill Candida, help balance hormones, boost immune health, and are nourishing for your thyroid, brain and nervous system.
Avoid vegetable fats including soybean and canola oils, trans-fats and hydrogenated fats found in French fries, microwave popcorn, margarine, donuts, cookies, crackers, and processed, packaged, junk and fast foods. These fake frankenfats are responsible for high LDL and low HDL levels, excessive inflammation, and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and degenerative diseases.
Healthy saturated fats coconut oil; organic grass-fed beef, bison; organic free-range poultry; pastured eggs; pastured grass-fed butter; unpasteurized, raw milk; wild fish.
3. Cholesterol is a steroid found in all body cells and blood. Cholesterol is a precursor to hormone production, vitamin D and bile production, with 80 percent produced in the liver. Cholesterol is a repair substance that controls free radial damage. It is needed for proper hormone function, and is vital to brain function activating the release of nerve hormones, aka neurotransmitters. It’s not the amount of cholesterol in your blood that drives heart disease risk, but the number of LDL particles.
Testing for heart disease
In addition to the basic tests for cholesterol (HDL, LDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol), it’s important to include particle number and particle size along with other risk factors such as remnant lipoprotein (RLP), Lp(a), Apo-B-100, and the other markers listed above.
No one is drug deficient … just nutrient deficient. Statins are now one of the top selling drugs in the U.S. Heart disease is not a Crestor or Lipitor deficiency. Statins come with a laundry list of side effects including liver damage, sexual dysfunction, muscle pain, cognitive dysfunction Coenzyme Q10 depletion, and can increase risk of diabetes and heart disease.
A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that statins increase the risk of diabetes by 71 percent. An analysis by Dr. David Newman in 2010, which drew on large meta-analyses of statins found that 96 percent of those with pre-existing heart disease that took statins for five years, saw no benefit at all. Newman also analyzed the effect of statins given to people with no known heart disease for five years and found 98 percent saw no benefit at all.
Take away message: Do your homework. Your decision to take statin drugs should be factored on your overall risk of heart attack and if you have pre-existing heart disease, the quality of your diet, lifestyle, and correcting nutrient deficiencies. Unless you’re someone that has already had a heart attack, beware if your doctor recommends a statin drug.
Drugs don’t treat the underlying cause. Chronic illness and disease is rooted in what we eat, how much we move, inflammation, gut health, how we deal with and manage stress, nutritional deficiencies, and toxic overload.
Heart health starts with diet. Eat organic leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables like it’s your job. Doing so dramatically reduces risk of heart disease and is an excellent way to increase fiber intake. Those who followed this easy, effective method for a study published in the European Heart Journal had a 22 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease. A simple way to achieve this is with a green smoothie by blending veggies and leafy greens in a Vitamix, Nutri-Bullet or high-powered blender.
If your cholesterol is too high, (>240) the problem is not the cholesterol. Your body has raised its levels in order to play some type of essential role(s) for your survival. The cause of high cholesterol is often due to an overconsumption of starchy carbs, sugars, alcohol, vegetable oils, trans fats, HFCS that result in metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. Other reasons for elevated cholesterol include a congested liver, inflammation, autoimmunity, and/or hormone imbalances such as hypothyroid. Emotional and physical stress also influence cholesterol levels.
If you have high cholesterol, determining the underlying cause is a priority. It is a sign that your body, emotions or intellect are out of balance. Excess cholesterol is manufactured in times of psychological stress, dehydration and a high LDL can be caused from inflammation, autoimmune dysfunction, toxic metal body burdens, oxidative stress, underlying infections, insulin resistance, environmental toxins or because your body is attempting to produce hormones (i.e.: hypothyroid, menopause or andropause). Testosterone, which declines with age, is vital for more than just sex drive; it’s important for heart health.
Clinical pearl according to per Mark Houston, M.D., MSc, SCH, ABAAM, FACP, FAHA: A high HDL (>80) is not necessarily an indication of a super healthy individual. Those with an HDL (>80) are either inflamed, infected or eat a bad diet. Inflammation causes HDL to become dysfunctional, therefore, it’s highly recommended to determine the root cause of an elevated HDL, which can be caused by mycotoxins, inflammation, hidden infections, bad diet or nutritional deficiencies.
So much has been written concerning the evils of increased cholesterol, however, very little has been reported concerning decreased cholesterol. Low cholesterol can be normal for a vegetarian and some people with a genetic predisposition. However, cholesterol levels
A study in the journal Neurology showed that low cholesterol is associated with increased risk of dementia. Studies suggest that low cholesterol can increase the risk of death, especially in women and the elderly. Those with cholesterol
Cholesterol is necessary and healthy because it is involved in cellular repair and reducing inflammation. It’s oxidized cholesterol that is unhealthy. High triglycerides, in conjunction with a low HDL versus a high cholesterol total by itself are risk factors for disease. Women with high cholesterol actually live longer. Higher cholesterol predicts lower risk of death from heart disease.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of two books, is a nutritionist and fitness and fat loss expert with more than 25 years of experience. Visit Paula at www.PaulaOwens.com.