Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the No. 1 cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. The top risk factors, hypertension, dyslipidemia, smoking, diabetes and obesity are poorly treated, often with toxic pharmaceutical drugs, and most patients never reach their goals. There are also more than 400 coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors and mediators now proven.
Many physicians fail to measure or do not know about the other risk factors, and thus do not treat them. The basic mechanisms of CVD are inflammation, oxidative stress, autoimmune dysfunction (which leads to endothelial dysfunction), and arterial compliance abnormalities.
The following statistics are based upon women and heart disease:
• Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
• Heart disease causes one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
• An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease.
• Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
• Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.
• The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women and men, and are often misunderstood.
• While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, one in three dies of heart disease.
What causes heart disease?
Your heart disease risk at age 70 or 80 is determined by your risk factors when you are age 40. Risk factors you have direct control over include: smoking, lack of exercise, low vitamin D levels, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, stress, and poor diet.
Dietary intake of cholesterol such as raw milk, pastured butter and eggs does NOT elevate blood levels of cholesterol. Food items such as white flour, wheat, hydrogenated oils, trans fats, gluten, sugar, margarine, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, flavors and colorings, and omega-6 fats from vegetable oils are what promote systemic inflammation and are poisonous to your heart, waistline and overall health.
A study in the journal Cardiology Research and Practice reports that long-term adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet results in significant improvements in several risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
3 things you may not know
1. Elevated C-Reactive Protein (CRP), Homocysteine, HbA1c and Fasting Insulin CRP is a blood test that is used as a marker of inflammation in the arteries. Fasting insulin is a test that screens for diabetes and heart disease, but it’s 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.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that hyperglycemia is related to cardiac damage independent of atherosclerosis. Elevated levels of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), a blood marker for chronic hyperglycemia and diabetes, is also a blood marker for inflammation and heart damage.
The amino acid, Homocysteine, is a test that predicts your likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. Elevated homocysteine levels are linked to other diseases including atherosclerosis and dementia.
A simple blood test will will determine if you have elevated levels of homocysteine, insulin, HbA1c, glucose and CRP.
Sources of Inflammation — A poor diet, oxidative stress, unresolved emotions, gum disease, being overweight, injuries, eating foods you’re sensitive to, gluten, smoking, long-term infections, existing heart condition, diabetes, and too little or too much exercise all increase inflammation.
2. 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.
Healthy saturated fats such as coconut oil decrease your risk of heart disease and improve your lipid profile, prevent bone loss, kill Candida, help balance hormones, boost immune health, and are nourishing for your thyroid, brain and nervous system.
Avoid vegetable fats, canola oil, soybean oil, trans-fats and hydrogenated often found in processed, packaged, junk and fast foods. These toxic fats are responsible for raising LDL cholesterol, lowering HDL cholesterol, increasing inflammation and your risk of heart disease.
3. Cholesterol is a steroid found in all body cells and blood and a precursor to hormone production, vitamin D and bile production. Cholesterol is a repair substance that controls free radial damage. Up to 80 percent of cholesterol is produced in your liver. It is needed for proper hormone function, and is vital to brain function activating the release of neurotransmitters.
Testing In addition to the basic testing for cholesterol (HDL, LDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol), particle number and particle size along with other risk factors like remnant lipoprotein (RLP), Lp(a), Apo-B-100, and as stated above homocysteine, CRP and fasting insulin should be tested.
Heart healthy diet tips
Consume eight servings of leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables daily. Doing so will dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease and is an excellent way to increase fiber intake.
People who followed this simple, easy and effective method for a study published in the European Heart Journal had a 22 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease.
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, hydrogenated trans fats, HFCS, a congested liver, inflammation, and/or hormone imbalances such as hypothyroid. Emotional and physical stress can also influence cholesterol levels. In general, cholesterol is increased in most endocrine or organ hypofunction, and decreased in most endocrine and organ hyperfunction.
If a person has elevated cholesterol levels, it’s a sign that their body, emotions, or intellect are under excessive stress. The majority of excess cholesterol is manufactured in times of psychological stress and dehydration. Elevated LDL levels can be caused from blood imbalances, oxidative stress or because your body is attempting to produce hormones.
Testosterone is vital for more than just sex drive; it’s important for heart health. Testosterone levels decline as we age. Those with low testosterone are more likely to have elevated cholesterol, heart attacks and diabetes.
A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that high vitamin D levels are associated with a significant increase in HDL cholesterol, and significant decreases in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Cholesterol is necessary and healthy because it is involved in cellular repair and reducing inflammation. It is oxidized cholesterol that is unhealthy. Elevated triglycerides, in conjunction with a low HDL, versus a high cholesterol total by itself are risk factors for disease.
The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that normal cholesterol was considered to be around 200. Today, normal is considered 160.
So much has been written concerning the evils of increased cholesterol, however, very little has been reported concerning decreased cholesterol. Decreased cholesterol can be normal for a vegetarian and some people with a genetic predisposition. However, cholesterol levels <160 are associated with a compromised immune system, an increased risk of depression, anxiety, respiratory illness, stroke and brain-related deaths such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. In addition, those with cholesterol <160 cannot manufacture sex hormones. A total cholesterol <140 is one of the red flags of cancer (JAMA, December 1980).
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of two books, “The Power of 4” and “Fat Loss Revolution.” She is a nutritionist and fitness expert with more than 25 years of experience, and creator of “21 Days to a Leaner, Healthier You,” an online exercise and fat-loss program. Visit Paula at www.PaulaOwens.com.