According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Many of us know people who have had a heart attack or stroke. Most people try to lower their risk of heart disease by eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, do more cardio workouts, or take pharmaceutical drugs like Statins. The idea is that a high fat, high cholesterol diet, along with obesity, high blood pressure, and some other factors lead to heart disease. People have been following this plan for thirty years, yet over the past thirty years, obesity and diabetes have skyrocketed, and heart disease is still the leading cause of death. Has anyone stopped to ask why?
Thankfully, more and more research has been done on the topic of heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, etc. What did we find out? Dietary fat is not the problem – it’s the starch. (Low-fat diets are usually higher in starch.) Cholesterol, in and of itself, does not cause heart disease. And weight training and interval training is better than extended cardio workouts. There is also more information coming out about cholesterol-lowering drugs that we’ll have to keep an eye on. (I suggest you do a little research on your own, and talk to your doctor.).
There are many types of diets people are doing these days. Mediterranean Diet, Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo Diet, Blood Type Diet, Adkins Diet, etc. Which one is best? Honestly, it depends on each individual. Different things work for different people. That being said, most of these healthy diet plans have something in common – a reduction in simple carbs. People often get confused when talking about carbs. So, let’s make a distinction. For those who promote a high-carb diet, they are referring to complex (good) carbs, such as vegetables. For those who promote a low-carb diet, they are referring to simple/refined (bad) carbs, such as bread, pasta, etc. Yes, veggies and bread are both carbs. This is why people can argue in favor of and against a high-carb diet and both be right.
Similarly, all fats were grouped together into one category and considered bad. It turns out that fat is not only good for you but necessary. Like carbs, there are good fats and bad fats. Saturated fats and trans-fats have been shown to raise blood cholesterol that could lead to plaque buildup and heart disease. Conversely, essential fatty acids are healthy fats. Keep in mind, vitamins A,D,E, and K are fat-soluble which means fat is needed for the absorption of these vitamins. (On a side note, have you noticed that many doctors are prescribing Fish oil and Vitamin D these days? Why might that be?). So, don’t be afraid of good fats like olive oil, flax seed oil, etc. Coconut oil is also healthy, although it is a saturated fat. Some natural health people maintain that saturated fat is also necessary for good health. Keep an eye out for the latest news. Until more research is done, I’d say to avoid most saturated fats.
What about cholesterol? As it turns out, cholesterol does not cause heart disease. I know some people’s heads may explode when they read this. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out yourself. According to the Framingham Heart Study, seventy-five percent of the people who had heart attacks had normal cholesterol levels. The same study also said that “80% of heart attack patients had similar lipid levels to those who did not have heart attacks.” Furthermore, according to research done at the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale University, nearly twice as many people with low cholesterol had heart attacks when compared to those with high cholesterol levels. (Journal of the American Medical Association, 1994.) To be clear, plaque buildup is bad but not the presence of cholesterol. Here are some of the health effects of cholesterol: plays a role in creating hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, DHEA, and progesterone; helps make cell membranes, protects nerve sheaths, and provides energy to cells. Our bodies produce cholesterol, and research has shown the amount of dietary cholesterol does not affect your blood cholesterol. So, eggs are back on the menu. Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Steven Nissen told USA Today: “It’s the right decision. We got the dietary guidelines wrong. They’ve been wrong for decades.”
According to Dr. Mercola, “As recently as 2010, US dietary guidelines described cholesterol-rich foods as “foods and food components to reduce.” They advised people to eat less than 300 milligrams (mg) per day, despite mounting evidence that dietary cholesterol has very little to do with cholesterol levels in your body.
Now, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has done a complete about-face. They are finally acknowledging what the science shows, which is that “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.””
What about exercise? A Harvard study found that interval training reduced heart disease risk by 20%. (Harvard Alumni Health Study, Circulation, 2000.) Interval training not only reduces cholesterol levels but can improve cholesterol ratios, raising HDL and lowering LDL. Research at Colorado State University found that people doing interval exercises were able to continue burning fat 16 hours after exercising. The study also showed that fat oxidation increased by 62% and the metabolic rate increased by 4%.
Another study done at Laval University in Québec compared high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with the typical long-duration cardio workout. They discovered that although the long-duration group burned more calories, the HIIT group lost more fat. For every calorie burned, the HIIT group lost nine times more fat! (Metabolism, 1994.) So, with regard to heart health, reducing your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, stroke, diabetes, and obesity, I recommend a HIIT workout. If you are my client, you have experienced this, and you know what I’m talking about.
Lastly, I want to mention cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as Statins. I’m not a doctor, so I’m going to quote some doctors and studies for you. Please talk to your doctor about any pharmaceuticals you may be taking. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute conducted the Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial to test the effectiveness of cholestryramine, a cholesterol-lowering drug. According to Dr. Al Sears, MD, “what it all boils down to is that these cholesterol-lowering drugs lowered cholesterol, but they did not decrease deaths from heart attacks.” Just as importantly, Dr. Sears also says, “Statins block an antioxidant system important to your cardiovascular health and rob your organs of this crucial nutrient. Statins can also make you chronically fatigued and cause muscle aches. They also stimulate cancer growth in rodents. In human studies, breast cancer was more common in women who took the drug than those in the control group.” Statins also have side effects including liver toxicity, digestive issues, muscle inflammation and weakness, kidney failure, etc.
One study done in Finland found that Statins decrease antioxidant levels by as much as 22%. Another study showed that Zocor increases insulin levels by 13% which actually increases the risk of diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension, and heart disease! (Health Sciences Institute.). The Physicians’ Desk Reference lists the side effects of Lipitor as: liver dysfunction, liver failure, kidney failure, constipation, insomnia, tinnitus, and high blood pressure. So, if you’re having any of these health issues, and you’re taking a statin drug, they may be connected.
What’s the solution? First, there are five blood tests you can use to get a good picture of your heart health:
Talk to your doctor about these. Homocysteine measures the health of your antioxidant system. The higher your levels of homocysteine, the greater your risk of heart disease. You can keep your homocysteine levels down with adequate amounts of B-vitamins. C-reactive protein measures the amount of inflammation, injury or infection. The higher the level of C-reactive protein, the higher your risk of heart disease. Both the British Journal of Urology and the New England Journal of Medicine have published studies regarding the relationship between C-reactive protein and heart health. Elevated CRP levels may also be linked to rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever, cancer, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.
Next, eat a clean diet. Avoid GMO foods. If you eat beef, pork, or chicken, make sure they haven’t been shot up with hormones, antibiotics, etc. Eat free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, etc. Cut down on starches, bread, pasta, cakes, cookies, sugar, soda, etc. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Drink fresh pressed fruit and vegetable juice. Avoid store-bought, processed fruit juices. Eat foods low on the Glycemic Index. Eggs (including the yolk) are good.
Exercise. Don’t forget to exercise. High Intensity Interval Workouts are best, if you can do them. Of course, if you’ve recently had a heart attack or stroke, check with your doctor to make sure you’re able to work out. You may want to start by just walking.
Nutritional supplementation. My first suggestion to my clients is to do a detox, so you can get the toxins out of your system and let your internal organs and immune system work properly. After that, I suggest a good multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. Dr. Sears recommends, in addition to a multi:
500 mg L-carnitine
500 mg L-arginine
500 IU Vitamin E
1000-3000 mg Vitamin C
100 mg CoQ10
50 mg niacin
For High Blood Pressure, he also suggests some herbs including:
That should help give you some direction with regard to heart health. If you need further assistance, please feel free to give me a call, text, or email to arrange an appointment. I suggest you read The Doctor’s Heart Cure by Dr. Al Sears (which is where I got much of this information), Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter, and any other books you can find on heart health.
If you would like to get some lab tests done to check your cardiovascular risk, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic risk, inflammation, genetic predisposition, or hormone balance, please let me know.