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Posts Tagged ‘heart disease’

534 cholesterol good for you copy

If you’re one of the many people with high cholesterol, you may have been prescribed statin drugs and told to eat a low-fat diet — the standard advice for decades. However, experts have now reviewed the research and found there is no link between heart disease and total fat, saturated fat, or dietary cholesterol.

Statins made me forget where I parked the car

Cholesterol-lowering statins are among the most commonly prescribed and profitable medications in the world, taken by 25 percent of people over age 45. Touted to keep heart disease at bay, statin drugs are now known to be a cause of serious memory loss  fuzzy thinking, learning difficulties, fatigue, muscle damage, and even diabetes.

Why do statins cause memory loss? The human brain is made up of 60 percent fat, much of that cholesterol. The brain uses cholesterol to build brain chemicals that allow neurons to communicate with one another. Without cholesterol, the brain’s cells eventually die from inactivity. Over time, this results in memory loss and other brain disorders. In studies of the elderly  those with high total cholesterol actually have reduced risk of dementia – likely due to their body’s plentiful supply of this brain-supporting substance.

Cholesterol and heart attack risk

In a review of 72 studies  researchers found that most heart attack patients’ cholesterol levels did not indicate cardiac risk; in fact, 75 percent of them had normal, not high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Even more surprising, 90 percent of them had HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels under 60. Additionally, low HDL is a warning sign for pre-diabetes, and most of these patients had pre-diabetes, or “metabolic syndrome.” We now know that low HDL, not high LDL, is the real driver behind most heart attacks and heart disease, which changes the game on cholesterol management.

What about dietary fat?

Consider the following regarding low-fat diets. (Keep in mind this refers to intake of healthy fats):

  • High-fat diets lower triglycerides  normalize LDL (bad cholesterol), and increase LDL particle size. LDL cholesterol comes in two sizes; large particles that move freely, causing no harm, and small particles that embed in artery walls, causing inflammation the buildup of plaque. You want fluffy large particles.
  • The National Institutes of Health reported that increasing fat intake to 50 percent of calories improved the nutritional status of heart study participants, and didn’t negatively affect heart disease risk factors.
  • The 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reviewed all the research over 40 years and told us to stop worrying about dietary cholesterol, arguing it is “not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”
  • People who consume low-fat diets are at increased risk for depression and suicide (remember how the brain is made from 60 percent fat).
  • And here’s the clincher: Harvard School of Public Health recently admitted that when it comes to disease prevention, low-fat diets don’t appear to offer any special benefits. It’s sugar and refined carbohydrates that contribute to obesity, pre-diabetes, heart disease, and many other health issues.

If not fat, what causes heart disease?

Here are five important factors in heart disease risk:

  • Inflammation in the body.
  • Free radicals that attack LDL and turn it from large (unharmful) into small (harmful) particles.
  • Trans fats that increase inflammation and raise triglycerides.
  • Sugar, which is inflammatory, promotes plaque formation in arteries, and raises stress hormones.
  • Stress, which increases blood pressure and causes other heath issues.

Ask my office how to have better heart health.

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cholesterol and heart disease

Everyone has heard that high cholesterol is bad for heart health. But as it turns out, the association between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease has been somewhat misrepresented. Doctors are starting to accept that cholesterol levels do not necessarily predict risk for heart disease as much as we thought. Consider the following:

  • 75 percent of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol.
  • Older patients with lower cholesterol have a higher risk of death than those with higher cholesterol.
  • Countries with higher average cholesterol than Americans such as the Swiss or Spanish have less heart disease.
  • Recent evidence shows that it is likely statins’ ability to lower inflammation that accounts for the benefits of statins, not their ability to lower cholesterol.

We need cholesterol!

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in every cell in the human body. The liver makes 75 percent of cholesterol. Cholesterol helps produce cell membranes, vitamin D, and vital hormones, and is needed for neurological function. Put bluntly, we would die without it.

The cholesterol players

When we measure cholesterol levels, we are actually measuring the lipoproteins LDL and HDL. We refer to them as cholesterol, but they are actually small packages of fat and protein that help move cholesterol throughout the body.

High-density lipoprotein — HDL

This is considered “good” cholesterol. It helps keep cholesterol away from your arteries and removes excess arterial plaque.

Low-density lipoprotein — LDL

This is considered “bad” cholesterol. It can build up in the arteries, forming plaque that narrows the arteries and makes them less flexible (atherosclerosis).

Also important are:

Triglycerides

Elevated levels of this dangerous fat have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. Levels rise from eating too many sugars and grains, smoking, being physically inactive, excessive drinking and being overweight.

Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a)

Lp(a) is made up of an LDL part plus a protein (apoprotein a). Elevated Lp(a) levels are a very strong risk for heart disease.

When testing cholesterol, total cholesterol is not as important as:

  • Levels of HDL “good” cholesterol versus LDL “bad” cholesterol
  • Triglyceride levels
  • The ratio of triglycerides to HDL
  • The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL

In order for cholesterol to cause disease, it has to damage the arterial walls. There are small and large particles of LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Large particles are practically harmless, while small, dense particles are the dangerous ones, lodging in the arterial walls, causing damage and inflammation. The resulting “scar” is called plaque. Repeated trauma causes a buildup of plaque and chronic inflammation while your risk of high blood pressure and heart attack increases.

The biggest culprits in high cholesterol? Sugar and bad fats!

Although we’ve been taught that a high-fat diet causes problems with cholesterol, the type of fat you eat is more important than the quantity. Trans fats, or hydrogenated and saturated fats, promote abnormal cholesterol, while omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats actually improve the type of cholesterol in our bodies. Eat your good fats, your body needs them!

The surprise: the biggest source of abnormal cholesterol isn’t dietary fat, but sugar. Sugar (and refined carbs, including processed white foods), drives good cholesterol down and triglycerides up. It causes those small particles, encouraging dangerous plaque buildup, and can lead to heart disease and metabolic syndrome or “pre-diabetes.” Doctors are starting to admit that sugar, not dietary fat, is the bigger cause of most heart attacks.

So, the real concern isn’t really the amount of total cholesterol you have, but the type of fats, sugar, and refined carbohydrates in your diet that lead to abnormal cholesterol production.

Inflammation promotes heart disease

Systemic inflammation plays a key role in heart disease and, in fact, most all chronic illnesses. Systemic inflammation can arise from poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, stress, allergies, and more. Research at Harvard has shown that people with high levels of systemic inflammation (measured by a test called C-reactive protein, or CRP) had higher risk for heart disease than those with high cholesterol, while normal cholesterol was not protective to those with high CRP.

Clearly, multiple factors come together to determine your risk for heart disease, including diet, lifestyle, and environment. If you are concerned about your heart health, contact my office for a comprehensive evaluation to help reveal the factors that may increase your risk for heart disease.

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324 heart autoimmunity

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, affecting about 11 percent of the population. For the majority of people, heart disease is driven by diet and lifestyle factors, however research shows an increasing number of heart disease cases can also have an autoimmune component. This means the immune system is mistakenly attacking and destroying heart tissue, causing symptoms and weakening the heart.

Typically heart disease is linked with a diet high in processed foods, sugars and refined carbohydrates, lack of activity, and obesity. The good news is that means people who make the effort can ameliorate or reverse their condition through a whole foods diet and exercise.

However, when an autoimmune reaction is part of the picture, the approach is more complicated. If the autoimmunity has destroyed enough tissue, it can be too late to reverse the condition and its symptoms. With autoimmune rates exploding in recent years, hopefully more doctors will screen for autoimmunity so an autoimmune heart condition can be caught in time to manage it.

Heart autoimmunity

The symptoms of an autoimmune reaction against the heart mimic heart disease symptoms. They include cardiomegaly (enlarged heart), fluid retention, tiring easily, chest pain, breathlessness, palpitations, edema with exercise, and difficulty breathing. An unmanaged autoimmune reaction to the heart can cause inflammation, scarring, and, in rare cases, sudden death. Also, poor heart function affects the lungs, liver, and other organs and systems in the body.

Typically, doctors in the standard health care model do not screen for autoimmunity until the end stages of disease when symptoms are severe. Fortunately, you can identify an autoimmune reaction before it’s too late with a blood serum antibody panel.

This panel screens for autoimmunity against heart tissue by checking for myocardial (a protein the heart releases in response to stress) or alpha-myosin (cardiac tissue) antibodies. If these come back positive it’s an indication the immune system is attacking heart tissue. If the condition is more advanced, you may be given a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, or disease of the heart muscle.

If you know you have an autoimmune condition, you can take the steps to potentially slow or halt its progression through proven diet, lifestyle, and nutritional therapy strategies. You should also regularly monitor your heart health.

Gluten sensitivity affects heart autoimmunity

Sometimes gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are associated with cardiomyopathy and a gluten-free diet can improve the condition, sometimes profoundly. For some it even reverses the condition. Cardiomyopathy has also been shown to worsen in those with celiac disease who continue to eat gluten. People with cardiomyopathy or a history of heart inflammation should always screen for gluten sensitivity using newer, more advanced testing since a gluten-free diet may significantly improve the condition.

Other strategies for heart autoimmunity

When a person tests positive for autoimmunity, a gluten-free diet should be adopted given the links between gluten and autoimmune disease, including heart autoimmunity. A more intensive autoimmune diet may be necessary to repair the gut, dampen overall inflammation, and help balance the immune system.

Ask about my office about nutritional therapy strategies to manage heart autoimmunity.

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blood sugar and chronic disease

Heart diseasestroke, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s — chronic diseases are the most common and costly health problems in the United States. What’s worse is they are largely lifestyle diseases, meaning they often can be prevented through changes to the diet.

Many Americans today eat diets that throw their blood sugar out of balance and cause inflammation. Along with lack of exercise, these diets underpin the development of many chronic diseases today.

The body has several ways to keep blood sugar within a narrow range so it doesn’t go too high or too low. For the average American, unfortunately, the body must constantly struggle to manage overly high blood sugar.

This is because people consume diets high in sugars, sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates—pasta, white rice, breads, pastries, soda—that quickly spike blood sugar.

Insulin resistance stepping-stone to diabetes and other chronic diseases

When a person eats too many sugary and refined foods on a regular basis, the body overproduces insulin.

Eventually the constant surges of insulin exhaust the body’s cells and they refuse entry to the insulin, which is called insulin resistance. Now insulin can’t escort glucose into the cells to make energy. As a result you feel sleepy after eating. 

Also, because glucose can’t get into cells, blood sugar climbs too high. The body lowers it to safer levels by converting excess glucose into fat for storage. This is a demanding process that also leads to fatigue after meals. The excess sugar in the bloodstream also damages blood vessels and the brain.

Insulin resistance is a stepping stone to Type 2 diabetes, a breakdown in the body’s blood-sugar handling system. Studies show links between insulin resistance and many chronic diseases, including heart diseasestrokecancer, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.

Reduced uptake of glucose by cells, high triglycerides, and high circulating amounts of sugar in the bloodstream all promote the inflammation and damage that leads to chronic disease. To add insult to injury, people with insulin resistance often feel too tired to exercise, are prone to overeating, and have intense sugar cravings.

Symptoms of insulin resistance

Symptoms of insulin resistance include:

  • Fatigue after meals
  • General fatigue
  • Constant hunger
  • Constant craving for sweets
  • Strong desire for sweets after meals
  • Waist girth equal to or larger than hip girth
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased appetite and thirst
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Migrating aches and pains

One of the best ways to prevent or manage chronic disease is to eat a diet that stabilizes your blood sugar and reverses insulin resistance. This includes a whole-foods diet free of added sugars and refined carbohydrates, plenty of fiber, and healthy proteins and fats. Regular exercise is important to increase insulin sensitivity. Certain nutritional and botanical compounds have also been shown to help improve blood sugar handling and manage insulin resistance.

For support in preventing chronic disease and managing insulin resistance, please contact my office.

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walk even if you work out

We sit at desks, sit in traffic, and sit at home in front of the TV. Americans have lost touch with the human being’s most basic and unique design function: to walk. Walking daily not only wards off more diseases than you count on both hands, it also soothes the mind, inspires creativity, and heightens the mood. Even if you already work out regularly, walking can still deliver its ancient benefits.

Walking shaped the human brain and keeps it healthy

We departed from the rest of the animal kingdom when we evolved to walk upright on two legs. This adaptation freed our arms and allowed us to conserve energy while moving over long distances, giving us more endurance than any other animal on the planet. The ability to walk also stimulated the development of the human brain into the fascinating and complex organ it is today.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle was known to give his lectures while walking, and many great thinkers since—Henry David Thoreau, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and even Steve Jobs—were known to use long walks to clear the brain and generate new ideas.

Walking is good for those intimidated by exercise

You don’t have to be one of history’s great thinkers to derive the benefits of a daily walk. For Americans who are overworked and overly sedentary, committing to a weight lifting routine or a workout class at the local gym may seem intimidating, overwhelming, or too expensive at first. A daily walk can be an excellent and non-threatening way to embark on an exercise program and reap the many benefits it promises. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll quickly realize it doesn’t require the same level of motivation as something more arduous—walking is a great way to escape and renew yourself on a regular basis.

Health benefits of walking

Walking 30 to 45 minutes at least six days a week along with a healthy diet has been shown to offer the following benefits:

  • Shed excess fat
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve circulation
  • Strengthen bones
  • Reduce stress
  • Prevent depression
  • Prevent Type 2 diabetes
  • Improve mood and well-being
  • Reduce risk of colon and breast cancer
  • Prevent heart disease

Walking beneficial even if you work out

If you’re not walking because you already work out regularly, you may be short-changing yourself. For one thing, if you’re a runner, walking instead could save wear and tear on your joints. Newer research has even shown that training for marathons and long distance runs may even damage the heart and arteries.

Because walking has played such an integral role in the development of the human brain, it improves brain health in ways other exercises don’t. Research of adults in their mid 60s showed that an area of the brain called the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory, grew in the subjects who walked regularly compared to subjects who did other forms of exercise. Walking regularly is an excellent way to lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Walking can also stimulate the creative juices that may be put on hold during a weight-training or high-intensity-interval cardiovascular session. For Americans on information overload and inundated with daily distractions, walking slows you down and invites you to soak in the world around you.

Walking also offers a great way to socialize with others. Socialization has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of many disorders, making a walk with friends or family members doubly good for you.

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Heart disease is a sugar disease

heart disease sugar disease

If you have been following conventional advice, then you’ve been told to avoid fats to prevent heart disease. Turns out if you want to maintain a healthy vascular system and prevent heart disease, sugar is the target you want to seek out and eliminate.

Research has found people who get at least 25 percent of their daily calories from added sugars of any kind were more than three times more likely to have low levels of the “good” HDL cholesterol in their bloodstream, a risk factor for heart disease, than people who got less than 5 percent of their calories from sweeteners. The high sugar consumers were also found to have higher triglycerides than normal, another risk factor for heart disease.

For a person who eats 2,000 calories a day, 25 percent is 500 calories, or 125 grams of sugar. To give you an idea, a medium white chocolate mocha has about 60 grams of sugar while a pecan roll has about 50. And that’s just breakfast. While most people worry about added weight from excess sugar, they should also consider their risk of heart disease.

Metabolic syndrome from sugar raises heart disease risk

Researchers turned their microscopes on sugar when it became clear during the explosion of obesity and diabetes over the last 20 to 30 years that metabolic syndrome is the leading risk factor for heart disease.

Metabolic syndrome is a condition brought on by a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates that eventually causes insulin resistance. Eating a diet high in sugars and starchy carbs—pastas, pastries, breads—causes your body to pump out high amounts of insulin. Eventually the body’s cells, overwhelmed by the demands of insulin, become insulin resistant. Also, the pancreas becomes overwhelmed by pumping out so much insulin and becomes exhausted. As a result, blood sugar levels skyrocket. Many people with insulin resistance go on to develop Type 2 diabetes.

It’s the chronically high insulin and blood sugar levels that are so hard on the vascular system and increase the risk of heart disease precipitously. In addition to increased belly fat, metabolic syndrome also brings with it high triglycerides (fats circulating in the bloodstream), high blood pressure, lower HDL (the good cholesterol) and higher LDL (bad) cholesterol, high inflammation, and a long list of other chronic health conditions. If scientists want to induce metabolic syndrome in lab animals, they simply feed them a diet high in sugar. Even when sugar comprises just 20 percent of calories it induces insulin resistance.

In humans, regularly consuming soft drinks, sweetened juices and bakery products are sufficient to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Junk fats, such as processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils—fries, chips, and processed foods made with trans fats and soybean oils—fuel the damage to the body.

How sugar damages arteries

Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease because high levels of sugar circulating in the bloodstream inflames and damages the lining of the arteries. The body uses cholesterol to patch the damaged areas contributing to the formation of plaque within the arteries—a process known as “atherosclerosis.” Although an effective short-term fix, this eventually leads to the creation of artery-clogging plaque, and drives up the risk of a heart attack.

How much sugar should you eat

The answer is fairy straightforward, none. The human body operates wonderfully on carbohydrates derived from fresh vegetables and fruit. However, the American Heart Association suggests no more than 5 percent of calories come from sugar. On a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s 24 grams, or the equivalent of six teaspoons.

To put it in perspective, a can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar; a regular size frozen yogurt has 40 grams; a 16 ounce mocha drink with whipped cream has 47 grams; a bag of Skittles has 47 grams; 8 ounces of bottled ice tea has 23 grams; and a Clif Bar has 21 grams. It is very easy to quickly exceed the limits of sugar consumption that increase your risk of heart disease.

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sitting-disease

Do you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly but sit long hours each day at work? If so, you could be undoing all your good work.

Sitting, even if you otherwise practice healthy habits, is associated with poor cardiovascular health, higher inflammation, and more belly fat, according to a 2011 Australian study. This is bad news for the millions of Americans who must work at a desk. In fact, it can feel downright insulting to learn that all our healthful efforts are being thwarted by our jobs.

Studies link prolonged sitting with compromised metabolic health, higher risk of disease, and shorter life span. Witness this cascade of ill effects:

  • Electrical activity in muscles goes silent
  • Calorie burning plummets
  • Insulin sensitivity drops, raising the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes
  • Enzymes responsible for clearing fat and triglycerides from the bloodstream plunge, lowering the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol

Sadly, these risks remain regardless of our physical activity level outside of work. Worst of all, these metabolic changes don’t happen gradually, but instead swiftly, within 24 hours.

Antidotes to sitting long hours

The results of your good exercise and diet habits needn’t be lost to your office chair. Sitting disease antidotes can be as simple as moving around more or working while standing.

Create a treadmill desk

A treadmill desk is just what it sounds like, a desktop built over a treadmill. Users walk very slowly on the treadmill and can easily talk, type, and perform other desk work while burning 100 calories an hour and staving off metabolic risks. Treadmill desks can be homemade, purchased to fit over an existing treadmill, or ordered, all inclusive, for up to $4,400.

Stand at your desk

A quicker and less cumbersome fix is a standing desk. To make one, try stacking something tall on your desk on which to set your computer. If you work at home, you might choose to work on your laptop while standing at the kitchen counter. Standing burns more calories than sitting and engages more muscles, enhancing metabolic activity.

Frequent breaks are key

If you do choose to sit, you can mitigate the effects of sitting disease with frequent breaks and lots of movement throughout the day. Australian researchers found those who took frequent breaks had lower levels of C-reactive protein, an important marker of inflammation, and smaller waists as well. Waist size, like excess belly fat, is a marker for increased risk for heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other inflammation-related disorders. High-risk waist circumference is over 40 inches for men and over 35 inches for women.

Take a stand against excessive sitting. Get up every half hour. Move about in your chair. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the outer reaches of the parking lot. Go ahead and fidget and bustle, and trot between the computer and the printer, or to the bathroom. Research shows not only will you combat sitting disease, but you’ll also be less likely to gain weight compared to your more sedentary coworkers.

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