Cardiovascular Disease (Heart Disease)
By Steven Horne, RH (AHG) & Kimberly Balas, ND
See also Arteriosclerosis, Blood Clots (prevention of), Hypertension and Cholesterol (high)
Cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in western civilization. One out of two people die from it.
So, it makes sense to do what we can to reduce our risk of becoming one of the "one in two" statistics.
Unfortunately, much of the information in the popular media about reducing one's risk of heart disease is based on outdated research.
For instance, most people beliewe that high cholesterol causes heart disease and that the lower your cholesterol level, the less risk you have of dying of heart disease. This simply isn't true. More recent research shows that chronic inflammation (not cholesterol) is the cause of heart disease and that having your cholesterol get too low is more dangerous to your health than having high cholesterol.
Most people also believe that fats cause heart disease and that low fat diets will prevent heart disease. This is partially true because the wrong kinds of fats (such as margarine and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) do contribute to the development of heart disease. However, it is also true that good fats (such as olive oil, omega-3 essential fatty acids and the medium chain saturated fats found in organic butter from grass fed cows) actually protect your heart and reduce your risk of heart disease. Foods marketed as "fat free" or "low fat" often contain high amounts of refined sugars that increase inflammation and heart disease risk.
Furthermore, eating refined carbohydrates is far worse for your heart than eating fats. This is because Sugar, white flour and other products spike insulin levels. High insulin levels are a bigger risk factor for heart disease than high cholesterol or high triglycerides. So, if this information comes as a surprise to you, it's time to update your knowledge a little by reading this article. But first, let's look at some tools for evaluating your risk of heart disease.
Evaluating Your Risk of Heart Disease
Most people feel that heart disease strikes without warning, but the truth is that there are many subtle clues that demonstrate the heart needs help long before a person has a heart attack. Besides high blood pressure and high cholesterol, here are some things to consider.
There is a high correlation between inflammation of the gums and the risk of dying of a heart attack. If your gums are inflamed, so are your arteries.
Varicose Veins and Hemorrhoids
These problems are reflections of sluggish circulation and poor blood vessel tone.
Fatigue and Shortness Of Breath
Feeling no desire for physical activity, getting winded with minor exertion and feelings of pressure or pain in your chest are early warning signs your heart may need some help.
A red, bulbous tip on the nose, spider veins on nose and vertical crease in the left earlobe are all early warning signs that your heart may need help. A bright red tip and pointed tongue is also an indicator of heart stress.
If you know an iridologist or are familiar with iridology, markings in the heart area of the iris, having a spleen heart transversal and/or having a lipemic diathesis (lipid ring) are all indicators of a genetic tendency to heart disease.
Besides cholesterol and triglycerides, consider tests for homocysteine, fibrinogen, C-reactive protein, hemoglobin AIC Lp(a) and ferritin (iron) checked. These tests can be more revealing of heart disease risk. If you are concerned about your heart and circulation, consider getting these blood tests done.
If you show signs of needing help with your heart, take action now. Here are five steps to take.
1. Reduce Inflammation and Free Radical Damage with Antioxidants
Oxidative stress and the inflammation that accompanies it is what allows cholesterol and minerals to stick to our arteries, forming arterial plaque. This lessens blood flow to the heart, brain and other parts of the body, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and other arterial blockages.
That is why the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease is to obtain adequate amounts of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. If you are one of the millions of Americans who are not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables, supplementing your diet with extra antioxidants is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia and other degenerative diseases associated with aging.
When it comes to protecting your heart, one of the best antioxidants is Co-Q10. It reduces blood pressure, aids recovery from heart attacks, keeps LDL cholesterol from Oxidizing and improves energy production in the heart muscle.
Statin drugs deplete Q-10, so this supplement should always be taken by people using statin drugs to lower cholesterol.
Other options include Thai-Go, Super ORAC and IF Relief.
2. Get an Oil Change
For a long time we have heard the dogma preached to us that high fat diets contribute to heart disease, and that margarine and vegetable oils are healthier for us than butter, coconut oil or animal fats. In response to this propaganda many people have adopted low fat diets, avoiding whole milk and red meat in an effort to stay healthier. Unfortunately, this hasn't reduced deaths from heart disease.
The fact is that fatty acids are the preferred fuel of the heart. In other words, the heart needs fats to be healthy, but not just any kind of fats; it needs good fats.
Margarine, shortening, processed vegetable oils and most deep, fat-fried foods are examples of bad fats. These fats have been molecularly altered and do contribute to chronic inflammation, heart disease and other health problems. But, the natural fats found in high quality foods actually have the opposite effect. So, if you want a healthy heart, keep it "well-oiled" with the right kinds of fats. So don't eliminate them from your diet, just make an "oil change" and change the kinds of fats you eat.
Super Omega 3
What has blown the whole high fat equals heart disease myth is the discovery of cultures (such as Mediterranean and Eskimo) that have both high fat diets and low incidence of heart disease. Part of the secret is an essential fatty acid called Omega-3, an essential fatty acid in short supply in most western diets. Taking omega-3 fatty acids actually reduces the risk of heart disease.
Besides omega-3 supplements, use other good fats. Butter from organically raised, grass-fed cows is a very healthy fat. So is organic, virgin coconut Oil. The medium chain saturated fats in these oils are the preferred fuel of the heart and are also important for your immune system. For a particularly healthy spread, try blending one pound of softened butter with 1 cup of flax seed oil to make a tasty and nutritious soft spread butter. The flax seed oil will add additional Omega-3s.
3. Get Physically Active
The benefits of exercise on the heart are well-known. You don't have to go to the gym, just get out and walk, or hike, swim, play golf, garden, or do anything else pleasurable that gets your body moving. This helps keep your blood flowing properly and helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
4. Control Your Temper
Anger damages the heart. It is well documented that angry people are more prone to heart disease. If you have a problem with your temper, learn how to manage your anger and develop closer relationships. Having loving relationships reduces your risk of heart disease.
5. Use appropriate supplements to support heart health.
There are numerous herbs and nutritional supplements that can help to both prevent and reverse heart disease. We cannot cover them all, but here are a few of the most important ones besides Co-Q10 and Omega 3 (which we have already discussed).