Loving Your Heart
What We Need to Do Now to Promote Heart Health
Heart disease is responsible for one out of every three deaths in America, making it the #1 killer in America. Fortunately, there are many steps that you can take to prevent heart disease. You may not be able to control all the risk factors involved in heart disease (like family history and how old you are) but the good news is that there are many things that we can do to ensure lasting heart health.
Research now points pretty convincingly to inflammation as the major contributor to heart disease. So it follows that the best way to prevent heart disease is to prevent or reduce inflammation in the heart. What is the number one contributor to inflammation in the body? Refined sugar! Hormone deficiencies have also been shown to contribute to the risk of heart disease. Guess what impacts the production of hormones most directly in the body? Refined sugar. Are we seeing a pattern here?
Other known factors that put you at a risk of heart disease include smoking, other types of toxic exposures, high blood pressure, low thyroid functioning and elevated homocysteine levels caused by inefficient recycling into glutathione or back to methionine. This can be dietary or, more likely, influenced by genetic individuality. In fact, there are more than 400 independent risk factors for heart disease, most of them modifiable. Also, getting older is the number one risk fact, but, unfortunately, I have yet to find a cure for that.
The Truth about Cholesterol
Cholesterol is not the enemy that the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies have painted it to be. Cholesterol is necessary for cellular function and hormone balance. It promotes body mobility, brain function and is the precursor to Vitamin D3, which is vital in supporting the immune system and many other basic body functions. Cholesterol is also the foundation of production of the sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) and adrenal hormones (cortisol and DHEA). Remember how hormone deficiencies are implicated in heart health? Cholesterol Sulfate is also involved in the metabolizing of fats, as well as providing immune responses to pathogens. Not only is cholesterol crucial for our bodies, but elevated cholesterol levels are not even the most important risk factor in heart disease.
Cholesterol-reducing medications known as statins may actually be contributing to an unhealthy heart. Statins block the enzyme (HMG Coenzyme A reductase) that is required for the body to make cholesterol. Through this interference, however, cell walls become more permeable and crucial proteins are attacked and cells are damaged. By blocking HMG CoA reductase, statins also inhibit the production of super anti-oxidant Coenzyme Q10. This is important, because Co Q10 is a powerful anti-oxidant, important for healthy heart muscle and mitochondrial energy. This is why many people who take a statin for cholesterol also complain of muscle pain and weakness, among other considerable side effects, such as less efficient memory.
Back to Inflammation
Many researchers believe that inflammation in the body triggers an immune response that changes the chemical structure of cholesterol. Good cholesterol is no longer transported to the cells to keep them strong, impermeable and safe. This immune response, intended to provide a temporary benefit to the cardiac system, backfires as cells build up soft or vulnerable plaque in the arteries as a way to try to compensate for the lack of cholesterol. Thus, the solution to a healthy heart is not to eliminate cholesterol (which our bodies desperately need) but to eliminate the immune response to cholesterol caused by inflammation in the heart.
Guess what else? Cholesterol is made in your liver. However, when your liver is busy processing sugar into fat, it is too taxed to make the good cholesterol that your body needs. So, another way of depriving your body of the cholesterol it needs is to eat a lot of refined sugar. Yes, refined sugar is the great enemy in all of this!
What to Do
First of all, it is important to note that, as a baseline, we get plenty of sleep, engage in regular physical activity, practice positive stress-management techniques and never, ever smoke. However, beyond those basic lifestyle choices, there are a number of things we should know about how to support a healthy heart.
Heart Healthy Diet
A heart healthy diet is rich in antioxidants. It is filled with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, is low in sugar and full of healthy Omega-3 fats. It avoids processed foods and artificial ingredients. Raw organic dairy (including raw milk) and organic free-range eggs are wonderful. A word about eggs: the best part is in the yolk!
Things to Avoid
Refined sugars and trans fats which promote inflammation. High fructose foods, such as HFCS and agave are among the greatest threats to liver function and therefore heart disease. It is also a good idea to avoid factory-farmed meat, instead opting for organically raised, grass-fed meat whenever possible.
Supplements for a Healthy Heart
- Fish Oil (Omega 3)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- B vitamins–for reducing Homocysteine–must be in the metabolized, methylated form
- Vitamin B6 – P5P
- Vitamin B12– methylcobalamin
- Folic Acid– methylfolate
- Vitamin K2
- CoQ10 (ubiquinol)
- Hawthorne berry and L-lysine
- Proteolytic enzymes