People tend to know about diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. However, diabetes is actually a symptom, high cholesterol is a symptom and while smoking is a habit, we’re kind of missing the boat on a lot of the reasons people have heart disease and what can be done about it from a more assistance perspective.
There are simple behaviors that will prevent heart disease. Eighty percent of cases of heart disease and diabetes may actually be preventable with diet and lifestyle. Despite that really powerful message, fewer than three percent of the population in the U.S. are meeting the core four basic characteristics that predict low risk.
The four are: No smoking; minimum recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week; eating in the top two quintiles of what is considered a whole foods diet; and having a healthy body fat percentage. What’s troubling is that our diets these days are all but designed to cause us heart disease. There are a couple of main risk factors which include cholesterol and inflammation.
Studies dating back more than 20 years have shown that cardiovascular disease is an inflammatory process, and that it’s not just about cholesterol. There’s ongoing inflammation, which is not just a condition, but a symptom.
Things like infections, allergens, toxins and even bugs in your gut cause inflammation. Other things that can as well are: Stress; lack of exercise; bad sleep; and loneliness and isolation cause. The pandemic has also played a huge factor in causing inflammation.
Most doctors do not look deep enough into testing to get the complete story of your health. Pills are prescribed to lower cholesterol and the patient then believes they can go on and eat unhealthy and not be active. People tend to stop doing what is actually preventative for long term health and become dependent on pills.
In the past, LDL cholesterol has been identified as the lousy cholesterol, but it’s important to remember that there are different types of LDL cholesterol. First, there is A LDL cholesterol, which is less easily made into a plaque in the artery, less prone to inflammation and oxidative stress and less prone to rupture, so it’s less risky. Thern there is B LDL cholesterol. This is the really risky LDL, so it’s important to understand that quality matters
The same is true for HDL cholesterol. Historically, HDL has been the good and healthy cholesterol. Small HDL doesn’t seem to be able to cart out the bad LDL and get rid of it. So, we want to know the quality and the size of both the HDL and the LDL. These days nobody should be getting a regular cholesterol panel.
Metabolic health is a term used to describe meeting the optimal numbers for blood pressure less than 120 over 80. Almost 88 percent of Americans are metabolically unhealthy. Foods directly impact the elasticity of the arteries which is another key point. Food is more than calorie counting. Food is information that talks to our genes and our systems.
Heart disease is really a hormonal issue around insulin and insulin resistance and also an inflammation issue. The gut microbiome plays a role in many bodily functions. The microbiome plays a huge role in the amount of inflammation in our body. What we eat directly impacts our gut’s biome, which makes diet such a vital part of our fight against heart disease and improving our metabolic health.
For decades cardiologists and many physicians have endorsed a Mediterranean-style diet pattern. This emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils and nuts. This diet limits the intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages and red meats. The Mediterranean diet is one of the only nutritional patterns with strong scientific support for impact on total, cardiovascular and cancer mortality and a reduction in cardiovascular event rates.
Plant-based, vegetarian and vegan-like diets, when combined with a structured stress and exercise regimen, have had profound effects on patients with advanced heart disease. This diet has also helped in reduction of inflammation, decrease in subsequent cardiac events, improved vitality and angiographic reduction in the size of coronary plaques. There has been a renewed interest in a nutritional approach to heart patients that rely on the elimination of animal products. Plant-based diets that permit use of animal products and complex carbohydrates were associated with health benefits.
We should avoid heavy metals as best we can. Toxic metals compete with essential metals for absorption and excretion, transport of metals in the body, binding to target proteins and metabolism and sequestration of toxic metals. Essential trace metals with their antioxidant properties at normal levels have the ability to counteract the oxidative stress induced by toxic metals, thus mitigating the toxicity of toxic metals. Human studies have found that toxic metals could contribute to weight changes and were associated with obesity. Exposure to toxic metals has also been associated with hypertension. It may increase the risk of high blood pressure.
Untreated sleep apnea also significantly increases the risk of heart arrhythmias and cardiovascular disease. Obesity is a common cause of sleep apnea.
It’s important to remember lifestyle changes are the best way to treat symptoms which typically show early signs of heart disease. Traditional medicine will only look at the top layer of what may be causing these issues and address it with pills. Functional medicine looks under the hood to see what can be fixed, introducing lifestyle changes you can make to address these issues early to prevent this 100 percent treatable condition.