Healthy strategies to prevent a heart attack and brain attack (stroke), so YOU do not have to be a victim of your genes! Part 1
I hope you have enjoyed the information shared with you over the past month on Heart Hearth. This last week, I watched a profound medical webinar on Women and Cardiovascular Disease. The big take-home message was about how stress, and its effect on raising cortisol, and a poor Critical Awakening Response (measured on the DUTCH test) is one of THE major contributors to damaging the endothelium (lining of the vessels from head to toe). Certainly, we all know that stress is linked to heart disease right, but, now there’s clear science to show the actual disease progression or “pathophysiology.”
Now, from the info I’ve already shared, what are your takeaways? What new habits will you create to protect and strengthen your cardiovascular health? For the next two weeks, I’ll share some information to help you formulate your wellness plan!
In my previous article on Women and Heart Disease, I highlighted the significant differences between men and women and why women are often underdiagnosed and undertreated because of the significant difference in the disease process. However, regardless of gender, prevention is clearly the best option to ensure a healthy cardiovascular system for years to come. Anything you do to help your heart, your endothelium, and your cardiovascular system to prevent a heart attack can also help to prevent a brain attack or stroke. This article offers many healthy tips that will benefit your heart and your brain.
Know your numbers
PULS – In another previous article, I highlighted a cutting-edge test for detecting your risk of a heart attack in the next five years by measuring specific cardiac inflammatory markers. This new test has won international medical innovation awards. I think the PULS test offers the most important information you can have to track your lifestyle changes.
Cholesterol – Yes cholesterol is important, but for years we’ve known that just measuring cholesterol is not enough. Cholesterol is actually very important to many different metabolic processes in our bodies. Hormone production is one of them. When our cholesterol levels are too low, then it can hinder some healthy bodily functions. A cholesterol over 200 is NOT as risky as high inflammation. If you don’t get a PULS test, then I’d recommend checking Oxidized LDL & Lipoprotein(a). These are much better indicators of your cholesterol profile. Keeping your HDL (healthy) cholesterol high and your Triglycerides (terrible) low is even more important than LDL, especially for women.
CRP – C-reactive Protein is another marker of inflammation. If you’re unable to get a PULS test, I’d recommend this.
Blood Pressure– Your heart works hard, every second of every day, and the demands of high blood pressure not only require more oxygen, but eventually will also cause a thick heart wall and even heart failure. Therefore, an optimal blood pressure is 100-120 / 60-80.
Body Fat Percentage─ Here’s a simple body fat calculator to give you an idea of what your current levels are. This is a better indicator of heart risk than BMI (body mass index). For women, body fat percentage less than 20 is “athletic,” 20 to 24 is “healthy,” 25 to 31 is “acceptable,” and 32 or greater is considered obese.
Waist Circumference ─ A study that looked at data from 650,000 adults found an estimated decrease in life expectancy of approximately three years for men and five years for women for the highest versus lowest waist circumference. This effect was independent of other risk factors, such as age, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, smoking history, and alcohol use. An ‘acceptable’ waist circumference is 25 to 31.5 inches. (1)
Reduce your inflammatory triggers
Again, new science reveals that inflammation is a much bigger risk for heart disease than cholesterol levels. When it comes to reducing insidious inflammation, small and simple things do bring about great results if they are done together and consistently.
Now, while I could write an article on each one of these inflammation-reducing strategies, I’m going to focus on Sugar, Glutathione, and Fats in this article.
Eliminate or Greatly Reduce Your Sugar IntakeMuch to my surprise, as I was checking out at the grocery store last week, there was a special edition of Time Magazine entitled “Sugar.” I encourage you to get it and read the entire magazine. It will shock you!
To reinforce my point that sugar is indeed a toxin and is very bad for our hearts and our entire endothelium (the lining of our vessels from head to toe), Robert Lustig, professor emeritus of pediatrics and endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, designed a study to prove it. The study, printed in the journal of Obesity2, examined 43 Hispanic and African American children ages 8 to18. They collected food diaries beforehand, then changed their diets to restrict sugar to under 10% of their total calories. Now, they did not substitute sugar for organic fruits and veggies, but instead for other carbs and processed foods that had lower sugar content.
The results were staggering! “Everything got better.” Some kids went from being insulin resistant to having healthy insulin levels in NINE days! Fasting blood sugars dropped by 53%. Their triglyceride and LDL levels also dropped significantly, and they showed less fat in their livers. Lustig says, “Up until now, there has been a lot of correlation studies linking sugar to metabolic syndrome…this is Causation”! (2)
Hyperglycemia (or high blood sugar) can increase markers of chronic inflammation and contribute to increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, which ultimately causes vascular dysfunction.3 My dear friends, this vascular dysfunction goes all the way to the brain, too, thus the reason Alzheimer’s has been dubbed “Type 3 diabetes” for over a decade. Reducing our sugar will dramatically enhance our health!
I began practicing in cardiology in the early ‘80s. I’ve lived through margarine and the whole “low fat” craze. If you track back, you can see that the obesity epidemic and surge in heart disease and cancer (sugar is the perfect growth medium for cancer, too) all started with these dietary changes. Food manufacturers removed fat and replaced it with sugars. Sugars of all kinds of names are hiding in just about everything that is processed. In fact, Time magazine listed at least 26.
Be mindful and read labels. Once we rid ourselves of the sugar, we begin to experience the joy of tasting real food. This is hard, but not impossible. One of my dearest friends made a powerful choice for herself over a decade ago: to eliminate sugar and soft drinks. In one year, she lost 65 lbs. She has never looked back. Not only has she maintained incredible health and vitality, but this dietary shift transformed everything about her. She said, “My joint aches went away, my ongoing backaches stopped, and my migraines stopped. I had newfound energy to exercise, and my taste buds completely changed. Soon, I savored the taste of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. I’ll never go back to sugar and sodas.”