Tag Archives: heart disease

Carbs, not fats, are the culprits behind heart disease

812 carbs not fats heart health

If you shy away from fats for fear of heart disease, you aren’t alone. But you may be surprised to learn that carbohydrates, not fats, are the culprits in heart disease.

For decades scientists and doctors have blamed dietary fats — especially saturated fat — for heart disease. We’ve been advised to stick to a low-fat, high-carb diet based on grains to keep our hearts healthy.

We now know this advice was based on outdated observational studies. As it turns out, none of the studies truly linked high-fat diets to heart disease, and numerous recent studies have debunked the theory.

In fact, the low-fat, high-carb diet promoted for decades by organizations such as the American Heart Association, the National Cholesterol Education Program, National Institutes of Health, and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture may have actually played a strong — yet unintended — role in today’s epidemics of obesity, type II diabetes, lipid abnormalities, and metabolic syndromes.

Limit carbs, not fat, for heart health

For most people, it’s carbohydrates, not fats, that are the true cause of heart disease.

Since 2002, low-carb diets have been studied extensively with more than 20 randomized controlled trials. These studies show that limiting your consumption of carbohydrates rather than fats is the surer way to decrease heart disease risk.

An analysis of more than a dozen studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that subjects consuming a low-carb diet had a healthier cardiovascular system and body weight than those on low-fat diets.

The Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study not only found that increasing fat intake was linked to lower risk of heart disease, but as carbohydrate intake is increased, the risk of heart disease grew stronger.

Include plenty of healthy fats in your diet

We need plenty of healthy fats for our bodies and brains to function at their best. Low-fat diets have many risks, including decreased brain function, poor brain health, and hormone imbalances.

Essential to your body’s function, fats:

  • Provide a major source of energy
  • Aid in absorption of certain minerals
  • Help you absorb vitamins A, E, D, and K
  • Help reduce inflammation
  • Are necessary for building cell membranes
  • Help build nerve sheaths
  • Are essential for blood clotting and muscle movement
  • Help maintain your core body temperature
  • Protect your core organs from impact
  • Provide the key nutrient for your brain, which consists of nearly 60 percent fat

Four types of fat: Eat three, avoid one

Four types of fat are found in our diet, all with different characteristics and effects. Some are great, some are good, and one is purely horrible.

Saturated fat. Instead of being linked to heart disease, saturated fats actually offer important health benefits:

  • Supports brain health
  • May reduce risk of stroke
  • Raises HDL (your “good”) cholesterol
  • Changes the LDL (“bad”) from small, dense particles — dangerous for heart health — to large particle LDL, which does not increase heart disease risk. This has been intensively studied in the past few decades and the studies consistently show these results.

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Sources include red meat, whole milk, cheese, and coconut oil.

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) are “essential,” meaning that your body doesn’t produce them on its own and you must get them through your diet.

MUFAs are liquid at room temperature and begin to solidify when refrigerated. They can be found in olive oil, nuts, avocados and whole milk.

Monounsaturated fats can help:

  • Prevent depression
  • Protect you from heart disease
  • Reduce risks for certain kinds of cancer
  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • Assist with weight loss
  • Strengthen bones

Consuming higher levels of MUFAs than saturated fats has a protective effect against metabolic syndrome, a cluster of disorders that increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Polyunsaturated fats are also “essential,” meaning your body doesn’t produce them on its own and must get them via dietary intake.

Polyunsaturated fats can help improve blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease the risk of heart disease, and may also help decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: Omega 3 and Omega 6.

Omega 3 fats are linked with lowered inflammation, better brain function, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, sardines, and herring. Plant sources include ground flaxseed, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.

While we do need some omega 6 fatty acids in our diet, excess consumption is inflammatory and is connected to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, psychiatric issues, and cancer.

To prevent an inflammatory environment, increase your consumption of omega 3 fats and lower consumption of omega 6. Researchers recommend a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 that ranges from 1:1 to 4:1.

Trans fats are the one type of fat to always avoid. A byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that makes healthy oils into solids and prevents them from becoming rancid, trans fat have no health benefits. Their risks include:

  • Increased levels of harmful LDL cholesterol in the blood
  • Reduced beneficial HDL cholesterol
  • Increased inflammation
  • Higher risk for insulin resistance (a risk for Type 2 diabetes)
  • Trans fats are so risky the FDA issued a ban in 2015 that required they be removed from processed foods within three years.

Six foods to include for healthy fat intake

Avocado

  • Rich in monounsaturated fats (raises good cholesterol while lowering bad)
  • High in vitamin E
  • High protein for a fruit
  • Provides folate

Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids which:

  • Are not stored as fat by the body as readily as other fats
  • Support brain function and memory
  • Are easy to digest

Extra virgin olive oil

  • Very high levels of monounsaturated fats
  • Supports heart health and cognitive function
  • Best for low or medium heat cooking (not high heat)

Omega 3 fatty acids

  • Found in cold water fish such as salmon and sardines
  • Easy to consume via fish oil supplements
  • Anti-inflammatory

Nuts and seeds

  • Rich in ALA (alpha lipoic acid) Omega 3 fats for the brain
  • Helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol

MCT oil (from coconuts)

  • Provides medium-chain triglycerides, a healthy form of saturated fat
  • Easily digested

Limiting intake of carbohydrates, rather than fats, is a surer way to decrease the risk of heart disease. Many doctors have seen how low-carb diets with plenty of healthy fats help patients lose weight, reverse their diabetes, and improve their cholesterol.

For more information on how to support your heart health, contact me.

Busting the low-fat myth: Cholesterol is good for you

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.

Contact me when you’re ready to create a nutrition plan for your better heart health.

Cholesterol often wrong target in heart disease risk

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.

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When heart disease is autoimmune

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.

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Control insulin resistance to prevent chronic disease

blood sugar and chronic diseaseHeart disease, stroke, 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.

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Why you should start walking today, even if you already work out

walk even if you work outWe 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.

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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.

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Do you suffer from sitting disease? Frequent breaks and standing are key

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

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Heart disease is an inflammation disease

You could eat a “heart-healthy” diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight and still be at risk for heart disease.

image33Why? Because the root cause of heart disease is inflammation, and managing inflammation goes beyond standard prevention advice.

The whole grain diet, inflammation, and heart disease

Are you following popular guidelines by eating a whole grain diet? Opting for whole wheat bread may seem like a healthy choice; however research suggests that as many as one in five people have a gluten sensitivity.

For the gluten-intolerant person, even whole wheat products cause inflammation, increasing the risk of heart disease. In fact, more and more people are discovering that they can significantly reduce inflammation by eliminating grains all together.

Other foods—such as dairy or eggs—may also cause sensitivities and increase inflammation.
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