I hope you had a Happy Valentine’s day! Since February is a month when we focus on matters of the heart, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about heart health this month.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, heart disease was extremely rare in western civilization, but by the 1950s the picture had changed dramatically, with heart disease becoming a North American epidemic, and it continues to be the leading cause of death in men and women in Canada and the United States today. What happened? From about 1930 onward, western diet and lifestyle changed. Highly processed and refined foods became available in grocery stores; people became less active with the advent of TV and the widespread use of automobiles. Electric light allowed people to stay up later, work longer hours, sleep less, and stress out more under the glow of artificial light. For all these conveniences and fancy packaged, processed foods, our western culture has paid a high price in heart disease. However, today more and more research is proving that heart disease is preventable and treatable with lifestyle and dietary changes. Many today are assessing their risks of heart disease and adjusting their lifestyle so they don’t fall victim to it. You can too.
- Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Canada and a major contributor to heart disease.
- Smoking reduces oxygen supply to the heart, making the heart work harder for its much-needed oxygen.
- Nicotine is a stimulant to the heart muscle and makes it beat faster.
- Nicotine also narrows the blood vessels resulting in higher blood pressure.
- These symptoms stop upon quitting smoking.
- Over time, however, nicotine contributes to atherosclerosis (clogged blood vessels), hypertension (high blood pressure) and clotting of the blood (which can lead to a stroke or heart attack).
Obesity/ physical inactivity/ poor diet
- Obesity is now described as an epidemic in Canada and may soon take over smoking’s position as the leading cause of preventable death in this country.
- The health-care costs of diseases related to physical inactivity and poor diet, according to an Ottawa-based health advocacy group, are between $2.5 and $4.6 billion per year.
- A poor diet is one that is high in saturated and trans fats as well as added sugars; low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains.
- Obesity contributes to high blood glucose (sugar) levels and insulin resistance (syndrome X), and type II diabetes – both of which are major contributors to accelerated aging and atherosclerosis.
- Obesity contributes to hypertension and high LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Obese individuals are less likely to get adequate physical activity.
- Because of the social stigma associated with obesity, individuals are more likely to experience depression, self-esteem challenges, and eating disorders.
Hyperinsulinemia (syndrome X and later type II diabetes)
- High blood glucose (sugar) levels and insulin resistance are at the heart of a group of symptoms collectively known as syndrome X, the end result of which is full-blown type II diabetes. Many people may be unaware they are affected by syndrome X.
- The problem is the western-culture lifestyle with its lack of regular physical activity, and its refined carbohydrate diet lacking in quality protein and the right dietary fats.
- Signs of syndrome X are:
- abdominal weight
- blood sugar abnormalities
- high triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Why is high glucose and insulin resistance so damaging?
- the excess sugar in the blood attaches (sticks) to collagen molecules and changes the collagen to a form called A.G.E. (Advanced Glycation Endproducts)
- this transformed collagen molecule is stiff and hardens body tissues including the heart, blood vessels, lungs, eyes, joints, skin, etc.
Cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoprotein(a)
- According to experts, no scenario is more predictive of heart disease than elevated triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol together with low HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Triglycerides thicken blood and increase the chance of clotting.
- LDL cholesterol is sticky and can cling to blood vessel walls. It is also prone to free radical oxidation resulting in clogged blood vessels.
- The combination of clogged blood vessels and blood clotting is asking for a heart attack.
- HDL, on the other hand, is the cholesterol you want in abundance. HDL circulates through the blood and picks up circulating LDL cholesterol and carries it to the liver.
- Lipoprotein(a) is another form of cholesterol that is stickier than LDL. In the blood it combines with LDL resulting in thickened blood, blood clotting and clogged blood vessels. Actually, its purpose is to protect blood vessels from rupturing by patching the wall of the vessel. Over time, or with too much patching, atherosclerosis can develop.
- Homocysteine is the result of normal metabolism of the amino acid methionine, and is usually cleared from the blood before it can do any damage.
- However, statistically high levels of homocysteine account for about 10 percent of heart disease-related deaths, most of which are due to stroke.
- Researchers have not yet discovered how homocysteine damages blood vessels, but they know that it does.
- In the past few years, it has become clear to researchers that there is an element of inflammation in heart disease, and that people with chronic inflammation (e.g. allergies, asthma, arthritis, bowel disorders, gum diseases) are at risk of heart disease as part of an inflammatory syndrome.
- One indication of inflammation and heart disease is C-reactive protein (CRP). People with chronic inflammation have high levels of CRP making them 4.5 times more likely to have a heart attack than those with normal levels.
- This is because CRP is present in lesions that can appear on blood vessel walls. High levels of CRP can cause these lesions to rupture and in turn create a dangerous blood clot.
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Hypertension became the first known risk factor for heart disease after World War II, based on the vast amount of insurance company data linking it to heart attack death.
- It is known as the “silent killer” because one can have high blood pressure without knowing it until symptoms of kidney disease, stroke or heart attack suddenly appear.
- About a quarter of North Americans have elevated blood pressure.
- Most of these individuals also have elevated blood glucose, elevated stress, are over-weight, lack exercise, and are older adults.
Other risk factors you can control
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Risk factors you can’t control are:
- family history
Your risk for heart disease increases with the number of risk factors you have and their severity. Also, some risk factors, such as smoking and diabetes, put you at greater risk than others. Many risk factors start during childhood – this is particularly true now because many children are overweight and don’t get enough physical activity.
Minimizing Heart Disease
Do not smoke! If you smoke, get help with stopping smoking.
- If you quit smoking you cut your risk of a heart attack in half in one year, no matter how much or how long you smoked.
Avoid exposure to second hand smoke.
Being physically active
is one of the most important things you can do to keep your heart healthy. Even modest amounts of physical activity are good for your health, for example walking 30 minutes 3 times a week. The more active you are, the more you will benefit.
Maintain a healthy weight.
There are different ways to assess your weight. One is that your body mass index (BMI) should be between 18.5 and 24.9. Another consideration is waist size – risk of heart disease increases with increasing abdominal fat. Being physically active and eating a healthy diet will help you maintain a normal weight (see January 2010 Newsletter).
Limit alcohol consumption.
More than 2 drinks a day for men or 1 for women raises blood pressure levels which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. While I would not recommend that anyone start consuming alcohol for this reason, there is evidence that one drink of alcohol a day lowers the risk of heart disease.
Eat a healthy diet.
This includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, moderate amounts of healthy fats, especially omega-3 DHA and EPA found in fish (see January 2010 and April 2009 Newsletters).
Manage your stress.
Of course, this is often easier said than done. Being physically active reduces stress levels, as does a healthy diet. Talk to a friend, find some healthy relaxation techniques that work for you such as yoga or meditation. Laugh, distract yourself with a funny movie or book.
itamin and mineral supplements
can play an important role in lowering risk for heart disease. Please make an appointment to see me for details.
Avoid chronic inflammation
. Good dental hygiene is important. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, as are antioxidants and a number of herbal remedies (you can contact me for details). Weight loss is extremely important in controlling inflammation in the body.
Lower your blood pressure
if it is above 120/80 by following all of the above suggestions. There are also herbal remedies to lower blood pressure – please contact me for details.
Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
is naturally found in the body, but many heart patients have low levels. This enzyme is essential for energy production and antioxidant activity. It is available in supplement form, but many supplements contain a form of CoQ10 that the body cannot use. I particularly recommend Nature’s Sunshine CoQ10 as being bioavailable (see instructions below for ordering products).
can benefit from a high fibre, reduced fat (especially trans fat and saturated fat) diet, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and smoke-free.
levels are generally good when HDL cholesterol levels are also good. High triglyceride levels go together with high levels of LDL cholesterol, so measures that increase HDL and lower LDL will help achieve optimal levels of triglycerides (see cholesterol levels).
: If you lose some weight and engage in moderate physical activity on a regular basis, you may be able to delay or prevent progression of Syndrome X to type 2 diabetes, and lower your risk for heart disease. Weight loss and physical activity also help to control diabetes. Of course, a healthy diet is also important.
can be controlled by a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, Adequate folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 are also important.
I hope these suggestions help you maintain or improve your heart health. For information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment.
To purchase, call Nature’s Sunshine products at 1.800.265.9163 and have your member ID# ready. If your membership has expired they will be able to reactivate it with an order. If you do not know your sponsor id then use sponsor ID # 344052-4 so that you may obtain your own. If you wish to order online, the website is www.naturessunshine.ca and again your sponsor’s number is 344052-4
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
- The Heart of the Matter. Sunshine Today Feb/March 2004;10-12.
- Heart & Stroke Foundation. Heart & Stroke Taking Control. www.heartandstroke.ca Accessed January 20, 2010.
- What are heart disease risk factors? http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/hd/hd_whatare.html. Accessed January 20, 2010.
- Nelson ME, Lichtenstein AH, Lindner L. Strong hearts: Unraveling the latest research. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2005;23(3) supplement.
- Mozaffarian D, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med 2006;354:1601-1613.
- Liebman B. Sugar overload – 10 reasons to cut back. Nutrition Action Health Letter 2010;37(1):1,3-8.
- Fruits and vegetables help build healthy hearts. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2005;22(12):1.
- Eating whole grains linked to reduced risk of heart failure. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2009;26(12):1-2.
- Lemole GM. You don’t have to die of a heart attack! The “Untold Truth” Series. Wasatch Research Institute, 2004.
- Slow burn – how inflammation can trigger a heart attack. Nutrition Action Health Letter 2009;36(1):1,3-7.
- American Heart Association. Homocysteine, folic acid and cardiovascular disease. American Heart Association. www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4677 Accessed February 9, 2010.Do
These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.
Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic