By now we’ve all heard of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular exercise. Most of us even know about cholesterol and the difference between HDL and LDL. However, some adults still don’t know what their numbers are. And still, even more people don’t know what their numbers mean, or if they are even at risk of heart disease. Yet, coronary heart disease is still one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
It is important to be aware of the risk factors for heart disease and nutrition therapy for lowering your risk of a heart attack or stroke. So, let’s review some of the basics, but the focus is on the cutting edge information.
The information below will help you on your natural journey toward optimal health. Since some of the information below is new (research from the last ten years), it is likely you’ll have to share this information with your doctor. The goal is to keep you abreast of all the latest information, so you can make educated decisions about your health.
Heart disease and heart attacks plague men earlier in life than women. Men in their late 40’s and early 50’s are much more likely to have a heart attack than a woman the same age. It is more common for women to have a heart attack in their 60’s.
Certainly, there is a genetic predisposition to heart disease, but there are many controllable risk factors that will prevent a heart attack or stroke.
Heart Disease Risk Factors:
- High blood pressure
- Family history of heart disease before the age of 55
- Male gender
- Cigarette Smoker
*Having 2 or more of the above risk factors along with borderline-high cholesterol increases your chances of getting heart disease even more than just having borderline-high cholesterol.
Additional Risk Factors:
- Infections in the mouth
- Inflammatory conditions
Yes, you read that correctly. The most growing body of evidence on heart disease is related to inflammation. We all have inflammation in our body, but it needs to be in balance with anti-inflammation. However, the SAD (Standard American Diet) is much more inflammatory than anti-inflammatory. Yes, foods in our diet cause inflammation. Add these to pollution from air, tap water and medications (including over-the-counter types) and we are just one nation of inflammation, hence the high rates of coronary-related deaths.
Remember, words ending in ‘itis’ are inflammatory conditions (arthritis, colitis, sinusitis…). So, if you have one or more of these conditions, you are at much higher risk of heart disease, and you’ll want to pay close attention when we talk about foods and supplements that are anti-inflammatory.
More than that, those who have infections in the mouth are two times more likely to have a coronary event (stroke, heart attack). If you’ve had one or more root canals, wisdom teeth pulled, or any type of bacterial infection in your mouth (including chronic bad breath) you’ll want to make a special effort to prevent. Also, seek out a holistic dentist for a consultation on cleaning up your mouth.
So, heart disease is more than just your cholesterol numbers. By the way, what are your numbers? You really should know. Go and call your doctor right now and ask for a copy of your latest lab results to be mailed to your home.
What’s your cholesterol? Hopefully your total cholesterol is less than 200. This is an optimal range. Total cholesterol is made up of low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). [sidenote – to remember what they are, use this: HIGH and GOOD have four letters and LOW and BAD have 3 letters…HDL is your good cholesterol – which unclogs your arteries, and LDL is your bad cholesterol, which clogs up your arteries]. Ideal numbers are HDL >80, but optimal is 100 or more. LDL should be less than 100.
Here is a list of some additional tests you’ll want to have completed at your next blood draw, (especially if you have any of the risk factors listed above) and some info on what they mean. Also included are a few supplements that will help to move your results into a more ideal range. Of course, lowering your daily stress, increasing exercise, losing a few pounds, decreasing the white flour in your diet and adding many more vegetables (organic, please) will also dramatically improve your scores on the tests below, and therefore lower your risk of heart disease.
O-LDL – Oxidized LDL – oxidation is the same thing as lead turning to rust, but inside your body. To date, this is the most advanced and diagnostic marker of heart disease risk. CoQ10 and Super Nano Green Tea are great supplements to lower the oxidation if your result is elevated. You’ll also want to find a way to lower your overall stress (ie. daily relaxation, less fried foods)
LDL/HDL Ratio – Total Chol/HDL Ratio
The higher the ratio, the greater the risk. To lower the ratio, lower Total and LDL and raise HDL. Policosanol is the best supplement to do all three of these, and there are no side effects. I also recommend high doses of fish oils, from non-toxic cold water fish that have been tested to be free of mercury, tocotrienols (more than just vitamin E and in its purest form) and flaxseed meal daily.
Lipoprotein (a) – is associated with development of clogged arteries similarly to LDL. It’s a strong indicator for cerebrovascular disease (brain). Lp(a) can be lowered with high doses of super garlic and coQ10 as well as fish oils.
Homocysteine – is related to some inflammatory conditions as well as depression. Many studies, including the Physicians’ Heart Study, have demonstrated the association between elevated homocysteine levels and cardiovascular disease. Responds well to doses of vitamins B6, B12, and folate.
hs C reactive Protein – is a general marker of inflammation or infection in the vascular network and will be elevated in the early stages of heart disease. High doses of omega 3 fatty acids and treating any underlying infections should help to lower this marker.
Fibrinogen – relates to tissue damage and inflammation. Elevated fibrinogen is correlated with early cardiovascular disease and is a better marker of risk for a coronary event than is elevated cholesterol. High doses of omega 3 fatty acids (ie. EPA/DHA) and proteolytic enzymes will lower fibrinogen.
Ferritin – is the best measure of iron deficiency, elevated ferritin is also an important maker of cardiovascular health. High levels are found in ischemic heart disease, iron overload, and hemo-chromatosis. If ferritin is high, the person should make a habit of donating blood regularly and also have other lab values checked regularly to see if there’s a reason this marker remains high. (sometimes it’s a genetic condition).
So, what can you do? Eat a diet high in (lead and mercury free) wild fish, use lots of olive oil (only in dark bottles to prevent oxidation), use at least one tablespoon of flaxseed meal daily, have a shot of pure grape juice daily for some extra vitamin E, treat your inflammatory conditions (start by adding probiotics and then building a strong intestinal system), and treat any infections you may have in your mouth. You may also try adding turmeric to your diet as a seasoning, since it high in anti-inflammatory properties. If you smoke, quit (or at least take extra vitamin C and E), do something every day for at least 5 minutes that relaxes your body and your mind completely. And finally, make sure you maintain a healthy body weight and exercise regularly (about three or four times each week) to maintain a healthy blood pressure and manage your stress.