Developing a healthy heart is no easy task. If you were to visit your doctor and ask, “How can I make my heart healthier”, he or she may not know how exactly to answer such a question because the answer lies in both of the big wellness buckets diet and fitness. In order to strengthen and nourish your heart in the healthiest way possible, it will require that you eat extraordinarily healthy, and also exercise regularly and properly.
The focus of this post will primarily be on your diet.
The Science Behind Developing a Healthy Heart
A healthy heart is important if you want to living longer, participate in high performance activities, or if you want to feel better because due to a lack of disease and illness. Put quite plainly, a healthy heart is a disease-free, strong heart. Diets rich in healthy foods reduce the likelihood of heart-related diseases and also help your heart work more efficiently and effectively.
An Unhealthy Heart is the Leading Cause of Death in the United States
Below are the leading causes of death, courtesy of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention:
- Heart disease: 616,067
- Cancer: 562,875
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
- Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632
- Diabetes: 71,382
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
- Septicemia: 34,828
Heart-related deaths have the #1 and #3 spots on this death rate list from the CDC so if your heart is not absolutely healthy, you will most likely die from either Heart Disease or Stroke in your lifetime. Let’s figure out what these diseases are and what we can do in order to prevent them.
Heart Disease/Cardiovascular Disease/Coronary Heart Disease
The term heart disease is a general term for any of 8 different diseases affecting the heart. When most people speak of heart disease, however, they are usually referring to coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease (CHD) occurs when the blood vessels that carry oxygen and blood to the heart have narrowed, which can damage the heart muscle and surrounding tissue.
Low Cholesterol Causes Heart Attacks
Most people believe that high cholesterol causes heart disease. But science and history tells us otherwise. Consider the findings of Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale University. In 1994 he reported that elderly patients with low cholesterol died twice as often from heart attacks as elderly patients with high cholesterol.
Japanese researcher H. Okuyama in 2005 writes:
“ . . . high total cholesterol is not positively associated with high coronary heart disease mortality rates among general populations more than 40-50 years of age. More importantly, higher total cholesterol values are associated with lower cancer and all-cause mortality rates among these populations . . . Although the effectiveness of statins in preventing coronary heart disease has been accepted in Western countries, little benefit seems to result from efforts to limit dietary cholesterol intake or to lower TC values . . . [In fact, these cholesterol lowering drugs] create major risk factors for CHD, cancers, and shorter longevity.”
So if your local doctor prescribes you statins to lower your cholesterol, not only are you not preventing heart disease but you are also at a higher risk for heart disease, cancer, and dying early!
What Else Causes Heart Disease
Referencing Dr. Doug McGuff of Body by Science: the fatty acid that is in refined grain-based carbohydrates is an omega-6 fatty acid, which is a biological precursors for hormones in your body called inflammatory eicosanoids. The fatty acid that is in ocean fish, green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, grass fed beef and pasture-raised chickens is an omega 3 fatty acids – which is a biological precursors of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids.
- The average person eating the “Standard American Diet” has a ratio of about 20 to 1
- Hunter-gatherers that still exist today have a ratio of about 1 to 1
By avoiding refined grains, you will drastically improve your omega-6 to 3 ratio since you will be consuming less omega 6. On the other hand, by following the “Standard American Diet” we have a ratio that is greatly weighted towards producing systemic inflammation -> heart disease or heart attack.
When you have too much systemic inflammation in the body, the internal lining of your blood vessels become scratched and rough. This roughing or scratching up of the blood vessels creates an even further inflammatory effect, which your body wants to patch before you have an accumulation of platelets, thus clotting off that artery and losing blood flow to the heart and vital organs.
To repair these damaged blood vessels, your body creates and transmits Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol) to patch up arterial damage caused by inflammation. Occasionally, a cholesterol plaque can rupture open when under the strain of sealing the small damaged blood vessels. When a rupture occurs, new platelets come screaming in because of the exposure of all these inflammatory mediators. This rush effect can effectively clot off that blood vessel and you’ve just had a HEART ATTACK!
Your Doctor is Wrong About Heart Attacks (Correlation is not Causation)
Tragically, today’s doctors believe that because a high concentration of LDL cholesterol is present at the site of a heart attack, it is therefore the cause. But we know that just because high LDL cholesterol is correlated with heart attacks, it doesn’t also mean it is necessarily the cause. LDL is just doing it’s job of repairing artery damage caused by systemic inflammation – due to a diet high in refined grain-based carbohydrates.
Lowering one’s cholesterol, therefore, is ill-advised and will not prevent another heart attack. Instead, one must minimize systemic inflammation.
Four Ways Minimize Systemic Inflammation, and Eliminate the chances of having a Heart Attack or Heart Disease
4. Exercise Regularly
Do you have a heart related story? Tell me in the comments below, or drop me a line in the contact me area.