According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26.5 million people have been diagnosed with heart disease in the United States. It is the #1 killer. The most common notion has been for years that cholesterol and saturated fat lead to heart disease and we should be concentrating on engaging in low-fat diets and chugging down prescription drugs to regulate these things. We are spoon-fed this paranoia by the government and major health organizations such as the American Heart Association, when in reality, cholesterol is a minor player in heart disease and lowering cholesterol has extremely limited benefits.
Cholesterol causes heart disease. According to cardiac surgeon Dr. Stephen Sinatra and Dr. Jonny Bowden, this statement has caused one of the most indestructible and damaging myths in medical history. The millions of marketing dollars spent on perpetuation this myth have successfully kept us focused on a relatively minor character in the heart disease story, and created a market for cholesterol-lowering drugs worth more than $30 billion a year. And what about saturated fat? The relationship between saturated fat in the diet and heart disease has never been convincingly demonstrated, and despite the fact that research shows replacing saturated fat in the diet with carbohydrates actually increases the risk for heart disease.
So if cholesterol isn’t the cause of heart disease, what is? The primary cause of heart disease is inflammation. The two types described in the book are acute and chronic. Acute happens every time you stub your toe, bang your knee, or get a splinter in your finger. The swelling, redness, and soreness you experience as a result of acute inflammation are all natural accompaniments to the healing process. Chronic inflammation flies beneath the pain radar. Yet chronic inflammation is a significant component of virtually every single degenerative condition, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, cancer, chronic liver and kidney disease, and, most especially, heart disease. One of the prime initiators of inflammation is oxidation.
The only time cholesterol is a problem is if it’s oxidized (damaged). Damaged or oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol sticks to the lining of the arteries and begins the process of inflammation. Cholesterol’s ability to fight toxins may be one reason why it’s found at the site of arterial injuries caused by inflammation. But blaming cholesterol for those injuries is a little like blaming firemen for fire.
Here are some things that will help prevent you from a first or even second heart attack. Ask your doctor for the following tests, which are more than the standard test for cholesterol:
- LDL particle size
- Serum ferritin (iron)
- Lp (a)
- Coronary calcium scan
Eliminate sugar, soda, processed carbs, trans fats, processed meats and excess vegetable oils from your diet. And include more wild salmon, berries, vegetables, nuts, garlic, turmeric, and green tea into your diet. In a fascinating and much-discussed article that appeared in the December 16, 2004, issue of the British Medical Journal, researchers put forth an idea called the polymeal. They examined all the research on foods and health to see whether they could put together the ideal meal (the polymeal) that, if you ate it every day, would significantly reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. They came up with a theoretical meal that, eaten twice daily, would reduce cardiovascular risk by a staggering 75 percent (there’s no pill in the world that can do that!). The ingredients of the polymeal? Wine, fish, almonds, garlic, fruits, vegetables and dark chocolate.
Foods can fuel your heart, supplements can support it, and exercise can strengthen it. But never neglect the “hidden” emotional and psychological risk factors that contribute to the development of heart disease as surely as smoking, a high-sugar diet, stress, high blood pressure, and lack of exercise do. Taking a break in your everyday hectic schedule to simply breathe and relax, can do worlds for you body and your soul.