The leading cause of death for both men and women in the US, heart disease claims the lives of about 1 million Americans each year. The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack.
In fact, there will be approximately 920,000 new heart attack cases this year, and almost half of them will occur suddenly without any warning signs.
What leads to a heart attack is blocked blood flow to a part of your heart. What compromised the blood flow is plaque build-up inside your arteries, a condition medically referred to as atherosclerosis. This plaque can rupture and form a blood clot that inhibits blood flow to the heart.
Unless this blockage is removed promptly, a part of your heart muscle will begin to die and be replaced with scar tissue. This can lead to even more serious issues in the future. For one thing,
a previous heart attack, especially one that damages a large area of your myocardium, leads to irregular heart rhythms which can cause another, fatal, cardiac arrest.
5 Lifestyle Changes Could Prevent 80% of Heart Attacks
As serious as this condition sounds, heart attack can almost always be prevented. Most people are already aware that lifestyle plays a vital role for heart health.
According to a new study by the Karolinska Institute, engaging in five healthy lifestyle habits could reduce first-time heart attacks in men by 80%. In the words of the researchers:
“It is not surprising that healthy lifestyle choices would lead to a reduction in heart attacks… What is surprising is how drastically the risk dropped due to these factors.”
A previous INTERHEART study in 2004, which examined heart disease risk factors in over 50 countries worldwide, found that 90% heart disease cases can be completely prevented by introducing some diet and lifestyle changes.
What do these five healthy lifestyle habits intail?
- A healthy diet
- Physical activity (walking/bicycling ≥40 min/day and exercising ≥1 h/week)
- Healthy waist circumference (waist circumference <95 cm or 37.4 inches)
- Moderate alcohol consumption (10 to 30 g/day)
- No smoking
What Is a Healthy Diet for Your Heart?
As opposed to common belief, it is refined carbs, sugar, and processed foods that are the main culprits, and not the saturated fats found in foods such as butter, lard, or eggs.
This confusion is often associated with LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol. As most people believe, high LDL is linked to heart disease, and saturated fat can increase LDL in your blood. But, what most people don’t know is that there are TWO kinds of LDL cholesterol particles:
- Small, dense LDL cholesterol
- Large, “fluffy” LDL cholesterol
And, according to research, large LDL particles are not a risk factor for heart disease. It’s the small, dense LDL particles, which contribute to the accumulation of plaque in your arteries, and trans fat increases small, dense LDL. Saturated fat, on the other hand, increases large, fluffy, and benign LDL.
What’s more important is small, dense LDL particles increase with the consumption of sugar and carbohydrates, such as bread, bagels, and soda. Together, trans fats and refined carbs do far more harm than saturated fat on its own.
This had an impact on the food industry, which started introducing low-fat foods and replacing healthy saturated fats like butter and lard with harmful trans fats (vegetables oils, margarine, etc.), and lots of refined sugar and processed fructose.
This approach has clearly resulted in an ever-rising obesity and heart disease rates.
A True Heart-Healthy Diet Plan
The most important thing you need to do to protect your heart is avoid trans fats by eliminating all processed foods. This also includes most restaurant food. Next, you need to control your insulin and leptin resistance, which result from eating a diet high in sugars and grains. If you want to reduce your risk of heart disease, take the following into consideration.
- Stay away from sugar, processed fructose, and grains. This also includes cutting down most processed foods.
- Follow a healthy balanced diet of whole foods, preferably organic. Swap the grain carbs with:
- Lots of vegetables
- Low-to-moderate amount of high-quality protein (ideally organically raised, -pastured animals)
- High-quality healthy fat (saturated and monounsaturated from animal and tropical oil sources).
In fact, most people really need to increase their fat intake by 50-85% for optimal health, which isn’t even close to the 10% currently recommended. Consider the following sources of healthy fats:
- Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
- Raw dairy
- Organic pastured egg yolks
- Coconuts andcoconut oil
- Unheated organic nut oils
- Raw nuts, such as almonds, pecans, macadamia, and seeds
- Grass-fed meats
The balance between omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids plays an essential role in heart health. These fatty acids participate in the formation of cells in the arteries which are responsible for prostacyclin, a compound which allows the blood to flow smoothly. Lack of omega-3 can lead to serious health issues, including mental and physical disorders, and can be the major cause of 96,000 premature deaths annually. It is recommended that you avoid vegetable oils and consume more wild-caught oily fish (sardines and anchioves). Also, you can consume a high- quality krill oil supplement.
Should You Eat More Fruit for Your Heart?
According to a study presented this year at the ESC Congress in Barcelona, Spain, people who regularly consumed fruit had 40 percent lower risk of developing heart disease, and 32 lower risk of death from any cause, when compared to those who did not.
Fruits are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients which have the ability to improve heart health and prevent inflammation. A study published in the British Medical Journal showed that one apple a day has the ability to prevent heart death and cardiovascular disease in people older than 50 almost similarly as using a daily statin.
However, fruits should be consumed in moderation, especially those which are sweeter. The most effective phytonutrients usually have bitter, sour, or astringent taste and are usually found in the skin and seeds. To satisfy the high demand, farmers stared breeding sweeter varieties of fruits, making them less nutritious than before. However, you can still find organic fruits, such as cherries, blueberries or apples. These should also be eaten in moderation. Fruits are loaded with fructose and therefore you should avoid consuming too much fructose since it can harm your heart health:
- If you are resistant to insulin or leptin, or if you are overweight, hypersensitive or have high cholesterol levels (this includes nearly 80% Americans), you should reduce your fruit intake to no more than 15g fructose daily. This refers to all sources, including whole fruit.
- If you are not insulin/leptin resistant, and have normal weight without diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol and if you do some physical activity on regular basis, then you are safe with high fructose intake, which means you can eat as much fruit as you like.
- If you belong to the second group, fruit can still increase your blood sugar even your protein glycosylation. The best time to consume fruit is after a workout, because your body will then use the sugar as fuel rather than store it in your blood and thus raise your blood sugar levels.
- Plus, if you’re an endurance athlete, you can also consume large amounts of fruits because your body will burn most of the glucose during exercise, and it won’t be stored as fat.
Diabetes Drug Increases Heart Disease Risk
One of the most common diabetes drugs on the market is Metformin, which makes your body tissues more sensitive to insulin. But, according to recent studies that included people with hypothyroidism, the use of metformin was linked to a higher risk of low thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. A drastic decrease in TSH levels may lead to serious health issues, including heart problems such as atrial fibrillation, which in turn could result in congestive heart failure. A different study has found that if you treat type 2 diabetes with glucose-lowering drugs, you actually increase your risk of death from heart-related issues. In the words of researchers:
“The overall results of this meta-analysis do not show a benefit of intensive glucose lowering treatment on all cause mortality or cardiovascular death. A 19% increase in all cause mortality and a 43% increase in cardiovascular mortality cannot be excluded.”
However, you don’t need to expose yourself to these risks unnecessarily as type 2 diabetes can be treated without drugs. The best thing you can do is replace processed foods with whole organic foods, which contain less sugar and sugar-forming carbohydrates. Add a few minutes of regular high-intensity exercises to your new dietary regime and you are on the safe track to reverse diabetes.
A Warning About Beta-Blockers and Scientific Misconduct
Beta-blockers are medications aimed at the treatment of hypertension and congestive heart failure. What these medications do is block the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline) from binding to beta receptors and dilate blood vessels, thus reducing your heart rate and blood pressure. The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) used to recommend the treatment of patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery with beta-blockers. But, it was earlier this year that researchers calculated that this beta-blocker-use guideline, which they found was based on “questionable and probably fraudulent research,” may have led to nearly 800,000 deaths in the past five years in Europe only.
For one thing, these guidelines were mostly based on research conducted by a scientist who was fired for scientific misconduct in 2011, and who was also the chairman of the committee that drafted the European treatment guideline. So why weren’t immediate actions taken once this was brought to light? It’s still unclear why it took two years before the ESC withdrew the beta-blocker recommendation upon the scandal revelation. This delay caused almost half a million people to die unnecessarily.
This two-year span left many European clinicians to feel that their hands were tied, because they still had to follow guidelines for fear of being penalized — even though they knew the guidelines could possibly do more harm than good. A revised version of the article was published last month, which shed even more light on the harms that are incurred when fraudulent research is published and put into clinical practice. Forbes reported:
“They write about a culture of neglect in which few if any participants have anything to gain by finding or reporting scientific misconduct. They cite numerous examples in which misconduct has been alleged but the responsible actors– authors, home institutions, journals, and medical societies– have responded in only the most minimal and nonaggressive fashion. The portrait they paint is of a scientific and medical establishment devoted to not rocking the boat.”
Avoid Becoming Another Heart Attack Statistic
You can employ many strategies to protect your heart and basically eliminate your risk of heart disease. The worst thing you can do is wait for heart attack symptoms to appear before you take action. Be aware that the most common symptom of heart disease is sudden death, meaning that you will be dead before you can even address the problem. Take the following steps to protect your heart and prevent any long-lasting damage:
– Stay away from all sugars, including processed fructose and grains if you are insulin and leptin resistant. No matter whether they are conventional or organic, a high-sugar diet supports insulin and leptin resistance, which is the n.1 cause of heart disease.
- Eat unprocessed saturated animal fats, because you can benefit from these fats. Many may also benefit from increasing the healthy fat in their diet to 50-85% of daily calories.
- Avoid statins because the side effects of these drugs are numerous, while the benefits are questionable. In fact, the only group of people who may benefit from a cholesterol-lowering medication are those with genetic familial hypercholesterolemia, a condition characterized by abnormally high cholesterol. These people tend to be resistant to lifestyle strategies like diet and exercise.
- Avoid sitting for too long. In fact, reduce the time you spend sitting to three hours a day or less and try to take 10,000 steps a day (apart from your exercise).
- Do regular exercise as physical activity along with a healthy balanced diet, preferably organic, may be even more powerful than cholesterol-lowering drugs. Ideally, combine high-intensity interval training, strength training, stretching, and core work.
- Get optimal intake of vitamin D, either through appropriate sun exposure, a tanning bed, or as last a last option, an oral vitamin D3 supplement.
- Walk barefoot to ground with the earth on regular basis. When you do, free electrons are transferred from the earth into your body, and this grounding effect is one of the most potent antioxidants we know of, and reduces inflammation throughout your body.
- Reduce your stress daily. You can try the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) for stress management.