Cardiac disease is the most common cause of death in westernized countries. It is well known that there is a strong link between our lifestyle and our risk of developing heart disease. However, despite our increase in knowledge and advancements in technology and pharmaceutical drugs, the rate of disease increases. The cost of cardiac disease in the US was $320 billion in 2011 and is projected to reach $918 billion by 2030.
However, heart disease doesn't just appear on its own. There are important underlying factors that must be understood and addressed in order to prevent and adequately treat heart problems. Treating the heart will result in health benefits for the entire body. Below are underlying factors that, if not adequately addressed, can lead to heart disease and fatal consequences.
The risk of developing heart disease revolves around much more than lipid (cholesterol levels). Chronic inflammation is the underlining process of heart disease. It does not stay localized but involves every organ and section of the body. Generalized inflammation stems from poor lifestyle choices affecting diet, activity status, environmental exposures (stress), infections, and toxins.
Other risk factors for heart disease are malfunctioning organs such as thyroid disease, pancreatitis, a weakened immune system, gut dysfunction, abnormal hormone levels, and genetic disorders involving cholesterol packaging and transportation.
The Silent Killer
High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) gradually damages blood vessels causing plaque accumulation or the blood vessels to rupture. Blood pressure can be elevated by a salty diet, obesity, caffeine and alcohol consumption, smoking, life stressors, and a sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that this can be reverted by reducing and eliminating these risk factors. Your cardiac risk factor may be significantly lowered with a simple 5-10 point drop in blood pressure.
Elevated cholesterol, namely LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is also a major risk factor for heart disease. The most comprehensive manner to address cholesterol levels is to ask for a complete panel and, if possible, a Boston Heart Lipid Panel, which includes other specific cholesterol subgroups and information. Scientists propose that approximately 60-70% of cardiac patients have a normal looking panel, because these panels only focus on LDL (low-density lipoproteins) or total cholesterol level and fail to look at cholesterol ratios, size, and mutations in other subforms of cholesterol, known as Apo E. The body produces cholesterol daily, but dietary intake of cholesterol is the main culprit for high cholesterol. Plants, vegetables, and nuts do not contain cholesterol, thus the main source of cholesterol is animal products.
There are genetic causes for elevated cholesterol and therefore of increased risk for heart disease. Elevated levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, can lead to a 20-30% increase in risk of heart disease. Vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency can also lead to elevated levels of Homocysteine. Those with the genetic variation of the MTHFR gene have an inhibited ability to absorb folic acid and Vitamin B12, which should be accounted for. If you do have one of these genetic traits, you can reduce your homocysteine levels by intaking at least 400 mcg/day of methyltetrahydrofolate.
Although fats and protein are necessary—in moderate amounts—for healthy, cell membranes, hair, skin, and brain function, avoid oxidative fats, high levels of saturated fats, and focus more on utilizing plant fats from seeds, nuts, legumes, and fresh olives. Increase activity level as it is vital to lowering blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol. Eliminating alcohol and tobacco will be overwhelmingly beneficial at lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and improving brain and kidney function. Managing stress and anxious emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression is also beneficial for the heart and may reduce sudden and fatal heart attacks.
Key to Successful Prevention
Committed lifestyle changes will result in far greater success in lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight than relying on medication alone. As you prepare for and begin these changes, discuss your treatment options with your medical practitioner and consider medication and or supplements as temporary crutches that may help reduce stress on your heart while other holistic treatments and approaches are being pursued.