With this coming February being American Heart Month and with the holiday gluttony behind us, maybe this is a good time to look at the causes and cure for heart disease.
Heart disease is the number one killer in civilized nations with evidence clearly showing that the incidence of heart disease is directly related to our abnormal dietary habits through the SAD (Standard American Diet).
Wherever people live on a diet high in refined carbohydrates and animal fats, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, arthrosclerosis, angina, and other degenerative heart changes occur most frequently.
A great deal of confusion exists about the role of animal fats as one of the causes of heart disease.
Until the early 70s it was a commonly accepted assumption that excess consumption of the saturated fats found in flesh, eggs, and dairy products were the main cause of these illnesses.
But that view could never explain why traditional Eskimos or other tribal people who eat large amounts of animal fats do not exhibit an increased incidence of heart disease. Yet, most doctors stuck to their beliefs and repeated the flesh-heart mantra regularly.
It may not be totally correct, but at least it’s simple and easy to chant without having to go into too much time-consuming detail.
The problem with much of the past research has been the traditional tendency to try, whenever possible, to find a single, simple “something” that will explain a particular disease.
What they failed to understand was that heart disease, like most degenerative diseases, for that matter, is a result of a total lifestyle, and not a simple dietary excess or deficiency.
When you look at the true causes of degenerative heart disease, you have to keep in mind that people, as individuals, respond to causes differently. But the one factor that stands out as the major cause of heart disease is diet.
The saturated fats, which are commonly found in flesh foods, are a problem. This has been long suspected and
unfortunately the situation is getting worse, not better.
Flesh products contain a very high percentage of complicated fats that cause a rise in blood cholesterol, which has been associated with the formation of atherosclerotic plaques on the arterial walls.
So, when we equate heart disease with diet, the SAD is higher in animal fats and animal proteins and cholesterol than in many populations with less heart disease. It’s a given that cannot be denied.
Things have changed. Domesticated animals have a much higher percentage of saturated fat than wild animals, due to a different diet (GMO grains, feathers and blood, and the remains of the dead, dying, diseased, and decayed animals unfit for human consumption), and Monsanto’s growth hormones used by various cattle and poultry industries to fatten their stock artificially.
Cow’s milk, ignoring the fact that it was not designed by nature for humans and the fact that it needs to be brought to a boil three times before ingestion, is now pasteurized, which kills everything in it, and homogenized, which makes the fat particles more easily digested, and is full of hormones, antibiotics and pus (from the udder infections), making it a joy to ingest and yet we feed this to infants, resulting in cases of atherosclerosis by the age of 5. And we wonder why heart disease, once a disease of middle age, is now hitting people in their twenties.
The cholesterol story is not a simple one. Although multiple studies prove that an elevated blood cholesterol level is definitely associated with an increased risk of heart disease, it cannot be said that from this date that dietary cholesterol is the single most important factor causing the increased blood cholesterol.
In fact, a modest increase in dietary cholesterol has been shown to give no significant rise in blood cholesterol levels.
While it is true that excessive cholesterol in the diet will affect blood cholesterol levels, of way more importance to the total blood fat picture is the body’s ability to form cholesterol within the body from other nonfat energy sources, such as protein.
In support of the observation that vegetarians, and especially vegans, in general have lower cholesterol levels than those that eat flesh, it has been found that certain amino acids like histidine, arginine, and lysine, found in highest concentrations in flesh products, are capable of being converted to cholesterol within the body.
Cholesterol is also a component on the platelet cell membrane and as the blood cholesterol rises, so does platelet cholesterol. With this comes the tendency for the platelet to stick to the cell wall. Once the platelet sticks to the artery wall, it releases chemicals that cause a narrowing of the blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the heart.
There has been numerous research that has helped clarify many of the previously unanswered questions about the diet/heart disease link. A significant finding was that when cholesterol was allowed to go rancid, heart disease always manifested, indicating that rancid oil factors were indeed the primary factor.
Most blood cholesterol is made within the body and this in turn depends upon the amount and kind of protein eaten, the amount and kind of fat eaten, the levels of certain vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, as well as stress, alcohol consumption, exercise level, and the interrelationship of all the previously mentioned causative factors. So, again, heart disease is not caused by a single factor.
Saturated fats, although central to the increase of heart disease, do not work in isolation in the diet. Refined carbohydrates and specifically sugar are also known to increase fat levels in the blood. This combination of sugar or refined carbohydrates taken with saturated fats seems to cause the highest of all increases of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. And this combination of foods is extremely common in the modern diet from early childhood on.
Take, for example, the typical milkshake (sugar and milk) or a hamburger and a Coke or Pepsi (flesh, refined white flour bun, and sugar). While saturated fat consumption has increased only about 10 to 15 percent in the last 135 years, the increase in refined carbohydrates and sugar has gone up to a whopping 700 percent.
This increase in the consumption of refined carbohydrates, especially sugar, is the single most important factor effecting a rise in blood triglycerides. The bottom line: high sucrose consumption links to coronary heart disease. And now with Monsanto creating GMO sugar, it hits the fan big time. As a side note, and to play it safe, your sweeteners should only include stevia, honey, or maple syrup. Otherwise, you’ll never know until a GMO labeling bill can be passed..
Then there is research that indicates that unsaturated vegetable oils may also be related to some degenerative diseases. It’s not rocket science when you consider the type of oils normally consumed in the USA – refined, heat-treated, and partially hydrogenated.
Heat-treated oils undergo a transformation from the chemically normal form to the more stable but abnormal trans or rancid form.
This trans form, not normally found in these oils, if cold-pressed or unheated, is more reactive with oxidants, producing rancidity by-products that, as we have seen, cause an elevation in the circulation of possible mutant substances, which may initiate damage to the arterial walls. equating to the production of atherosclerotic plaques buildup, with plaque being the factor associated with coronary heart disease.
Partially hydrogenated, unsaturated oils like margarine are also a factor.
When people converted from butter to margarine, thinking to reduce their total dietary cholesterol intake, it had an opposite effect.
Hydrogenated oils are high in trans forms of fatty acids, which inhibits a liver enzyme responsible for converting cholesterol into bile acids. It’s the bile acids that transport cholesterol out of the body. Guess what? If cholesterol is not converted to bile, it accumulates in the blood, which is the exact opposite of the desired result.
Fats, being water-insoluble, must be carried in the blood by a lipoprotein, which come in various shapes and sizes.
The low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are large, cholesterol-laden molecules. At high levels in the blood they are a significant factor associated with and increased risk of coronary heart disease.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are smaller molecules with more protein and less cholesterol and triglycerides. When these are found in high levels in the blood there is a reduced risk of heart disease. Plus, the HDLs help transport cholesterol from the blood to the liver where it can be converted to bile and then removed from the body.
With the discovery that these lipoproteins can be predictors of the risk of heart disease came a new area of research showing how individual foods, vitamins, and minerals affect the interrelationship of these factors, as well as cholesterol and triglycerides, giving us a better insight as to their relative effectiveness.
Vitamin C helps increase HDL levels and lowers LDL levels, protecting against coronary heart disease. It also dramatically reduces high elevations of blood cholesterol by activating the conversion of cholesterol into bile salts.
Vitamin B complex, lost in the refining process of starches and essential in the metabolism of carbohydrates, is known to keep cholesterol from collecting in plaque.
Vitamin E, also stripped away with the germ of grains and lost in the refining of oils, is essential for a healthy heart. It helps dissolve blood clots, dilates blood vessels, and conserves oxygen so that the heart can work less. And, as an antioxidant, it prevents fatty acids from becoming toxic in the body.
Lecithin, containing choline of the vitamin B complex group, is essential for the proper use of fat and cholesterol in the body and its use significantly lowers blood cholesterol levels. There is a caution however. Lecithin comes from soy and 90 – 95 percent of all soy is GMO. So, be sure to get non-GMO or organic lecithin. It’s no wonder that Hershey’s voted against Proposition 37 in California. Lecithin is in chocolate.
Essential fatty acids rich in omega 3s decrease platelet adhesion, increase bleeding time, and reduce risk of heart disease because they reduce blood cholesterol and increase HDLs.
Bran fiber reduces blood cholesterol and triglycerides, increases HDL, and lowers LDL. It also helps prevent recycling of bile from the bowel back to the liver, which signals a reduction of cholesterol conversion to bile, causing a blood cholesterol increase.
Lactobacillus lowers cholesterol levels by normalizing bowel ecology, preventing cholesterol production from within the system.
Cultured milk products like yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk, if used daily, can lower blood cholesterol 5 to 6 percent. Whether the weight gain suits you is entirely up to you.
Garlic and onion lower blood cholesterol and reduce platelet adhesiveness, as well as reducing triglycerides and increasing HDLs. The extracts are more powerful.
Soy protein lowers blood cholesterol. Again, be conscious of the GMO factor.
A second major cause of heart disease is lack of demanding exercise.
As general physical activity levels have decreased, heart disease has increased. Demanding physical exercise, the kind that gets the blood flowing and the heart pumping, helps clear the arteries of any early deposits and prevents atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. To be effective, the heart rate must rise to the point of breathlessness for at least 5 minutes a day.
Stress, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, and obesity are more contributing factors. All these increase cholesterol, glucose, and triglyceride levels, and cause a narrowing of the arteries.
So, along with eating a plant-based diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and plant proteins like legumes, tofu, nuts, and seeds, instead of flesh proteins, your fats should be healthy fats. Specific foods that protect against heart disease, are:
Kale – full of flavonoides, omega 3s, and vitamin K, which are all anti-inflammatory.
Omega 3s – flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, sea vegetable like dulse, arame, nori, wakame, and kombu.
Pomegranates – high in antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory effects, and reduce buildup of plaque.
Nuts – lower cholesterol and good sources of fiber.
Garlic – slows hardening of the arteries and helps lower blood pressure.
Lentils – helps lower homocysteine levels, increases blood flow and oxygen
Berries – rich in fiber, antioxidents, full of beta-carotene, carotenoids, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium.
Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, barley, etc. Loaded with fiber.
Well, there it is. Why heart disease manifests and how to reverse it. The only problem is trying to get the intelligence to override the dictates of the tongue, which has developed a particular attraction for a certain taste. But, a change in diet is way better than a trip to the doctor or hospital and a life of endless, toxic, synthetic drugs, heart surgery, or premature death.