Over 82 million people, or more than 25 percent of the U.S. population has one or more forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In 2009 an estimated 7,453,000 inpatient cardiovascular procedures were performed in the U.S. This year <2200 Americans will die of CVD each day, which equates to one person every 39 seconds. In 2008 the CVD mortality was nearly 55% of “total mortality” in the U.S. That means out of more than 2.4 million deaths from all causes, CVD was listed as a cause on almost 1.4 million death certificates (1).
It’s safe to say that CVD is a big problem in this country, and is gaining momentum around the world. As other countries begin to consume the same foods and food products as the U.S., diseases like CVD are becoming more prevalent.
Below you’ll find eight things you can do to help prevent CVD. However, before you read on, forget what you learned about decreasing your risk of CVD from the medical community, TV or any other source that touts the Lipid Hypothesis. Some of my suggestions will be familiar and logical to you, but some flies in the face of all you’ve heard.
1. Do not Smoke. This is the number one preventable cause of death in the U.S. Approximately 30% of all deaths from (CVD) in the U.S. are attributed directly to cigarette smoking each year. The longer one smokes, and the more one smokes increases the risk of heart attack. There is no safe amount of smoking, and research has demonstrated a substantial decrease in CVD mortality for former smokers compared with continuing smokers
(2). If you smoke, quit.
2. Do not become overweight or obese. Being overweight is the number two preventable cause of death in the U.S.; it has a linear relationship with heart disease risk, meaning, the heavier one gets, the higher the risk (3). In 2000, obesity accounted for 365,000 deaths, which is 16 percent of all deaths. In 1990 obesity caused about 300,000 deaths, or 14 percent of the total. If this trend continues at the same rate, obesity will soon reach the number one spot (4).
3. Exercise. The relationship between physical fitness and cardiovascular health has long been established. The more fit an individual is the less risk of CVD; if it does develop it tends to occur at a later age (5). Get to a fitness center and get going.
4. Don’t worry, be happy. Stress in and of itself is not a killer. However, how we handle stress has a major impact upon the circulatory system, and it plays a significant role in the risk of cardiovascular diseases (6). One of the best modifications you can make in your life is to learn how to handle stress more appropriately.
5. Don’t consume trans fats. Products that contain vegetable oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or shortening listed as one of the ingredients contain trans fat. A government study confirmed that trans fat is directly related with heart disease. Because of that, the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, declared there is no safe amount of trans fat in the diet (7).
6. Increase your consumption of whole natural animal products. The only negative claim that could be made against animal products is they contain saturated fat, and saturated fat raises cholesterol levels. And for that claim to be negative, one has to believe higher cholesterol levels are a health risk.
Says Anthony Colpo in “LDL Cholesterol: Bad Cholesterol, or Bad Science”: “The concept that LDL is ‘bad cholesterol’ is a simplistic and scientifically untenable hypothesis. Independent thinking practitioners must look at the readily available evidence for themselves, instead of relying on the continual stream of anti-cholesterol propaganda emanating from ‘health authorities.’ By doing so, they will quickly realize that the LDL hypothesis is aggressively promoted for reasons other than public health.” (8)
If animal fats (saturated fats) are so dangerous, and vegetable oils (polyunsaturated fat) are so healthy, why are we so unhealthy as a nation? Animal fat consumption has dropped over 21% since 1910. Vegetable oil consumption, including hydrogenated oils, has increased 437%. The scientific data of the past and present does not support the assertion that saturated fats cause heart disease. More than 20 studies have shown that people who have had a heart attack haven’t eaten any more saturated fat than other people. (9)
Animal products have been nourishing societies around the world for tens of thousands of years. It has been shown through the centuries, as whole indigenous animal products are replaced with processed foods, increase prevalence of disease results.
7. Avoid vegetable oils. We’ve been told relentlessly that polyunsaturated fats are good for our health and to increase our consumption. Unfortunately, polyunsaturated fats cause many health problems including heart disease. One of the biggest reasons polyunsaturated fats are so unhealthy is because they are very susceptible to becoming oxidized or rancid when exposed to heat and light. The polyunsaturated oils you buy in grocery stores are already rancid, because of the extraction process. Throughout the entire process oils are exposed to oxygen, repeated heating to over 200 degrees, chemical solvents and deodorizers. And finally because Americans love that golden color, most oils are bleached for eye appeal. (9) Yummy!
Now, you go to the store to purchase vegetable oil, which has been touted as super healthy, not knowing that you’re actually purchasing a free radical cocktail that over time causes serious health problems. Free radicals, or “chemical marauders” as some scientists refer to them, wreak havoc on our bodies.
Free radicals, if not kept in check, can damage the inner lining (intima) of an artery, causing a lesion. Injury causes inflammation and the body responds by producing raised plaques in an effort to heal the vascular lesions. This is known as the Response to Injury Hypothesis presented by Russell Ross and John Glomset in 1976.
8. Stop consuming sugar. Unless you live in a cave, you know that sugar has a direct association with being overweight, obesity, diabetes, and elevated triglycerides. All of which are risk factors for CVD. So, if sugar is a major cause of several risk factors, it’s correct to say it’s indirectly associated with increased risk of CVD. But, is sugar consumption directly associated with CVD? Unfortunately, for everyone with a sweet tooth, there is a growing amount of evidence that consuming sugar in food or drinks is directly detrimental to cardiovascular health. Here’s one big recent study to ponder:
Researchers from the Harvard school of public health followed 42,883 men over 22 years. The purpose of the study was to define the association between sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverage intake and coronary heart disease (CHD). The results showed that for every additional serving per day of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption there was a 19% to 25% increase in CHD. Artificially sweetened beverages were found not to be associated with increased risk.(10)
1. (2012). Heart disease and stroke statistics—2012 update a report from the American heart association. Circulation, 125, e2-e220. Retrieved from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/125/1/e2.full
2. Ockene, I. A., & Miller, N. H. (1997). Cigarette smoking, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Circulation, 96, 3243-3247. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/IhyXWj
3. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Health Statistics Center. (n.d.). Obesity: Facts, figures, guidelines. Retrieved from website: http://bit.ly/HnzUfV
4. Mockdad, A. H. (2004). Actual causes of death in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association, 291, 1238-1245. Retrieved from http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/291/10/1238.full
5. Myers, J. (2003). Exercise and cardiovascular health. Circulation, 107, e2-e5. Retrieved from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/107/1/e2.full
6. Burg, M. M. P. D. (2002). Stress, behavior, and heart disease. (pp. 95-104). Yale University School of Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.med.yale.edu/library/heartbk/8.pdf
7. Severson, K. (2002, January 11). Trans fat in food: as bad as it gets. scientists’ warning likely to bring listing on nutrition labels. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/Io3G7J
8. Colpo, A. (2005). LDL cholesterol: Bad cholesterol or bad science. Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, 10(3), 83-89. Retrieved from http://www.jpands.org/vol10no3/colpo.pdf
9. Furci, M. S. (2006, April 18). Fats, cholesterol and the lipid hypothesis. Retrieved from http://www.bullz-eye.com/furci/2006/fats_lipid_hypothesis.htm
10. (2012). Association or Causation of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Coronary Heart Disease: Recalling Sir Austin Bradford Hill. Circulation,125,1718-1720. Retrieved from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/125/14/1735.full