Heart disease is a disease of inflammation. Heart attacks and strokes, contrary to popular opinion, are not caused by high cholesterol, they are caused by systemic inflammation in the arteries, which functional medicine physicians can measure with various lab tests such as homocysteine and high sensitivity C-reactive protein. We also have a new test that we do here in our office called the Max Pulse machine, which measures the health of your heart muscle, elasticity of your arteries and how well your autonomic nervous system is handling stress and interacting with your heart. The aforementioned factors are far more relevant to heart disease risk than your total cholesterol.
Unfortunately, cholesterol has been unjustly demonized by our society. Mostly, this is because of some erroneous studies and conclusions drawn by researchers decades ago. Cholesterol is in fact one of the most important molecules in your body, a vital component for the proper functioning of virtually every organ system and cell membranes, especially your nervous system and brain.
The Mystery of Arterial Plaque
People also get confused as to the nature of atherosclerotic plaque accumulation in the arteries. It is actually not narrowing of the arteries that directly causes heart attack and stroke, it is when a small chunk of that plaque dislodges from the artery wall and occludes an artery in the heart or brain, cutting off the supply of blood and oxygen to these vital organs. So what would cause the plaque to dislodge? Inflammation. When you have a combination of excessive atherosclerotic plaque and high inflammation, you now have the magic recipe for an ischemic episode.
Heart Disease and Nutrition
We therefore need to broach the subject of heart attack and stroke from the dual perspective of inflammation and plaque accumulation, both of which can be traced back mostly to nutritional and lifestyle factors such as excessive stress or inadequate sleep causing elevations in the stress hormone cortisol. First off, let’s take a realistic look at what causes plaque to accumulate in our arteries? Is it the number of eggs that we eat? The red meat in our diet? None of the aforementioned. A big juicy steak will not clog your arteries, regardless of what conventional wisdom would have us believe, but the potatoes and dessert we have with our steak will. This is because carbohydrates, especially starches and refined sugars raise our blood levels of the most dangerous type of cholesterol, triglycerides, which is the “sticky” cholesterol that ultimately clogs our arteries. Because eggs and steak and animal proteins do not raise our triglycerides, only our good HDL cholesterol, they are actually harmless by themselves. The truth that may astound you is that high-glycemic dried fruit or breakfast cereal will clog your arteries, but bacon and eggs will not!
How do Diabesity and Heart Disease Relate?
Carbs + Inflammation = Heart Problems
To add insult to injury, not only do high-glycemic carbs clog up your arteries, they are also highly inflammatory, so now we have the perfect formula for a heart attack or stroke. Cut your carbs and cut your heart disease risk. Fat and dietary cholesterol are not the enemy. Sugar is! But let’s be clear about the many names for sugar: white and brown table sugar (of course), honey, molasses, agave, sucrose, fructose, lactose, maltose, galactose, found in everything from candy to rice, potatoes and wheat, and even fruit. That is why fruitarians and vegetarians often wind up with advanced heart disease, because when any human switches from a primarily carnivorous diet (we are mostly carnivores genetically, not herbivores) and we choose to be vegan or vegetarians, we are choosing to become what many nutritionists like to call “carbivores”. Carbivores raise triglycerides and inflammation in their body because carbohydrates are inherently pro-inflammatory, especially high-glycemic carbs, and also hydrogenated oils and trans-fat.
It is unfortunate that, for over three decades now, processed food conglomerates have been enticing Americans with low-fat or non-fat versions of foods that are now loaded with sugar and, even worse, high fructose corn syrup. Health-conscious Americans have been avoiding fat and dietary cholesterol like the plague, yet we have seen an alarming rise in obesity and heart disease in the past two decades as folks have traded in their healthy fats for carbs. This madness needs to stop!
The Straight Truth About Nutrition
Here at the Diabesity Doc practice, we are not interested in doling out conventional wisdom influenced by economics that disregards the health and well being of consumers. We are here to debunk nutritional myths and get you as healthy as you can possibly be, with cutting-edge medical information that is only dispensed at a Functional Medicine clinic that focuses on preventive medicine, not symptom-based healthcare. Call us today to arrange an appointment. Remember that even if you have a history of heart disease in your family, your genes are not your destiny. You are in control of your own heart disease risk. We are merely here to give you the right tools to take control!