You know how to win hearts, break hearts and steal hearts but what do you really know about protecting the health of your heart? One in every three deaths is from heart disease or stroke. That’s 2,200 people dying each and every day from a combination of poor dietary habits and misinformation. Addressing one will fix the other.
First, let me introduce you to the man responsible for the disastrous nutritional course our country has been on for the last sixty years or so, Mr. Ancel Keys. He was a research scientist convinced there was a connection between saturated fat and cholesterol intake and heart disease. He came to a conclusion that we all have taken for granted and to which there is NO scientific evidence and that is a low-fat diet protected against heart disease while a diet high in animal fat led to heart disease. Not so folks!
The real truth is saturated fat provides the building blocks for a variety of hormones, provides a concentrated source of energy, cushions the organs and keeps skin healthy. Saturated fat helps to maintain the stiffness and integrity of cell membranes. Fat is the carrier for the fat soluble vitamins A,E, D, and K as well as other nutrients. Fat protects the liver and enhances the immune system. Our heart prefers saturated fat and the lion’s share of saturated fatty acids are in the brain, which is largely made up of fat and cholesterol.
Speaking of cholesterol, it is a precursor to stress hormones, vital corticosteroids, sex hormones and vitamin D. Cholesterol is needed to protect the body. You read that right. I said protect. As an antioxidant, cholesterol protects your body from free radical damage and tends to be high if thyroid function is low, a protective measure that provides the needed materials to heal tissue and fight infection. Cholesterol and saturated fat have distinct health benefits and support a variety of metabolic processes. Let’s take a look at the real transgressors.
First up is free radical damage. You’ve heard of free radicals. No, not the latest punk rock band or group of extremists. Free radicals are “cellular trash”, unstable and highly reactive oxygen molecules. They “attack” and “steal” from other electrons in order to gain stability, which, if left unchecked, start a dangerous chain reaction of oxidative damage. You’re more familiar with oxidative damage than you think. A freshly cut apple that turns brown or an old car rusting in the junkyard are common examples of oxidation. Free radical sources are both internal and external and include chemicals, tobacco, drugs (recreational and medicinal), stress and of course the pollutants in the air, food and water. Oxidative stress damages culler proteins, DNA and can lead to the second biggest transgressor: inflammation.
What is inflammation? It is the body’s attempt at self-protection from irritation, toxins and foreign invaders and a natural by-product of normal cellular processes.For instance, if you are catching a cold, your immune system switches into gear and triggers a pro-inflammatory response to clear the infection. This is matched by equally anti-inflammatory compounds that move in to start the healing process. It is your body’s natural defense. Without inflammation, cholesterol would move freely throughout the body and would not accumulate in blood vessel walls.
Short term inflammation = healing
Long term inflammation = disease
And the biggest contributor to inflammation? SUGAR and S.A.D. That’s right sugar in ALL it’s forms, yes, even organic. As little as two teaspoons can upset your body chemistry. The Standard American Diet with its heavy emphasis on refined grains and processed foods weaken your body tissues and white blood cells. Elevated blood sugar and insulin levels intensifies the production of free radicals that promote and sustain inflammation.
So what can YOU do? Start by ELIMINATING sugar in all its forms as well as all vegetable oils, refined grains and processed foods. EAT a colorful variety of fresh vegetables, cold water fish, especially salmon, lean meat, preferably from grass fed animals and healthy fats-butter, coconut, olive, flax and hemp oils. Snack on fruit, nuts, seeds and olives and limit dairy, which is a common allergen. As far as EXERCISE, author and blog writer Mark Sisson says it best,”Lift heavy things, move frequently at a slow pace and run really fast once in a while”. Like Nike says, whatever form of exercise you choose, JUST DO IT!
Smoking, stress and genetic predispositions are also associated with heart disease and must be addressed but there is a vast array of antioxidants, blood sugar balancing nutrients, herbs, vitamins and minerals that can be used along with quality nutrition to transform the health of your heart.
Make it simple. Eat real food. Get regular exercise. Supplement as needed and don’t smoke. Remember, it’s up to you to do your part to love your heart!