The bad news is that heart disease is one of the main causes of death in the US – the good news is that there are a lot of things we can do to lessen the risk. These well known lifestyle factors include nutrition, exercise and stress. Here I offer some more specific heart related nutrient information.
Besides following the low-fat, whole foods diet guidelines, there are three specific important dietary aids for reducing cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
These are garlic, fiber, and the omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oils and flaxseed oil.
- Garlic has been found to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and onions and cayenne pepper also have these properties, but to a milder degree. Garlic specifically lowers blood-clotting potential and has shown a positive effect on reducing triglycerides, cholesterol, and LDL, while raising the good HDL. Studies have shown that higher amounts of garlic such as 10 to 15 grams a day produce these effects without toxicity, as well as reduce platelet stickiness and clotting. Garlic comes in a number of forms, including powder, oil, de-odorized, and enteric-coated capsules. Fresh, it can be taken juiced with carrots.
- Fiber has been shown to have several positive effects, both in the diet and as a supplement. It reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, and LDL, and raises HDL. Apple pectin, oat fiber, psyllium husks, and locust bean gum have all been found to reduce cholesterol and LDL, which improves the risk ratio for heart disease.
- Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids include many fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel, plus flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, all of which contain both the oils EPA and DHA. Flaxseed oil also contains the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic, which may help to reduce blood fat levels and fatty deposits. It appears healthy and wise (fish support brain function) to include seafood in the diet, and for vegetarians, daily intake of nuts and seeds, as well as flaxseed oil.
Nuts, although high in fat, contain mainly unsaturated essential (we need them for our body tissues and function) fats which help to lower the LDL cholesterol. Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts are good sources of arginine and other amino acids. Pistachios are rich in phytosterols, nutrients found to have anti-cancer properties. Two large studies found a 35% and 50% reduction in heart attacks among those who ate nuts five or more times a week. Nuts found to be protective in the studies included walnuts, peanuts (a legume really), and almonds. Interestingly, none of the participants in the studies gained weight because the nuts were included as part of a healthy diet.
Other foods that seem to have beneficial effects: Soybeans and soy products, such as tofu and tempeh, may have a positive effect on cholesterol and atherosclerosis. Foods suggested by Paavo Airola for their beneficial effects on the heart and blood vessels include millet and buckwheat, sunflower seeds, okra, asparagus, and apples. Consider a supervised fast to re-alkalinize the body and blood, which aids detoxification and can lower blood fats significantly.
Eating a Healthy Diet Will Lengthen Your Life! Study Review
A study of 42,000 women, published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) dated April 26, 2000, reported that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean animal proteins appears to significantly increase longevity and reduce the risk of dying from such diseases as heart disease, stroke, and cancer. It has appeared so obvious to those of us who have followed this type of eating program — the Back-to-Nature plan — that people are healthier and live and age in a healthier way, and feel better. However, it’s nice to see medical science catching up to common sense health practices.
Recent research on heart disease has also looked at a number of complex factors:
– Obesity appears to double the risk of heart disease.
– Lipoprotein A, another type of blood fraction, appears to raise the risk of heart disease in women. Lowering Lp(a) levels through supplementation with estrogen and progesterone appears to lower heart disease risk.
– Another study found that supplementing with progestin (synthetic progesterone) appears to increase the risk to a level greater than estrogen along, although there are clearly a variety of factors and there’ll be more to that story.
– C-reactive protein, a substance in our blood, appears to be correlated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Your doctor can check this inexpensive blood test.
– H. pylori, the bacteria that is frequently the cause of stomach ulcers and gastritis, was found in an Italian study to be significantly more prevalent in patients with heart disease than in a comparison group. All the other classic risk factors for cardiovascular diseases were equally distributed among the participants–those with heart attacks and those without – regardless of their H. pylori status.
Elson Haas, MD © 2020
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