Heart Disease: What You Need to Know About Heart Health - Paula Owens

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Heart Disease: What You Need to Know About Heart Health

Heart Disease: What You Need to Know About Heart Health - Paula Owens, MS Holistic Nutritionist and Functional Health PractitionerHeart disease remains the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. There are over 400 coronary heart disease risk factors and mediators now proven. Many mainstream physicians fail to measure them or are completely unaware of the other risk factors, and therefore do not address them. 

The basic mechanisms of heart disease (and just about every other disease known to man) include chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, underlying infections, autoimmune disease (which leads to endothelial dysfunction), and arterial compliance abnormalities.

Heart Disease

What You Need to Know About Heart Health

Women and Heart Disease

  • Heart disease is the #1 killer of women. It’s more deadly than all forms of cancer combined including breast cancer.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women vs men. Heart attack symptoms women should watch for: shortness of breath, fatigue, palpitations, breaking into a cold sweat, tooth, jaw and ear pain, back pain, poor sleep usually accompanied by anxiety, unusual attacks of indigestion
  • A woman’s highest risk for heart disease is during menopause.
  • Some birth control pills and synthetic hormone therapy increase a woman’s risk of heart disease
  • Stress hormones increase risk of heart disease
  • Stressful relationships and unhappy marriages are especially harmful to women’s hearts, and are linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, heart disease, depression, excess belly fat, sickness and other health problems.

Your risk of heart disease at age 60 and beyond is determined by your lifestyle habits, environmental insults and risk factors at age 40. 

Risk Factors that Increase Risk of Heart Disease

Heart disease in men is highly related to thyroid health, heavy metal toxicity, and iron overload.

Heart Disease and Inflammation. An inflammatory diet (high in trans fats, HFCS, vegetable oils, GMOs, sugar, fructose, grains, gluten, processed foods), glyphosate exposure, oxidative stress, prolonged mental and emotional stress, gum disease, heavy metal toxicity, being overweight, injuries, eating foods you’re sensitive to, smoking, underlying  infections, leaky gut, existing heart condition, poorly controlled blood sugar, diabetes, insulin resistance, high iron, and too little or too much exercise all increase inflammation.

Blood Tests: Inflammatory markers. Test to Assess! Simple blood tests such as homocysteine, insulin, HbA1c, glucose, fibrinogen, iron, ferritin and C-reactive protein can identify underlying risk factors for heart disease.

  • C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is a simple blood test that is used as a marker of inflammation in the arteries and the body. CRP is used to determine cardiovascular risk and has been found to be a stronger predictor of heart disease than a high LDL cholesterol. CRP is a component of the immune system and becomes elevated when inflammation is rampant in the body. Elevated CRP values do not produce physical symptoms, so be sure to include this important lab marker in your blood testing as it’s the only way to know if your level is high.
  • Fasting insulin is a test that screens for diabetes and heart disease, but it’s also a marker for inflammation. The higher your insulin levels are, the more inflammation your body is producing. Hyperglycemia and diabetes are both associated with increased risk of heart disease and dementia.
  • Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is a form of hemoglobin that identifies the average plasma glucose concentration over prolonged periods of time. HbA1C is a marker that reveals the individuals diet and amount of sugar accumulated in their system from the previous 2-3 months. Elevated levels indicate they’re consuming a diet excessive in processed carbs, grains, sugars and/or alcohol. High hemoblogin A1c is strongly linked to diabetes, reduced insulin sensitivity, degenerative disease, accelerated aging, glycation, oxidation, and autoimmune disorders. It’s also a marker for inflammation and heart damage. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that hyperglycemia is related to cardiac damage independent of atherosclerosis. 
  • Homocysteine is a body substance that helps manufacture proteins and assist with cellular metabolism. Homocysteine levels reflect methylation status, sulfur metabolism, detoxification, and epigenetic modulation. An elevated homocysteine usually indicates the body is deficient in B vitamins, specifically folate and B12 and unable to metabolize methionine properly. An increased homocysteine (>8) is associated with vascular inflammation and an increased risk of disease including heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia, kidney disease, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis. 
  • Iron and ferritin.  Iron, like other toxic heavy metals accumulate as a normal consequence of the aging process, and this is quite problematic. High iron is a sign that your cells are oxidizing and aging faster than normal. High iron (>100) is very inflammatory, damaging to the mitochondria, a pro-oxidant and left untreated increases risk of cancer, neurocognitive disorders, heart disease, diabetes, premature aging, heart arrhythmia, fatty liver disease, liver damage and hemochromatosis. Ferritin reflects iron storage in the body. Ferritin is the most reliable indicator of total body iron status. High ferritin is dangerous and indicates chronic low level inflammation. Values above 200 are suspicious for excess stored iron, inflammation, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease. Ferritin is increased with iron overload, hemochromatosis, HIV, hepatitis, alcoholism, and some cancers.

There are at least two other conditions that have been shown to cause blood-vessel inflammation and elevated CRP levels: chlamydia and H. pylori. Be sure to order blood tests for antibodies to these two microorganisms. Jonathan Wright, M.D 

Heart disease: cholesterol and saturated fat. Contrary to popular belief, healthy saturated fats are actually healthy for your heart, your brain and your body! A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who regularly eat the highest amounts of saturated fats have the least amount of plaque buildup in their arteries, and had a healthier balance of HDL and LDL cholesterols. A large meta-analysis of studies with 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease. 

Healthy fats and cholesterol-rich foods (grass-fed, pasture-raised meats, pastured butter and eggs) do NOT raise cholesterol. The real villains that are poisonous to your heart, waistline and brain are inflammatory foods that promote systemic inflammation: grains, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, eating too many chemicals, GMOs, fake fats (margarine), trans fats, and omega-6 fats from genetically-modified vegetable oils.

Cholesterol is essential to healthy brain function, hormone production, healthy immune function, and a healthy nervous system. Cholesterol is used in vitamin D and bile production for digestion of fat from our foods. It’s a repair substance needed for cell membrane integrity that controls free radial damage. It’s not the amount of cholesterol in your blood that drives heart disease risk, but the number of LDL and size of particles. 

Heart Disease and Periodontal Disease. Far beyond cavities and gingivitis, poor dental care, oral infections and periodontal disease is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cancers of the head, neck, and esophagus. The U.S. Surgeon General described the mouth as a “mirror of health or disease” and an early indicator of disease in other tissues and organs in the body. Many cases of sudden heart attack have been traced to root canals or pulled wisdom teeth in which a cavitation remains or an infection develops. Simple interventions such as brushing, flossing and oil pulling can reduce risk of coronary artery disease and lower inflammatory markers such as CRP.

Eat Organic, Nutrient-dense Real Food. A study in the journal Cardiology Research and Practice reports that long-term adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet results in significant improvements in several risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

Heart Healthy Nutrients. Consider evidence-based supplements. Some of my favorites include CoQ10, magnesium, garlic, vitamins D and K, curcumin, and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)

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