The information you are about to read was first written and researched for a Swanson Health Center lecture given February 7th, 2015. I received a lot of requests for notes or the outline to the lecture. I have provided a summary box at the bottom if you are not interested at how I arrived at the dietary guidelines, but just want to know what to eat and what not to eat. As someone who also couldn’t believe the misinformation online, I hope this will provide evidence based truth for preventing and reversing cardiovascular disease. Thank you to everyone who attended the lecture!
What are the True Causes of Heart Disease and Stroke?
Coronary heart disease is a disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle. Ischemic strokes are the result of a clot in the blood vessel, while hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a rupture of a blood vessel. So what we are really trying to understand when looking at the cause of heart disease and stroke:
1. What is causing damage to the blood vessels, making it constrict, causing clots, and making them vulnerable to damage like calcification (measured by you calcium score indicating calcium is going into the arteries instead of the bones), glycation (measured by your glycated hemoglobin known as HbA1C) and risk of oxidation (measured by the type of LDL, not the total number)
2. What is cholesterol’s role, and therefore Statin drugs in this process?
The Top Main Risk Factors for Inflammation, and therefore Heart Disease and Stroke include:
1. Obesity, high blood sugar, oxidized cholesterol, high blood pressure and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease from a diet high in sugar (esp. high fructose corn syrup), trans-fats (hydrogenated oils), refined vegetable oils (soy, corn, canola, sunflower and safflower), excessive amounts of refined grains (esp. wheat) and a lack of exercise. The US has the highest obesity rate in the world, and studies have shown that people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl had a 2.5 fold increased risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79 mg/dl.
According to a study from the American Journal of Cardiovascular Disease, the consumption of oxysterols from commercially fried foods, oxidation of cholesterol driven by consumption of excess polyunsaturated fatty acids from vegetable oils, smoking, trans fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and lifestyle factors likely underlie the persistent national burden of heart disease.
Up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. According to researchers, lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, body mass index, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, vitamin D status, stress and smoking can have a direct bearing on your individual risk. Rate of strokes among those younger than 55 nearly doubled between 1993 and 2005 – and this rise is likely due to increasing rates of risk factors like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
2. Smoking, medications, binge drinking and other toxic ingestion and exposure, especially when coupled with a deficiency in vitamin C.
3. Stress, Depression and Diabetes. In a recent study, 86 percent of people were more likely to have a stroke or mini-stroke from depression, 59 percent more likely to have a stroke or mini-stroke from the highest chronic stress, and more than twice as likely to have a stroke or mini-stroke from hostility. Interesting enough, anger wasn’t a risk factor. The World Health Organization is projecting that, by the year 2020, depression will become the world’s second most devastating illness, after heart disease.
Women are twice as likely to get depression than men, especially around the stressful time periods of childbirth and menopause. They are also more likely to have elevated cortisol levels and follow a low-fat diet, leading to poor hormone production as indicated by a Harvard study that showed women were 85% more likely to experience infertility eating low-fat foods. These points may help explain why women’s heart disease risk skyrockets past men after age 45 as estrogen goes down, cortisol, adrenaline and depression goes up and a low-fat diet deprives the heart of A, D, E and K.
Those with Type 2 diabetes are up to 4 times more likely to get heart disease, and 65% of those with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
4. Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism. Many thyroid disorders are linked to a deficiency in iodine and selenium and toxicity from soy oil, fluoride and chloride from unfiltered drinking water supplies, brominated vegetable oils from sodas and sports drinks, and bromides from pesticides and commercial breads.
5. A deficiency in vitamin K2 and magnesium that leads to calcification of the arteries, and a deficiency in CoQ10, vitamin C, E and carotenoids that weaken blood vessels and make cholesterol prone to oxidation.
The Highest Rates of Heart Disease and Stroke in the US Gives US a Clue