If you’re concerned about your heart, you’re not alone. The incidence rate for heart disease has remained the same for decades with heart disease consistently being the leading cause of death.
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
● About 610,000 Americans die of heart disease every year–that’s one in every four deaths.
● Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women with over half of the deaths being men.
● Coronary heart disease is most common, killing more than 370,000 people annually or 1,000 daily.
● About 735,000 Americans a year have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are first time events and 210,000 occur in people who have had one before.
There’s no question that with a healthy heart your life span and overall quality of life increases. So, it’s important to learn how to avoid heart health issues.
About 1% of all babies born have congenital heart defects. The causes are not easily identifiable and extend beyond genetic. Most often they are caused by the environment, the mother’s diet, the mother’s health, or medication or drug use during pregnancy. People with congenital heart defects always have to be more careful at protecting their heart than the average individual.
With 99% of all babies starting life with a good heart, what’s happening to people as they age for heart disease to be their number one point of failure and death? The range of causes includes environment, drugs, exercise, sleep, emotional stability, and diet. Other than diet most people understand how the other causes may impact heart health. But when it comes to diet, for the past 100 years or so, folks have followed the failed recommendations of the medical profession, the media, drug companies, and now the internet gurus.
So, regarding the diet, what do cutting edge scientists in nutrition, biology, and medicine report we should be doing? As you’ll see, it’s nothing like the old recommendations.
Artemis Simopoulos M.D. “The balance of Omega-6/Omega-3 fatty acids is an important determinant in decreasing the risk for coronary heart disease, both in the primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids influence gene expression. EPA and DHA (two critically important Omega-3 fatty acids) have the most potent anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is at the base of many chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, mental health, dry eye disease and age-related macular degeneration.”1
James DiNicolantonio “Added sugars probably matter more than dietary sodium for hypertension, and fructose in particular may uniquely increase cardiovascular risk by inciting metabolic dysfunction and increasing blood pressure variability, myocardial oxygen demand, heart rate, and inflammation.”2
James DiNicolantonio “Saturated fats have played some role in the human diet for the last 2.6 million years. Conversely, added sugars have only played a significant role in the last few hundred years. In the modern era of ultra-processed foods, dietary sources of saturated fats are also often dietary sources of sugar. We urge dietary guidelines to shift focus away from recommendations to reduce saturated fat and towards recommendations to avoid added sugars.”3
James DiNicolantonio “By 1944 the evidence for low-salt diets was so weak that it had fallen out of favor as a treatment for hypertension. Thus, the overall evidence in the first half of the 1900s suggests that low-salt diets were not a reasonable strategy for treating hypertension. Indeed, low-salt diets were considered unpalatable by most clinicians during the time and were found to lead to serious adverse consequences.”4
Doug Bibus and Bill Lands “Common health problems made worse by excessive Omega-6 eicosanoid actions include atherosclerosis, arthritis, asthma, boneloss, cancer growth, heart attacks, length of hospital stays, depression, suicide, classroom disruptions, oppositional behavior and unproductive workplace behaviors.”5
James DiNicolantonio “... the intake of refined carbohydrate and sugar by the Greenland Eskimos increased in parallel to the rise in atherosclerotic disease (plaque buildup). Considering that a similar event occurred in the USA and that the over consumption of refined sugar is a principal driver of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease, this most likely explains the health decline of the Greenland Eskimos.”6
Patty Siri-Tarino “In conclusion, our meta-analysis showed that there is insufficient evidence from prospective epidemiologic studies to conclude that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, or cardiovascular disease.”7
Aseem Malhotra “Despite the common belief that high cholesterol is a significant risk factor for coronary artery disease, several independent population studies in healthy adults have shown that low total cholesterol is associated with cardiovascular and non-cardiac mortality, indicating that high total cholesterol is not a risk factor in a healthy population. Adopting a Mediterranean diet after a heart attack is almost three times as powerful in reducing mortality as taking a statin.”8
Kate J. Bowen “... higher intakes of Omega-3 PUFAs, either from fatty fish or from supplements, if continued for decades (as the epidemiological data support) are likely to contribute towards lower risk for cardiovascular disease.”9
James DiNicolantonio “In summary, numerous lines of evidence show that the Omega-6 polyunsaturated fat linoleic acid promotes oxidative stress, oxidised LDL, chronic low-grade inflammation and atherosclerosis, and is likely a major dietary culprit for causing coronary heart disease, especially when consumed in the form of industrial seed oils commonly referred to as ‘vegetable oils.’”10
Staying healthy requires more than just a proper diet. Yet diet probably plays the primary role in creating and maintaining body function and for living drug free. Food can be a major source of inflammation. It can disrupt the nervous system and weaken the immune system. Food can feed fungi and create mycotoxin loads that literary poison the body. The dietary objective is to avoid the detrimental foods while providing the body with the raw components it needs for optimizing body function.
What are the best foods? The best foods have Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA) ratios of 2:1 or less. They are low glycemic and even zero glycemic. They are nutrient diverse and dense. Low salt and fat-free foods are not healthier foods. We need salt and our bodies will manage all fats other than the EFAs. It’s carbohydrates and sugar that should be highly restricted.
The twin goal is to provide the body with the chemicals it requires while lowering the body’s EFA ratio to less than 2:1. To do this, people need to know the basic chemistry of the foods they contemplate eating. Whole foods are very uniform and therefore predictable. Processed foods are a combination of their ingredients which requires estimates based on what you know about each ingredient. This requires some homework.
So, when we take the advice of the cutting edge scientists what will we eat? The purest whole foods with the greatest benefits will be wild-caught seafood, grass-fed meats, Omega-3 meats, and green leafy vegetables. That’s followed by many other vegetables and even some beans. Next in line is low glycemic fruit. To keep the EFA ratio below 2:1, foods with high ratios must be avoided whenever possible. As Bill Lands says, “NIX the 6 and EAT the 3.” Then pay attention to your environment, the drugs you take, the exercise and sleep you need, and your emotional stability.
Combined this approach will pay off in quality years. Yes, it takes some discipline. But when it comes to achieving anything in life, it always takes some discipline.
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
Don’t miss these links for additional reading:
Heart Disease Facts from CDC
What are Congenital Heart Defects? From CDC
1. The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Diseases 2008 by Artemis P. Simopoulos
2. The Wrong White Crystals: Not Salt but Sugar as Aetiological in Hypertension and Cardiometabolic Disease by James J .DiNicolantonio and Sean C. Lucan
3. The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease by James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, et al.
4. The History of the Salt Wars by James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, James H. O’Keefe, MD
5. Balancing Proportions of Competing Omega-3 and Omega-6 Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (HUFA) in Tissue Lipids by Doug Bibus and Bill Lands
6. Increase in the Intake of Refined Carbohydrates and Sugar May Have Led to the Health Decline of the Greenland Eskimos by James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD
7. Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies Evaluating the Association of Saturated Fat with Cardiovascular Disease by Patty W. Siri-Tarino, et al.
8. Saturated Fat Is Not the Major Issue by Aseem Malhotra
9. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease: Are There Benefits? By Kate J. Bowen, et al.
10. Omega-6 Vegetable Oils as a Driver of Coronary Heart Disease: The Oxidized Linoleic Acid Hypothesis by James J DiNicolantonio and James H O’Keefe
efaeducation.org: Essential Fatty Acids by Bill Lands
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