All About Heart Disease and Cholesterol – What’s the Connection?
Heart Disease — I am sure we all know someone who has personally been affected by this disease, as it is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Interested to debunk the myth about heart disease and cholesterol? Continue to read more in this blog post.
Let’s first talk about what is “heart disease?” This term refers to different kinds of heart conditions. The most common one is Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) that is the primary cause of heart attack, valves in the heart or heart can’t or does not pump well which causes heart failure.
On the other hand, Cardiovascular disease or CVD refers to the different types of diseases which involve the heart and blood vessels. These include the CHD, strokes and heart failure.
Understanding How Cardiovascular Disease Are Made Of
Arteries and veins pump oxygenated and de-oxygenated blood to and from the heart to make sure the rest of the body a) gets fresh blood and b) has a place to send de-oxygenated blood. These vessels of blood transportation need to be clear and strong, so your heart can function optimally.
Our arteries specifically can develop layers of plaque, which is a waxy-like substance that can interfere with the flow of blood when too much accumulates thus, reducing the blood flow to the heart. Plaque is made of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances. Plaque buildup is also known as atherosclerosis.
This is where different types of cardiovascular disease happen. Take for example the case of Coronary Heart Disease or CHD — it is where the build of plaque in the arteries that supply blood to the heart is completely blocked. This leads to chest pain or angina which is just a symptom and may progress to a heart attack.
Let’s talk for a minute about cholesterol to clear the air. Cholesterol is an oil-based, fat-like substance that is present in all the cells in our body and even with animals. This is a very good and necessary component of our bodies — we need it to survive and create hormones, the substance called bile acids for digesting foods, Vitamin D and cell wall structuring. This is carried out in the body by lipoproteins.
Main Types of Cholesterols
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): The “Good Cholesterol” — They are called “good” because it is recommended to have a high level of this type of cholesterol (of course, levels comes with age and sex) in our body. It carries all the cholesterol back to the liver so the liver can remove the cholesterol in our body.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): The “Bad Cholesterol” — it is not recommended to have a high level of LDL to avoid plaque or cholesterol build up in our arteries. This has a quite same function as HDL only that it is less dense. It is recommended to have less than 100mg/dL levels of LDL.
One of the cholesterol’s main jobs is to help put out the “fires” (inflammation) whenever they arise. It is helpful to determine our body’s cholesterol level — this is often examined through blood works or testing.
Think of it this way:
There is a fire at a house (inflammation in your arteries). The firehouse (liver) sends firemen (LDL) to the location to put out the fire (accumulation of cholesterol). Then, another crew of firemen (HDL) takes the fire trucks away whenever all is cleared.
4 Takeaways With Cholesterol Numbers
- The higher the LDL means the more inflammation in the body. So, rather than bringing down LDL numbers with medicines (statins – which is another article for another day), the main objective should be to see where the fires are and what is causing them. Then, work to decrease the inflammation present to naturally bring down LDL numbers. Otherwise, you will keep chasing your own tail trying to continuously put out fires throughout your body.
- The total cholesterol is not as important as the ratio. If you have several firemen on site trying to put out fires (LDL) but not enough of the second crew coming to take the fire trucks away (HDL), then the first round of responders just hangs out on site twiddling their thumbs and causing a scene (buildup of LDLs). So, the ratio of cholesterol is most important when analyzing blood work.
- Cholesterol is NOT the cause of heart disease- inflammation is. It is the root source of a majority of diseases that exist, so as we decrease the body’s inflammation, we support and clean out its systems.
- We need cholesterol.
Now Back to the Plaque!
Two main causes of the buildup of this substance in the arterial walls are from smoking and our diets. Inflammatory foods — such as processed sugar, unhealthy fats (vegetable oils like canola and corn, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, margarine, etc.), conventional (not grass-fed) meats, and processed and highly refined grains wreak a whole bunch of havoc in the body. It is like a red siren goes off, and emergency measures are taken to minimize damage.
The foods we eat definitely affect our internal and external function (and appearance- am I right?).
So the blood should flow through the arteries with minimal pressure, like a smooth river. However, as we fill our bodies with toxic foods, the remnants can get lodged in our arterial lining and make the arteries more clogged, and the body uses more force and pressure to flow the blood through the “rocky” obstacles (hence blood pressure increases). And this entire process is natural — the body’s innate way of managing to keep the body alive.
The Hearty Solutions
However, this situation is not ideal. How do we “de-plaque and unclog” the arteries to better support our heart muscle?
- Eat the right foods.
- Exercise (and decrease weight, if needed).
- Do not smoke.
- Eliminate stressors (emotional stress (stay calm and breathe!) | environmental stresses like perfume, cologne, toxic deodorants, and cleaning products, etc | toxic air pollution | toxic water supply)
- Beets (yes!) – juice, greens, root
- Dark Leafy Greens – Swiss chard, arugula, spring mix
- Healthy Fats (coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocados, raw nuts, and seeds)
- Grass-fed meats and pasture-raised eggs
- Anti-Inflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, basil)
- Organic green and white tea
- Veggies and fruits