Nutrition Vs. Drugs and Surgery
© 2014 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
Heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, takes the lives of about 2,500 Americans each day. This killer disease is so prevalent that it’s responsible for 40 percent of all U.S. deaths, killing more people than all forms of cancer combined, according to the Mayo Clinic.
It can take on many forms ranging from coronary artery disease, the most common type, which involves a hardening of the arteries that provide oxygen and nutrients to your heart, to heart failure, heart muscle disease, heart valve failure and abnormal heart rhythms or arrythmias.
While heart disease is often serious, the good news is that you may have more control over your heart disease risk than not. In fact, while a family history or advancing age are known risk factors that you can’t control, there are multiple heart disease risk factors that are completely within your power to influence. These include:
Keeping your cholesterol levels in a healthy range
Managing high blood pressure
Maintaining a healthy body weight
Controlling diabetes, if you have it
Lowering C-reactive protein levels
Controlling stress and anger
Unfortunately, the go-to treatments for heart disease may not always include a revamping of lifestyle habits that may have contributed to the disease in the first place. Instead, they center on drugs and surgeries, which do nothing to treat the underlying disease.
How to Avoid Drugs and Surgery for Heart Disease
Physicians often provide drugs for heart disease patients, which may include one or more of the following:
Blood pressure lowering drugs (diuretics, etc.)
Angiotensin-converting enzymes (ACE) inhibitors or beta blockers
Blood-thinning medications, such as daily aspirin therapy
Cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statin drugs
If the medications don’t work, you may also be advised to get a medical procedure such as coronary angioplasty (in which a balloon is inserted into an artery to help reopen it) or coronary artery bypass surgery (which involves removing a portion of a blocked artery and replacing it with a vein from another part of your body).
These procedures may work in the short-term, but along with carrying risks of side effects they do nothing to treat the reason why heart disease developed in the first place. Often, if you want to avoid the need for drugs and surgery to treat heart disease … and if you want to avoid developing heart disease altogether … you can do so by making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
Your Heart is What You Eat
You’ve heard the phrase, “you are what you eat”? Well, your heart is very much tied to your diet, along with the rest of your body.
By now most of you probably know that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in unhealthy fats, like trans fats, will help protect your heart. But what you may not know is just how damaging seemingly innocuous foods like white bread, rice, pizza and other processed foods can be.
In reality, women who eat more carbohydrate-rich food like white bread and rice are more than twice as likely to develop heart disease than women who eat less of these items, according to Italian researchers.
These high-glycemic index carbs turn quickly into sugar in your body, which leads to unhealthy spikes in blood sugar. This is the same mechanism that, in time, can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, which a new study also found can double your risk of developing blood vessel diseases or suffering from a heart attack or stroke.
Take, for example, a handful of whole grains and a handful of white flour. Let it sift through your fingers and what do you notice? The whole grains go through slowly, while the white flour runs through like water.
This is similar to what happens inside of your body. While whole foods, such as an orange, contain fiber, nutrients and other beneficial compounds that take your body some time to digest, refined foods, such as orange juice, contain only simple carbs that get metabolized very quickly.
Under normal circumstances, every time you eat your blood glucose (sugar) levels will rise slightly. This signals your pancreas to release insulin, which makes sure your blood sugar levels do not get too high.
However, if your blood glucose levels remain elevated for too long, such as can happen if you eat a steady diet of refined foods, it can lead to obesity, diabetes and damage to your kidneys, eyes, nerves and blood vessels.
In this way, eating refined foods are very much like trying to keep a bonfire going with toilet paper. Your body (the bonfire) consumes the refined foods (the toilet paper) extremely quickly, yet does not get enough sustenance to keep fueled for long. After a brief boost, you will need to eat more and more refined foods just to keep going (but eventually even an unlimited amount of refined foods will not be enough to fuel your body).
This may also explain why a 2004 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate the most white bread and other refined foods gained the most belly fat, a dangerous type of fat that can infiltrate your liver and other organs, streak through your muscles and even strangle your heart.
So if you want to keep your heart healthy, one of the best choices you can make is to replace processed foods in your diet with fresh, whole foods, and ideally raw foods.
Nutritional “Therapy” for a Healthier Heart?
Along with a diet that focuses on fresh, raw foods, you’ll also want to be sure you’re consuming plenty of omega-3 fats. The omega-3s found in fish and fish oils cut the risk of blood clots and thus lessen the chance of a heart attack. The American Heart Association recommends that you eat two servings or more of fish a week, but because fish may be contaminated with heavy metals, you may want to opt to take a purified fish oil supplement instead.
Ask at your next appointment ask about other supplements that may help to support heart health, which are available only through qualified health care practitioners.
Exercising Your Way to a Healthy Heart
You’re probably well aware that a lack of regular exercise is not good for your heart … but did you know that simply sitting too much can be harmful to your heart, too?
American adults spend an average of more than eight hours each day in front of screens, including televisions, computer monitors, cell phones and others, according to a Video Consumer Mapping study.
During this time, most Americans are also likely to be sitting, but that’s not all. Americans also sit at their desks and in their cars, which could easily push the average number of hours spent sitting even higher.
What’s the problem with sitting?
Your body was not meant to sit in one position for long periods of time. When this occurs, not only are your muscles not engaged, but the circulation of lipase, an enzyme that absorbs fat, is stopped. So instead of being absorbed by your muscles, when you’re sitting fat recirculates in your bloodstream where it may end up stored as body fat, clogging arteries or contributing to disease.
Sitting has also been found to actually stimulate disease-promoting processes, i.e. “Sittosis,” and may double or even triple your risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and premature death.
So it’s important to not only sit less, but also to challenge your body with regular exercise. Exercise helps to control many risk factors for heart disease, including:
High blood pressure
Managing Your Stress = A Healthier Heart
Out of control stress levels can contribute to heart attacks and strokes.
You can reduce your stress levels by practicing relaxation techniques such as listening to calming music or trying Tai Chi or yoga.
If you’re finding it hard to de-stress because of too many “to-do’s” in your daily life, time management experts recommend taking care of as much of the small stuff as possible right away. For instance, stop on any quick errands you can on your way to work, then write back any quick e-mails, make any quick phone calls and get any other fast tasks out of the way immediately.
That way, you can completely forget about these things, rather than holding them somewhere in the back of your mind to accumulate and do later. The end result? You feel less cluttered, less overwhelmed and less stressed.
When you add it all up, by taking these three action steps to heart:
… you can effectively eliminate the causes of heart disease so there’s no need for a “cure” in the form of drugs and surgery down the road.
An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure!
Archives of Internal Medicine April 12, 2010; 170(7):640-7