Heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women in America, with one out of every 3 deaths linked to cardiovascular disease or strokes. Someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds! In women, often they may be silent, without the characteristic stabbing chest pain or left arm pain. Your best strategy to beat the statistics is prevention. There are numerous early signs and symptoms, including “cardio-metabolic” blood sugar syndromes, that can be easily addressed with lifestyle and nutrition.
If you, or a family member, has been diagnosed with any of the following you might be at risk for cardiovascular disease.
- High blood sugar, prediabetes, diabetes
- High cholesterol*
- High blood pressure
- Angina (chest pain), heart attack,
- TIA (mini stroke), stroke
- Erectile dysfunction
- Peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation)
- Cancers – breast, ovarian, prostate
- Fatty liver disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Periodontal gum disease
- History of PCOS
The good news is there so many ways to reverse and prevent these issues!
In most cases it begins with something called VAT or visceral adipose tissue. The excess sugar in your diet gets stored as fat around your organs. You may not even know you have it! Measuring your waist to hip ratio is a good indicator of your risk. VAT and a high sugar diet puts you at risk for insulin resistance. At the center of the root cause of diabetes, fatty liver, PCOS, heart disease, stroke etc is insulin resistance.
A Functional Medicine whole systems approach understands that our genetics play only a small role in the development of these disorders. From a Functional Medicine perspective, it’s the environment surrounding our genes that turns them on or off. By taking control of lifestyle and dietary factors you can provide a heart healing environment for your genes. Not only decreasing future risk for ardiovascular disease including heart attacks and stroke, but even reversing previous damage!
The answer to heart disease and high cholesterol is NOT necessarily a statin drug. Statin drugs can have detrimental side effects including risk of developing diabetes, muscle pain, fatigue, mitochondrial damage, and elevated liver enzymes. Cholesterol plays many important and vital roles in the body- it’s the type and size of cholesterol particles, along with triglycerides and inflammation markers that are most important.
Strategies to prevent and reverse cardio-metabolic syndromes include:
- Support your gut health- Stool testing and blood tests that look for leaky gut markers are a great start to assessing your gut health. Consider a gut healing protocol to treat the imbalances of the good and bad microbes in your gut (“leaky gut”).
- Oral hygiene - visit a holistic biological dentist (IAOMT.org) to prevent imbalances in the good and bad microbes in your mouth, or “leaky mouth”.
- Diet- Food is medicine, start eating based on the cardio-metabolic food plan (modified Mediterranean Diet). Eat a diet that is plant heavy and increase your fiber intake. Add good fats from avocado, lives and nuts to your diet.
- Reduce Inflammation - The underlying cause of the blockage in the arteries leading to a heart attack or stroke stems from chronic inflammation. Some of the advanced blood testing for markers of inflammation include: hs-CRP and oxidized LDL levels. Use spices such as turmeric in your cooking and take fish oil to help decrease the inflammation.
- Get Moving – Sitting is the new smoking. Get up and move every 10 minutes every hour. Consider an exercise prescription that includes intensity, duration and type of exercise to bring down your risk of heart disease substantially.
- Stress management – Stress increases leaky gut and worsens chronic inflammation. Community and feeling connected to others is an important component to healing your heart. Yoga, meditation, journaling, walks in nature, praying are some ways to help manage the stress in your body.
- Address abnormal cholesterol - Fifty percent of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol. There is more to cholesterol then meets the eye and the basic blood testing for cholesterol is not enough. It’s important to do advanced cholesterol testing including LDL particle number and size and inflammatory markers. There are many ways to address cholesterol issues without using statin drugs!
- Address high blood pressure – High blood pressure puts a strain on your arteries, heart and kidneys. Stress management, dietary changes, weight loss along with targeted nutrient and botanical supplements can help you maintain a normal blood pressure.
- Address insulin dysfunction - Insulin resistance and dysfunction are central to the cardio-metabolic disease process. Your insulin levels are the first to become abnormal before the blood sugar. Get your blood work done to check for some of these markers of insulin resistance: fasting glucose, HbA1C and insulin levels. Many nutrients play a critical role in sugar regulation.
- Manage your weight – Being overweight contributes to high blood pressure and insulin resistance. Dietary changes along with a daily plan to get moving/exercising will set you up for success to achieve weight loss.
- Nutrients, herbs and botanicals- These include adequate B vitamins, especially Folate and Niacin, magnesium, Vit D, Omega-3, CoQ10, berberine, bergamot, fenugreek, beets, turmeric, iodine, Vit D, plant sterols, garlic, rosemary, cinnamon. Learn how to incorporate these into a heart healthy diet!
- Detoxify from chemicals, bio toxins and heavy metals including mercury, lead, mold mycotoxins, petrochemicals, pesticides and many prescription medications.
Don’t wait to be diagnosed with high cholesterol to take charge of your heart health. Start the process now!