Heart Attack. Stroke. Angina. Arrhythmia. Coronary Heart Disease.
We’ve heard all these terms before and chances are we may know someone who has suffered from one or more of these illnesses. Heart Disease is a modern illness – skyrocketing in numbers since 1910 with the advent of processed foods. Heart disease is the number #1 killer in the Western world, and yet it is almost entirely preventable.
So how do we get Heart Disease?
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is thought to be caused by atherosclerosis (1); which is a narrowing of the arteries that lead to the heart. This narrowing is caused by the development of raised plaques, and leads to reduced blood flow to the heart.
So how do we get atherosclerosis?
Inflammation. Inflammation is a natural process of the body to respond to an injury and maintain homeostasis. White blood cells are sent to the site of the injury to deal with it. Once the injury is under control the repair or rebuilding process can begin. However in the case of atherosclerosis, the body is continuously trying to anti-inflame, but the attack on the body by the constant stream of inflammatory foods, means there is a continuous fight between inflammation and repair. This continuous fight is what causes the plaque to build up over time.
So how do we get inflammation?
Aha! We reached the big question, and I think many of you know the answer. Inflammation is caused by a myriad of things in our modern life, including: stress, smoking, exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins, prescription drugs, and eating a diet high in sugar and processed foods. Let’s look at how this happens…
A low-fat high-carb diet leads to blood sugar imbalances that can result in an excessive amount of insulin production. High levels of insulin (from eating too many processed carbohydrates) are stressful to the body and cause inflammation. Blood sugar imbalances can also lead to an overproduction of cortisol, which can lead to insulin resistance. When insulin is high the PG1 prostaglandin pathway is blocked and the body then becomes unable to anti-inflame.
But wait – doesn’t eating saturated fat & cholesterol cause Heart Disease?
No. Period. Eating dietary fat and cholesterol does not cause Heart Disease.
It has been proven by hundreds of scientific studies that eating saturated fat and cholesterol does not cause Heart Disease (1). Unfortunately, fat was vilified thanks to the diet-heart hypothesis proposed by Ancel keys in the 1950’s. Since then despite countless studies proving the opposite, the media have continued to promote the myth that dietary fat causes Heart Disease.
Fatty acids and cholesterol are essential parts of the cell membranes that make up the tissues of the heart and the coronary arteries. So it is essential to include healthy fats in the diet to ensure cell structure and heart health. A low-fat diet will be deficient in these essential fatty acids.
So eating a low-fat, highly processed carbohydrate diet results in high insulin production, leading to chronic inflammation, which has been shown to cause atherosclerosis, which has a direct impact on heart health and leads to Coronary Heart Disease.
What are you doing today to look after your Heart Health?