Healthy Hearts

A girlfriend of mine was diagnosed with high cholesterol at the very young age of 25, so I wanted to see what I could do to help her decrease her levels naturally. 

She has been prescribed medication that has been successful, however I am still concerned at the possibility of her having to rely on medication for the rest of her life.   Also I am a big believer that drugs actually mask symptoms, rather than treating the cause of the problem itself. 

So here are my findings which I have passed on to her, but I also wanted to share with you to make sure our hearts are in tip top condition.

Firstly lets answer some questions. 

 

(Please note: some of the answers have been taken directly from Dr. Andrew Weil’s research which I have tried to simplify, as well as my own contributions from my studies and knowledge) 

What is high cholesterol?

High cholesterol is a well-known risk factor for heart disease. Cholesterol itself is a waxy, fat-like substance that is primarily made by the liver, although some comes from the diet.

There is good and bad cholesterol.

Good  - It is an essential component of cell membranes, and it is used by the body to produce hormones and vitamin D

Bad - Too much cholesterol in the blood builds up on artery walls causing hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). The buildup of cholesterol narrows arteries, slowing or blocking the flow of oxygen-carrying blood to the heart, which can manifest as chest pain.  If blood flow to the heart is cut off because of clogged arteries, the result is damage to the heart muscle - a heart attack.

What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?

High cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, so there are no outward signs that your levels are too high and thereby posing a risk to your heart.  You need to be tested by your doctor. 

What are the causes of high cholesterol?

The tendency toward high cholesterol appears to be genetic, although diet also influences cholesterol levels. Other factors that can influence cholesterol levels include being overweight and being physically inactive. The older you get, the more likely your cholesterol levels are to rise.

What can we do to lower or prevent it?

Here are some natural ways to better heart health, and to decrease cholesterol.   I am a big believer in adding rather than subtracting.  So lets start on the good stuff.

Increase

*          Complex Carbohydrates - Eat complex carbohydrates - brown rice, whole grains, beans, lentils, quinoa and vegetables.

*          Fibre - Increase your fibre intake. Fibre helps your body eliminate cholesterol.

In particular oat bran, barley, psyllium seeds, flax seed meal, apples, citrus fruits, lentils and beans are particularly effective.

*          Vegetables - Increase your vegetable intake and eat a more plant based diet.

*          Cayenne Pepper - helps lower levels of bad cholesterol.  It can reduce blood clotting risks and keeps blood pressure normalized.

*          Nuts - Eat a small amount of nuts every day - almonds, walnuts and cashews all contain heart healthy fats.

*          Garlic - eating garlic has been shown to both lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

*          Fish Oils  - Fish oil contains an abundance of essential omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce blood fat levels, minimize inflammation and clotting, and increase good cholesterol. Research indicates that omega-3s may help reduce the risk and symptoms of a variety of disorders influenced by inflammation, including heart attack and stroke.

 *          Spirulina and Chlorella  - Supplement with natural algae "superfoods" Spirulina and Chlorella.  Both of these have incredible health benefits including preventing heart diseases, improving heart health, and lowering cholesterol. 

 *          Ginger, turmeric and rosemary are recommended, as well as the less common herbs, fenugreek seeds, artichoke leaf extract, yarrow and holy basil.

 *          Coconut oil - include in your diet - if you missed my article on all its benefits please see here.  http://www.sachastewart.net/blog/2014/2/11/the-magic-of-coconut-oil   It is consistent with cardiovascular health. 

 *          Drink Green Tea Daily- the antioxidants help lower cholesterol and prevent the cholesterol in your blood from oxidizing.

*          Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This antioxidant benefits heart health and is said to help with heart failure.  While research is still being done on this, it is worth being mentioned and considered. 

*          Relax - Emotional stress can prompt the body to release fat into bloodstream increasing cholesterol levels.

*          Exercise regularly. 

Decrease

*          Sugar - Cut sugar intake and avoid added sugars - particularly soft drinks and high processed snack foods.  Avoid low fat foods which are loaded with hidden sugars.

Also high levels of fruit and fruit juices should be kept to a minimum as these have extremely high sugar levels.

*          Animal proteins - Although it's recommended to eat as little animal protein as possible if you have high cholesterol, I don't believe you have to exclude meat from you diet.  However do limit its consumption, and make sure it's lean and with excess fat trimmed.

Likewise I believe the eggs can fit into a healthy heart diet - however if you suffer from high cholesterol, 1 egg is almost the same as the amount of your daily cholesterol allowance, so you would need to be very conscious of what else you ate during the day. 

*          Dairy Products - limit the amount of dairy in your diet to small quantities.  Savour a small amount rather than indulging.

*          Trans fatty acids -  Avoid trans fatty acids, particularly hydrogenated oils.  These are often found in margarines, chips, crackers and cookies, plus many fast foods. 

*          Refined carbohydrates -  Avoid refined carbohydrates white bread, white rice, white flour, pastries, cookies

*          Avoid frying foods - broiling, baking, grilling and steaming are heart friendly ways to cook your food. 

*          Don't smoke

Many of the above recommendations are consistent with what I would advise to most people in general who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and prevent most kinds of disease.

Even if you don't have cholesterol issues, try putting some of these into practice, and I hope you notice a difference in your overall wellbeing. 

 References:

http://www.drweil.com