Part 1 – Is Cholesterol The True Cause Of Heart Disease?
Part 2 – What Really Causes Heart Disease?
Here are some current alternative hypothesis for what really causes heart disease.
The response to injury theory:
- A factor or series of factors damages the endothelium of the artery wall
- This stimulates a blood clot to form over the area of damage
- The endothelium regrows over the blood clot to repair the damage
- The blood clot is removed and broken down by white blood cells
If however this goes on and on for many years, then more and more clots get drawn into the artery wall, a plaque eventually grows, breaks off and you get a heart attack.
Factors that can damage the wall:
- High blood pressure
- Possibly LDL – but problem here is that heart disease is found in both people with low and high LDL levels. Arteries and veins both have same exposure to LDL, but only arteries get arteriolosclerosis.
Sugar Consumption / Visceral Fat / Belly Fat
When you eat food, it enters your gut where it is digested, it goes into your small bowel and some of it is absorbed through the walls where the portal vein transports it to the liver. If its good healthy food, your liver is happy and then takes it to other places around your body for nourishment to your cells.
If it is bad food, your liver gets toxic, and it churns out bad fats like LDL. This then gets stored in your belly fat cells, or the omentum. This is what leads to an increase in your waist size.
Calories are the energy values of food and this energy gets stored as fat in your body when its unused. But not all calories are ma de equal. There are good calories and bad calories.
Bad calories lead to the production of bad fats.
So what is a bad calorie? Glucose is the type of sugar our body loves. It gets metabolised by every cell in our body and is very easy to burn with very few toxic by products. It also tells the brain to stop eating when you are full. Fructose on the other hand is another type of sugar and is found in sucrose which breaks down to glucose and fructose. It is also found in high fructose corn syrup which is added to many processed and refined foods.
Fructose is actually only metabolised by the liver and its very similar to ethanol (the alchohol in drinks) When you consume it, its actually like ethanol but without the high. It confuses the liver and ends up making lots of bad fats in the process. It also doesn’t signal your brain that you are full, this is why people can drink massive cups of fizzy drinks which are high in fructose and still eat huge meals containing refined foods that are also full of fructose.
Many fruits also contain fructose, but nature has provided the antidote, as these fruits are also packed with fibre which prevents your body from absorbing too much of it.
When your liver is poisoned it produces bad cholesterol that causes heart disease.
A Belly fat is also so bulky that it presses on your kidneys.
This disrupts their function and this will make your blood pressure go up.
So how do you know if you have too much belly fat?
Well besides seeing that visible pot belly, here is a way to see if you are at risk:
- Get a tape measure and then put it around your belly button.
- This waist measurement should be ½ of your height in inches
- If you are 6ft (72 inches) your waist should be no more than 36 inches
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2 different types of stress:
Eustress / Healthy Stress
- Roller coaster rides
- Job dissatisfaction
- Financial Worries
- Steroid use
- Diseases such as Diabetes
- Social dislocation / seperation from normal communities as in Emigrant Asians
Whats happens during unhealthy stress?
Release of stress hormones is controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in unison.
Hypothalamus signals pituritary gland to release hormonal messengers to your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol.
This is known as the HPA axis.
You have two different divisions to your nervous system – sympathetic and parasympathetic neither of which is under your conscious control.
Sympathetic deals with “Flight or Fight”
- Speeds up your heart rate
- Redirects blood flow away from your gut and to your muscles
- Stimulates your liver to release glucose so higher blood glucose levels
- Triggers the release of various blood clotting factors
Parasympathetic however does the opposite and relaxes you. It helps you to get ready to eat, digest and store energy.
Consequences of a dysfunctional HPA axis:
Cushing syndrome is one extreme example of a body under extreme stress causing the HPA axis to go completely out of sync and produces excess cortisol.
- Increased visceral fat
- Heart disease
Depression is another example of an initiator of HPA axis dysfunction:
“There is compelling evidence for the involvment of the HPA axis abnormalities in depression.” Kunugi H et al Neuropsychopharmacology January 2006
Smoking is also proven to disrupt the HPA axis, although not as chronic in its effect as depression.
My Own Experience With Patients On Statin Medication:
I would like to go back to my own experiences as a pharmacist when performing medicine use reviews.
Anecdotally I would find that a large proportion of the patients I saw on Statin medication had been put on it without experiencing any problems with their health. They had been put on the treatment routinely by their G.P’s. Every so often you would find a complaint of feeling tired and leg cramps since being on the medication. I would immediately send these patients back to the G.P to assess their medication. Usually simvastatin was the culprit.
More interesting was the patients who had one or more risk factors such as high blood pressure or existing disease.
Nearly every single one of these patients complained of feeling under stress. Either from an emotional trauma previously in their life such as divorce, or working long hours, not sleeping properly and so eating the wrong food.
Now what I did that I believe was different from what they were normally used to, was that I actually took a little bit of time to listen to their problems.
Then I offered solutions, usually in the form of a little shopping list of things to buy that would help them that they could easily find from their local supermarket, such as healthier food and drinks.
Many consumed large quatities of fizzy drinks so I suggested a few healthier swaps they could make.
I would also direct them to website with more information that could help them fit exercise into their lives more easily, be able to cook healthier meals and this is the biggy, I would recommend they take up Yoga, Meditation and listen to music that would help them to relax more.
Those who followed through on my advice reported feeling much better and some even came off their medications completely as a result.
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A study, published in Journal of The Association of Physicians of India (JAPI), establishes the reversibility of heart disease through yoga. Study was on angiographic ally proven CAD patients, of whom 71 formed the study group and 42 the control group.
And the results proved that the serum total cholesterol levels had reduced by 23.3%, disease had regressed in 43.7% and progression was arrested in another 46.5% of the patients. Some marked improvements were noticed in anxiety levels of patients.
Controlled yoga combining calming and stimulating measures resulted in reduced serum cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels.
Other ways to reduce stress and relax:
Music and sound therapy
Listening to music may benefit patients who suffer severe stress and anxiety associated with having and undergoing treatment for coronary heart disease. A Cochrane Systematic Review found that listening to music could decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of anxiety in heart patients.
The researchers reviewed data from 23 studies, which together included 1,461 patients. Two studies focused on patients treated by trained music therapists, but most did not, using instead interventions where patients listened to pre-recorded music on CDs offered by healthcare professionals.
So in my opinion a more holistic approach is required when treating heart disease. Medication merely acts like applying ice on the bruise. If you keep banging your head on the wall, it doesn’t matter how much ice you apply, your bruise will just get bigger and bigger.
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