Fighting Inflammation: the Forgotten Ingredient in Heart Disease

Fighting Inflammation: the Forgotten Ingredient in Heart Disease

mottlby Dr. Steven Motti, Denton Heart Group

Despite all of the recent advances in medications and treatments, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in this country. In fact, more Americans will die this year of heart disease than ever before. The challenge is predicting who will suffer the deadly heart attack.

What can you do to help lower your heart attack risks? Lets take a look at what causes atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, which is the most common cause of heart attacks and stroke. There is a misconception that if the cholesterol level is normal, the risk of a heart attack is low. That is not always true. Cholesterol is only one of the ingredients used by the body to form a plaque on the artery. Really, the process starts with inflammation. Chronic inflammation that lasts for several months causes injury to the arteries. This injury leads to an inflammatory response, similar to what happens with a cut on the skin. As the healing process occurs, cells ingest cholesterol particles that stick to the artery walls, this forms a cholesterol rich plaque. More commonly known as an atherosclerosis. Rupture of these plaques is what leads to heart attacks and stroke.

Heart disease requires both cholesterol and inflammation. How does inflammation occur inside the body? There are several conditions that result in higher levels of inflammation, such as skin diseases, joint diseases and intestinal disorders. Diabetes and cigarette smoke also damage the wall of the arteries. For most Americans, food is a major culprit for inflammation. The western diet has lead to higher rates of several diseases such as strokes, cancer, dementia and, of course, heart disease. Particularly red meats, pork products, processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour and all the products made from them), and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods.

The Mediterranean diet is an excellent dietary guide to avoid harmful foods, and, in fact, the Mediterranean diet is one of the few diets that has actually been shown to lower your risk of a heart attack. The focus is on eating fresh plant-based foods, fresh vegetables and fruit. Remember, an avocado a day keeps the doctor away. Eating more white meats and seafood instead of red meat and pork lowers body inflammation. Get rid of the butter and use olive and coconut oil. Eat more healthy fats such as nuts and olive oils. Consuming foods that are high in Omega-3 such as fish or fish oil, chia seed and flax seed help balance against the damaging effects from Omega-6. Several other foods have natural anti-inflammatory properties such as ginger and turmeric.

Lastly, do not forget about exercise. 30 minutes 5 days per week at an intensity that causes you to breath heavy and break a light sweat. 1 in 5 people will die from a heart attack. Healthy living through diet and exercise will lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Today is a great day to start!

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