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Healthy Hearts: 3 Causes Of Heart Disease
By Meagan - February 22, 2013
The CDC states that 1 out of every 4 deaths in the United States each year is a result of heart disease. That’s a huge number, and it’s a shame. So where do we start when it comes to preventing this terrible disease. Well I think the 3 main causes of heart disease is an excellent starting point.

1. Diet

Contrary to what the media pushes as being “heart healthy”, many people are starting to realize that those things aren’t as healthy for our hearts as we’re being told. Many nutritionists and dietitians are encouraging the public towards cutting back on unhealthy fats like saturated fats and consuming more supposedly heart healthy oils and fats like canola oil and margarine. They’re also advising that we eat low fat products and cutting out as much cholesterol as possible… seeing as how these things increase the risk of heart disease. The public has been listening to this advice for 50 + years, but the funny thing is, the problem isn’t getting better. It’s getting worse. Heart disease continues to steadily climb. Let’s take a look at some of the common staples of the standard American diet that have been linked to increasing heart disease.
  • Refined Sugar
  • Polyunsaturated Oils
  • Trans-Fatty Acids
  • Pasteurized and Homogenized Milk
  • Oxidized Cholesterol
  • Alcohol and Caffeine
Quickly, we were created to eat whole foods as close to the way God created them as possible. After all the studying I’ve done over the years when it comes to diet and nutrition, this is what I keep coming back to. As Stephen Byrnes says in his book Diet & Heart Disease… “Real, whole, natural food creates and sustains life.” I believe it! Refined sugar is a breeding ground for disease and decay. We were meant to eat natural forms of sugar like honey, maple syrup, fruit, and vegetable sugar complete with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to help our body use it for energy. Polyunsaturated oils are the most fragile oils we use. They break down and go rancid faster than any other types of oils. These oils are primarily vegetable oils like corn, soybean, and sunflower oil to name a few. Heat, light, and oxygen damage them, causing them to go rancid, and since most oils are deodorized, there’s no way to tell if they’re bad when you buy them. These are the kinds of oils to use as is on salads, NOT for cooking with. Trans-fatty acids should be avoided like the plague. They are things like margarine and vegetable shorting and they can wreak havoc on your body. Check out this page on the YOUnique Nutrition website that shows the process taken to create margarine and shortening. Pasteurized and homogenized milk are far from raw milk these days. It’s milk that’s been taken and heated to a high temperature in order to kill all the bacteria in it, but it also kills the vitamins and enzymes in it that are needed to digest it. The milk is then put through the homogenization process in order to break all the fat molecules down in to the smallest pieces possible so they can’t coagulate and rise to the top of the milk. The problem with this is that now we’re seeing many people with milk allergies as well as milk being a contributing factor to heart disease because these small fat particles can now pass through the intestinal wall and be absorbed into the blood stream. Oxidized cholesterol is something I don’t know a whole lot about, but it’s found in powdered milk, powdered eggs, ultra high temperature milk, and skim or low fat milk. Again… all things that are far from whole and natural. Alcohol and caffeine are two things that experts go back and forth all the time about whether they are harmful for you or not, but no matter… the consensus is in… excessive intake of either of these substances is bad for your health. If you are interested in more information about diet and heart disease... specifically fats, check out this post with will link you to some great articles from the Weston A. Price Foundation.

2. Nutrients

There’s no doubt about it. Our bodies need nutrients to thrive. They help us to be in optimal health. Not just good health… optimal health. What I mean by that is, our bodies are very flexible and adaptable. They can compensate for a lack of specific nutrition for a while without getting sick. Many people today realize that the soil our food is grown in is deficient in a good amount of vitamins and minerals. That means that we’re eating less nutritious food. All the more reason to grow your own or buy local/all--natural if possible. Below are some specific nutrients that persons with heart disease have been shown to be deficient in.
  • Vitamin C
  • Minerals
  • Folate, B6, & B12
  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins A & D
Vitamin C is the one vitamin not made by our bodies so that means we must get it from our foods. We can get it from raw milk, acerola powder, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Adequate Vitamin C levels are shown to help with stronger, healthier blood vessels and heart muscle. Plus… you can’t overdose on Vitamin C so supplement away! Many minerals play a huge role in how our heart functions, and the best place to get them is in all--natural butter, raw nuts, sea food, organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables, and cultured dairy products. But did you know that even though you are eating foods high in minerals and taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement, you still may not be absorbing the minerals you’re eating in your food? That’s right. If you eat a diet high in grains, legumes, or nuts, you may be getting an excess of phytic acid from these foods. Phytic acid is found in the bran of all these foods, and it binds to minerals in the digestive tract, preventing their absorption. So what’s the solution to this problem? Soak these foods in lightly salted water at room temperature for at least seven hours before cooking them to initiate the chemical breakdown of the acid. Plus… soaking your foods makes them easier to digest! Folate, B6, and B12 are primarily found in animal products as well as dark green leafy vegetables, and are shown to decrease the chance of plaque buildup on arterial walls. They also decrease levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can trigger heart disease. From my understanding, antioxidants neutralize free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are unstable molecules that come from all sorts of things… primarily vegetable oils that have been damaged by heat… such as foods and environmental exposures as well, and they cause autoimmune disorders and cancer among other things. Foods that are high in antioxidants include dark green leafy vegetables, fresh meats, butter, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, organ meats, green tea, and spices like curry and turmeric. Vitamin A and D are fat soluble vitamins, and it’s believed to be linked to heart disease. There’ve not been enough studies done on this theory just yet, but the concern comes into account with people on low fat diets which are typically low in Vitamins A and D due to their lack in animal protein. So to keep your Vitamin A and D up be sure to eat a diet with salmon, fish roe, liver, butter, and cod liver oil.

3. Life-Style

Wow. I don’t think I even need to explain this one! I think it goes to say that most of us, minus you homesteaders out there, don’t have lifestyles like folks had back in the good ole’ days. We can pretty much get access to anything, and all we need is money to get it. We don’t really have to work as hard physically for our food, clothing, or shelter these days. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful, but those days do have some nostalgia for me. Below are some of the commonly associated lifestyle factors that play into heart disease.
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Stress
Smoking these days isn’t like smoking back in the day. I’m not pro-smoking, but let’s face it… it was different back then. Most people weren’t buying chemical laden tobacco. They bought it minimally processed and rolled their own cigarettes… or used it in pipes. Also, it wasn’t smoked as often due to it not being available everywhere and it was most likely considered a luxury and expensive. Now, all--natural or not… nicotine found in tobacco constricts the blood vessels and causes the heart to have to pump harder, but in my honest opinion… and again, I’m not pro-smoking nor do I smoke, I think the majority of health problems related to tobacco use these days are from the chemicals in the tobacco. The main issue with obesity and heart disease – beyond diet issues – is that being obese causes a greater strain on the heart. The heart has to work harder to pump blood and over time it wears out faster. I remember watching an episode of The Biggest Looser somewhere once where they tested the contestant’s hearts and gave them the age of their heart based on their test results. All of them had much older hearts than their actual age. Another problem with obesity and heart disease is exercise. It takes a lot of effort to exercise and when you have extra pounds to move you’re even less motivated. Exercise strengthens your heart and is needed to keep your heart in good working order. Stress is so detrimental to your health and yet we all have it to some degree or another. I don’t think stress is avoidable, but we can deal with it appropriately. We all have things that we enjoy doing… things that relax us and make us smile. We need to take time to do things enjoyable things in order to lighten our load a bit. It’s no excuse to take time for yourself. It really is good for you!
So tell me. Which of the above things stuck out to you the most? Share it with me in the comment section below!