Cardiovascular disease refers to mainly ischaemic heart disease (heart attack,) heart failure and stroke. It is the number one cause of death in the USA, where it is the cause of one in every three deaths. The figures on the Sunshine Coast are very similar. That is a sad state of affairs. So, at Pulse, our good naturopaths and holistic doctors are seriously into cardiovascular disease prevention. We want to help prevent you becoming a statistic. Kim Carolan, Danielle Roberts, Dr Tracy Johns, Dr Tim Smith and Dr Mark Fulton are good naturopaths and holistic doctors. We know that preventing and treating cardiovascular disease involves reducing chronic inflammation in your body.
Here are our core recommendations to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease.
1. The best way to avoid inflammation and Cardiovascular Disease is through your diet.
A. Avoid eating sugar,
which includes excessive fructose (a sugar found in fruit) and grains. Sugar, as in what you may buy at the supermarket, is a poison. So do not have it in your house.
B. Avoid refined carbohydrates,
including sweets, fruit juices, white breads, pasta, cereal and potatoes. These foods break down into simple sugars quickly and easily, and that is not good. They are damaging in any amount. See 20.
C. Limit or eliminate all processed foods. See I. See 19.
D. Eliminate gluten from your diet.
E. Eat organic foods whenever possible.
F. Eat some of your food uncooked (raw.)
G. Increase the amount of fresh vegetables in your diet.
H. Avoid artificial sweeteners of all kinds.
I. Don’t eat trans fatty acids.
Trans fat consumption is one of the biggest causes of coronary heart disease.
Trans fats are vegetable oils that are partially hydrogenated. When hydrogen is added to oil, it makes the oil solid at room temperature. This is useful in the production of baked goods. What is more, products made with hydrogenated oils have long shelf lives as they can remain in a packet for a longer time before becoming rancid. Also, trans fats also allow deep-frying at higher temperatures. This means that products containing trans fats are easy to sell, yet extremely unhealthy.
Trans fats are more dangerous than saturated fats. Not only do trans fats increase LDL cholesterol levels, they also reduce levels of HDL cholesterol – the helpful cholesterol. So a patient who tries to be heart – healthy might choose a product labeled as being low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Yet that product may be high in harmful trans fats. That is just wrong.
Trans fatty acids are in most margarines. What is more, they are also in many commercially baked goods, and in the fats used for deep-frying in many restaurants. Most cooking oils available at supermarkets contain trans fats (extra virgin olive oil is an exception.) Do not trust the labelling on packaged food that claims the food contains no trans fats. It is best to swap all trans fats (such as vegetable oils and margarine) for foods that contain healthy fats. Examples are avocado, pure butter, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil. It is best to keep these products in a refrigerator.
If it is in a packet, is crunchy, and has a long “use by” date, don’t eat it. Do not be fooled by advertising which claims such products are “healthy.” Most corporations want us to eat food that is cheap to produce, and has a long shelf life. They usually care little for consumers’ health.
J. Avoid eating foods cooked at over high temperatures. See 19.
K. Eat a low carbohydrate diet.
There is a lot of conflicting dietary advice about carbohydrates. So dietary guidelines are often confusing as a consequence. Yet the holistic doctors and good naturopaths here at Pulse are not confused. We think the average Australian consumes far too many carbohydrate rich foods; sugars, grains, cereals and starches.
Many dieticians, on the other hand, are keen to reinforce how important it is to eat “healthy whole grains.” Yet we suspect these good people have been unwittingly and subtly pressured by some corporations in the food industry. We think modern genetically engineered grains, generally speaking, are far from healthy. Foods such as bread, pasta and cereal contain complex carbohydrates; they are composed of many sugar units joined together. These complex carbohydrates break down into simple sugars. The consequence is that most people gain weight, as they consume more carbohydrate than their body needs. What is more, these foods are also usually high in trans fats.
Carbohydrates promote the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Insulin is a “fat creating” hormone. So it encourages the deposition of body fat, and inhibits the action of fat burning enzymes in the body. High insulin levels also fuel hunger and sugar/carbohydrate cravings. A vicious, unhealthy, fat producing cycle ensues.
Some carbohydrates can also cause digestive problems. Grains, particularly those that contain gluten, can be difficult to digest. Therefore they can trigger what might be labeled as “irritable bowel syndrome,” or reflux, ie “GORD.” Pharmaceutical companies often claim GORD is a consequence of too much stomach acid. Yet the reality is more complicated than that. We have an epidemic of reflux symptoms in the western world, largely as a consequence of excessive carbohydrate ingestion. The same is true of obesity, and obesity leads to heart disease.
Carbohydrates promote the growth of unhealthy microorganisms in the intestines. This may lead to Candida overgrowth or SIBO (small Intestinal bacterial overgrowth.)
The vitamins and minerals in grains are usually very poorly absorbed. Most grains are fairly high in phytates, which are compounds that bind with minerals and inhibit their absorption. This is one reason why iron, calcium and magnesium deficiencies are common in people on the Sunshine Coast who consume a lot of grains.
For all the above reasons, good naturopaths and holistic doctors usually encourage their patients to have a grain free and sugar free diet.
2. Maintain a healthy weight.
See 1 and 3.
3. Exercise regularly; this is easily done on the Sunshine Coast.
There is plenty of space and fresh air on the Sunshine Coast. So if doing that is a major problem, perhaps you should rearrange your priorities.
4. Manage your blood pressure.
See 2, 3, 13, 14 and 15. Drugs are not the only solution. Holistic doctors and good naturopaths like us do much more.
5. Reverse, or control, diabetes.
See 1, 2, 3 and 14.
6. Do not smoke.
Ever. That means not even one.
7. Supplement with vitamin E.
8. Supplement with vitamin K2.
Both these vitamins may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
9. Take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 supplement.
This re-balances our omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. There are plenty of health food shops that sell good quality omega 3’s on the Sunshine Coast. See 12.
10. Holistic Doctors and Good Naturopaths Optimize Vitamin D levels.
The sun on the Sunshine Coast is the best source of vitamin D. So we should all expose our skin to the sun. This is best done between 10 am and 2 pm. Especially relevant is the fact that low levels of vitamin D correlate with a higher risk of heart disease and heart attacks. So the more sunlight we get, the better our cardiovascular health will be. Vitamin D triggers a number of physiological mechanisms that act to fight cardiovascular disease.
On the other hand, the risk of sunburn is high. Remember that we should never stay in the sun for long enough for our skin to to get burned. So if you have very sun sensitive skin, you need to supplement with oral vitamin D.
It is prudent to test our vitamin D level regularly, (perhaps annually,) to make sure it is in the ideal therapeutic range. Of note, this is 100 – 175 nmol/l, NOT the 50 – 150 nmol/l quoted by Australian pathology labs. We base this recommendation on information from some of the world’s leading authorities on vitamin D. Equally important is the fact that optimising your vitamin D will help reduce your risk of developing some common cancers, and will help prevent depressive symptoms.
11. Boost good cholesterol (HDL,)
We measure this easily with a blood test. Of note, HDL is raised by exercise and the consumption of plenty of omega-3 fats. People can find fresh omega 3’s easily on the Sunshine Coast, as they are in fresh vegetables, fish and meat. See 9.
12. Lower triglyceride levels.
High triglycerides are a very potent risk factor for heart disease. So we measure them via a blood test. If you exercise regularly and avoid grains and sugars in your diet, triglycerides will drop. See 1. What is more, high triglycerides and low HDL levels together are an even bigger risk than isolated high triglyceride readings.
13. Take magnesium.
See 4. A large percentage of people on the Sunshine Coast are deficient in magnesium. Yet magnesium deficiency is usually insidious, and is the cause of many symptoms. For example, if you suffer from muscular cramps, it is highly likely you are magnesium deficient. Magnesium deficiency often exacerbates back ache. Magnesium also lowers blood pressure. It helps us sleep. Magnesium also reduces our stress levels. It also helps prevent heart arrhythmias.
14. Take coenzyme Q10.
This is particularly important if we are on a statin drug (which doctors commonly prescribe on the Sunshine Coast) or if we are hypertensive. See 4. Consequently, holistic doctors and good naturopaths usually measure coenzyme Q10 with a blood test.
15. Holistic doctors check homocysteine levels.
Raised serum levels of this amino acid, which are due to genetic variations, cause an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. So ideally, homocysteine levels should be less than 10 nmol/L. Furthermore, holistic doctors like Mark, Tracy and Tim, and good naturopaths like Kim and Danielle, know how to get homocysteine levels down.
16. Take a good quality probiotic.
We all have a very important symbiotic relationship with the bacteria in our gut. So it is important to have the best bacteria in the gut to have a healthy heart.
17. Holistic doctors and Good Naturopaths check iron levels.
We measure iron levels via a blood test. This is important, as excess iron increases our risk of cardiovascular disease.
18. Holistic doctors check the MTHFR genes via a blood test.
So good naturopaths and holistic doctors know how to help if you were a little unlucky with your genes.