I have a family history of heart disease and want to make sure I stay healthy?
While many people focus on cholesterol levels to monitor their risk of developing heart disease, it is important to take a much broader perspective. One of the most important factors in mitigating risk of developing heart disease is limiting inflammation. Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease. Inflammation injures the blood vessel and begins the cascade that leads to blockage. Imagine a vehicle crash that blocks the flow of highway traffic. In the blood vessel, inflammation injures the arterial wall, cells of the immune system come to begin repair and then other molecules (such as cholesterol) begin to stick to the injury site and accumulate, blocking flow. A stroke can occur when there is a blockage that impedes flow to the brain while a heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart occurs.
It is important to point out that consuming dietary cholesterol makes little impact on blood cholesterol. Rather, ‘high cholesterol’ is typically a function of eating a disproportionate amount of refined carbohydrates (including sugar), consuming trans fats (such as found in shortening, some margarines and packaged foods), not enough soluble fiber intake, and/or suboptimal liver function; the liver prepares cholesterol for removal via bile.
Here are a few suggestions to get to the heart of the matter:
- Consider supplements that improve liver function such as dandelion, turmeric, artichoke, and milk thistle.
- Begin your day with a glass of warm water with the juice of ½ lemon squeezed into it. That will help prime your gallbladder.
- Increase soluble fiber intake by adding oat bran, psyllium husk and/or ground flaxseed to your daily routine. Fiber binds cholesterol aiding its elimination.
- Consider taking Coenzyme Q10 –a water and fat-soluble anti-oxidant that helps protect heart health including by quelling inflammation.
- Supplement with Omega 3 oils. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) found in fish oils and some sea vegetables help to balance cholesterol and decrease inflammation. Fish oils can thin the blood so seek medical advice if you are using blood thinners or are approaching surgery.
- Limit sugar and refined carbohydrates. Focus on colourful vegetables and fruits so that you bolster nutrient density and support good health.
- At your next physical see if your Doctor is willing to test homocysteine, a blood protein that rises with risk of heart disease -Vitamin B6, folic acid, and B12 are three vitamins that bring homocysteine down. Some companies complex B6, B12, and folic acid together for heart health or consider taking a good quality B-complex.
I hope this information helps you get a read on some of the variables that impact heart health.
“Health from the inside out.”
Dr. Kimberly McQueen BSc, ND is a Naturopathic Physician in Victoria, BC. In addition to her clinic work she has been a consultant to the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence, Camosun College, Rugby Canada and Rowing Canada. P:778.433.4935 and www.kimmcqueen.com. Kim McQueen is one of the Co-founders of the nourishing Supershake, Rumble. See www.drinkrumble.com