By: Alonso Chavarriaga
New studies are now finding out that cholesterol isn’t a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease after all. Dr. Holly Lucille believes it boils down to four risk factors that are much more important than overall cholesterol levels: dietary sugar, oxidation, inflammation, and stress.
What you eat can have a major impact on your health, but not in terms of cholesterol. Perhaps the biggest heart disease factor that comes from food is sugar. Not natural sugars like those found in fruits, but added dietary sugar. It can be easy to identify added sugar in candy, ice cream, and sugary sodas, but other foods that usually contain extra dietary sugar include baked goods, sports drinks, jellies, and even low-fat yogurts.
Inflammation can be caused by a variety of things, but it’s important to address it as soon as possible. Balancing your body’s consumption of fatty acids can certainly help. Most people eat lots of omega-6 foods such as poultry, bread, cereal, nuts, and vegetable oil. Studies show that omega-6 and omega-3 levels should be close to the same in order to balance each other out. Otherwise, inflammation, arthritis, and even cancer can occur.
You can fight back against inflammation by eating more omega-3 foods like cold-water fish and anti-inflammatory, green foods that are nutrient dense.
Much like an apple, your body oxidizes over time. Called oxidative stress, there can be many variables: air pollutants, tobacco smoke, excessive sugar, and lack of sleep. There have been countless studies linking oxidative stress with the progression of heart disease. Thankfully, oxidative stress can be kept to a minimum by eating foods rich in antioxidants like spices, curcumin, blueberries, and dark green veggies.
Regular exercise also helps reduce oxidative stress. Supplement your workouts with vitamin D, or get out in the sun for a little while to decrease oxidation even further.
Lastly, chronic stress can have a huge toll on your heart. Fuming over morning traffic, rushing from place to place, worrying about bills, and stressing in general can weaken your heart and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It can be difficult, but make an effort to identify chronic stressors and gradually reduce them. Leave for work a little earlier, practice yoga or meditation, and address each stressor individually to chip away at them.
As Dr. Lucille points out, each of the four key factors for heart disease are modifiable. You can have a direct impact on any of these, if you choose to.
Up until now, cholesterol has always been the scapegoat for heart disease, but with new studies shining light on the real causes, you can make a huge difference when it comes to lessening your risk.
In the accompanying audio segment, Dr. Holly busts the cholesterol myth once and for all and shares the four serious risk factors for heart disease.