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Foods for a Healthy Heart

February 2, 2010

 There is very little evidence, if any, that suggests we need to alter our cholesterol levels for health and longevity.  At one time, a preponderance of “evidence” suggested that a high-fat diet, especially saturated fat, was the culprit. However, follow-up studies and a review of the evidence has shown otherwise.

The problem is that science cannot draw a definitive cause-and-effect relationship with any sort of dietary pattern.  “Low-fat”, “high-fat”, “moderate-carbohydrate”…how ever you want to label it, it does not seem to matter. 

 Today, we have an assortment of statin drugs which are proposed to lower our cholesterol in order to improve our longevity and help avoid heart disease. Well, they lower cholesterol, but those who take statins do not live longer even though their cholesterol levels may decrease – again, more evidence that lowering cholesterol does not improve longevity. Meanwhile, other effects of statins are: they cost you (or your insurance company) $150-$250 per month, make your muscles ache, diminish your memory and cognition, and potentially croak your liver. So, take it for what it’s worth.

 So, what to eat? There is some research that suggests:

  1. Fish oil helps as an anti-coagulant, like aspirin, and it seems to help people with arrhythmias. Eat cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, or trout at least twice per week, or take a teaspoon of supplemental fish oil once per day. Thus far, the potential side-effect of overdosing on fish oil is hemophilia, but even in this case, it is rare.
  2. Alcohol. Before any of you get too excited, I will emphasize, THERE IS A LIMIT TO HOW MUCH IS BENEFICIAL. Binge drinking or heavy drinking seems to have the opposite effect. There seems to be a “rebound” of the blood-clotting system, making blood clots more likely to form. Therefore drink daily (wine is better than beer which is better than spirits), but do not get drunk.
  3. Nuts, for the monounsaturated fats. Walnuts are the best because of the high oil content within them, but that does not mean all of the others are “bad”. Variety is key. The more variety, the better.
  4. Avoid trans fats. More and more, these are becoming outlawed, in such states as New York and California, but they appear in processed foods. These can affect not only our cholesterol levels, but other aspects of health as well, such as developing obesity and cancer.
  5. Avoid sugar and its derivatives in all of its forms: sucrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, lactose, etc. and artificial sweetners. Just by eating any one of these, markers of inflammation increase, such as platelet aggregation, and inflammation is the hallmark sign of aging, disease and heart problems. 

Again, there is no direct, convincing evidence that supports there is a diet-cholesterol remedy alone. Changing your stress level, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising at a high intensity intermittently is more effective at improving your cholesterol and health than your diet.

 Therefore, eat your fish, red meat, veggies in butter and wash it down with a glass of wine, hold the dessert and you will be living the heart-healthy way.


This entry was posted in Nutrition.

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