Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a disease in which a fatty substance called “plaque” builds up inside the coronary arteries. This process is called “atherosclerosis” and is the pathology that leads to heart attacks and strokes.
CHD is predominantly a disease of the “middle aged” and older population. Men over 40 and women over 50 are candidates for CHD. Lately we have begun to see CHD in even younger individuals, due to an increase in obesity and diabetes caused by “bad” nutrition.
Coronary heart disease is the # 1 cause of death among men and women in the US, claiming more than 600,000 lives a year ! ( thats like 3 Jumbo jets crashing every day ! )
CDC statistics reveal that approximately 750,000 Americans have a heart attack every year at a cost of over $110 billion in healthcare, medication and lost productivity. The incidence of CHD has been rising paralel to the rise in obesity and diabetes and has reached “pandemic” proportions.
Causes and Risk Factors of Coronary Heart Disease
For the past three decades CHD was blamed solely on “dietery fats” and cholesterol. The plaques that cause CHD were found to be made up of a form of “bad cholesterol” (LDL) so logically the culprit had to be the bad cholesterol that we consume in our diet. High blood levels of LDL were associated with CHD.
The problem is that; decades of the “low fat” diet craze and cholesterol lowering “statin” drugs did nothing to curb the incidence of CHD. In fact the incidence kept rising.
I must admit that, I too, was on the low fat and statin “bandwagon” until years later when I started to notice that it was not working. The moment of truth came when years ago I reviewed the lab data of the last 300 patients that I had operated on for CHD; More than half of these patients had normal levels of LDL !!! and that didn’t save them from getting CHD !? On the other hand we have seen thousands of people with high cholesterol levels and no evidence of CHD.
Why is LDL being deposited in the arteries of some people and not in others ?
The answer and truth began to surface in the last couple of years when we realized that there are actually two kinds of LDL and the LDL we get from saturated animal fat is not the kind that is deposited in the arteries, these are large “fluffy” LDL molecules that are unable to settle in the artery walls. On the other hand the LDL molecules that can and will settle in the arteries to cause deposits and plaque are the “small dense LDL molecules”. Guess where these come from!; mostly the liver ! and they are made from sugars, not fat !!! ( Disclaimer : this does not mean we can eat all the animal protein and fat we like. We will get into that subject later ! ) In short; excess sugar is a more important risk factor than fats !
The second important factor in the development of CHD is “Inflammation”. Inflammation is the body's natural response to infection and allergens that cause iritation. Inflamation actualy fights these situations and aids in healing. When inflammation becomes chronic ( Chronic Whole Body Inflammation ) it sets the stage for a myriad of chronic diseases like CHD, Cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. In the case of CHD, inflammation damages the vascular tissues and make them susceptible to atherosclerotic changes.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
- Trans fats
- High sugar consumption and diabetes
- Artificial sweeteners, flavours, colorings.
In summary; quoting one of the pioneers in the field of preventative medicine; Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic “CHD is a food-borne illness and need never to exist”.
CHD is indeed a nutritional disease which can be avoided by proper nutrition; avoiding the “bad foods” and eating the foods that have the power to stop the disease process in it’s footsteps.
Midlife is a time in which many of the chronic diseases have already established a foundation and are just waiting for the right time to expolde. We have the means and power to reverse back into a healthy life.
In our future articles we will discuss the simple precautions to take in order to prevent and even reverse obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease.