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February is heart health month

February is heart health month and love is in the air as family day is here and Valentine’s day has just passed…but why do we all connect love with the heart, and why are we so little aware of how we can keep our heart strong and healthy?

In ancient times the Egyptians believed that the heart is the residence of the brain. Many of us would support this thesis at least from a humanitarian perspective. Sayings like “I knew it by heart” or “listen to your heart” reflect the inner knowing that there is more needed to intelligence and human existence than just a brain. An open heart, love and friendship make our lives worth living.

Our hearts, respectively our cardiovascular system, nourish each cell in our bodies, pumping oxygen, and nutrients through an incredible 60,000 Miles of blood vessels. They usually beat at a rate between 60 and 90 times per minute, about a 100,000 times per day. Good blood circulation not only fuels our cells, removes waste products, and toxins efficiently, but ensures that our defense mechanisms like white blood cells against foreign invaders arrive on time where needed. Anything that restricts blood flow will contribute to lower supplies of all the above, if circulation stops tissues will die.

Unfortunately, heart disease is the major cause of death all over the world. Atherosclerosis is the condition most associated with Cardiovascular Disease. It happens when so-called plaques build up in our arteries, like rust in a pipe, leading to a reduced blood flow, making the arteries less flexible eventually, causing high blood pressure, and on the long run an artery can be blocked or ruptured. Atherosclerosis can happen everywhere in the body but mainly in the heart, the arteries to the brain and the brain itself.

But what causes Atherosclerosis? Most people would probably answer one of the following: High blood pressure, high blood sugar, high Cholesterol, or obesity. Somehow, they all are right, all of the above are involved in heart disease, but aren’t we talking symptoms here instead of causes? What led to the imbalances in our bodies to develop these symptoms?

At the very core of Atherosclerosis are inflammatory reactions caused by so-called free radicals. They are oxygen containing Molecules which have one electron less than normal and are desperately seeking for completion. In consequence free radicals are aggressively attacking the cells in our body in order to steal an electron, triggering a cascade of damage, including the damage of our arterial walls.

But what about Cholesterol? Isn’t it responsible for all heart disease or is it just an innocent bystander? Firstly, Cholesterol is the building block for most of our hormones, like estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol and as such it is crucial for our well-being. It is an integrative part of all our cells and ensures proper functioning of our nervous system. Cholesterol is produced by the liver and found in every cell of our body. It needs to be transported through the water-based blood stream by fat-based transporters, so called lipoproteins. These “transporters” come in different sizes and densities. You can generally think of lipoproteins as trucks delivering and collecting goods to and from every cell when needed. The delivery trucks for Cholesterol are called LDL (Low density lipoprotein). To collect the garbage and to recycle unused cholesterol we use “waste trucks, the so-called HDL (High density lipoprotein). As long as we have enough trucks to remove the waste produced (HDL), our system is in balance. However, when there is too much LDL floating around in the bloodstream for too long, it might get oxidized and react with free radicals in the blood stream causing even more damage and plaque build up in our arteries. Recent research identified especially the smaller and denser LDL as a potential risk for atherosclerosis whereas the fluffier bigger ones seem to have a lesser impact.

But what kicks Cholesterol levels out of balance and what can we do to lower Cholesterol? How can we prevent inflammation from happening?

Besides the obvious, like reactions to toxins and other foreign invaders, inflammation happens when our bodies get out of balance, which is mainly triggered by our nutritional choices and lifestyle.

Smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress and a diet loaded with processed, fried and fatty foods all raise the level of inflammation in the body, as well as Cholesterol levels.

How does that happen?

Generally, our liver produces exactly the needed amount of cholesterol. It measures the blood levels of cholesterol constantly and only keeps on producing until it gets the feedback by a certain enzyme that there is enough of it.

Unfortunately, this feedback loop is highly impacted by our blood sugar levels. One way our liver is handling high blood sugar levels is transforming the extra sugar into fat and more cholesterol. Additionally, when blood sugar levels are too high, free floating LDL can get “sugarcoated” (glycosylated) which changes its form. As a consequence, it cannot be recognized by the receptors of that enzyme (like a key not fitting into a lock) which is needed to tell the liver there is enough Cholesterol in the blood.

Beside the dietary intake of refined sugars and starches, high blood sugar levels can be caused by conditions like uncontrolled Diabetes, metabolic syndrome as well as by chronic stress. Maybe you remember that high levels of stress hormones trigger the rise of blood sugar levels to enable us to “run as fast as we can from a predator”. Unfortunately, our everyday stressors, like traffic jams, pressure at work, financial insecurity, or challenging relationships all contribute to high cortisol levels and in consequence to high blood sugar levels. If we have no coping mechanisms to lower our stress levels such as mindful breathing exercises, meditation, or a walk in the park, we end up in the midst of a blood sugar storm, even more so if we try to escape our worries with coffee and donuts…

Blood sugar is necessary to provide fuel for our brain, muscles, and cells. Yet too much blood sugar can cause inflammation as glucose is a highly energetic compound which easily oxidizes and produces free radicals which then may damage the lining of your artery walls.

To prevent Cardiovascular disease, we therefore not only have to manage our cholesterol levels but also our blood sugar levels and the rate of inflammation in our bodies.

Additionally, we will have to take care of our digestive system as the liver eliminates cholesterol via the bile, respectively the intestines. If bile production is low or you suffer from constipation, we might encounter higher levels of cholesterol as cholesterol gets partially reabsorbed via the intestines.

The good news is, Atherosclerosis is preventable and meanwhile believed to be even reversable. There is ample nutritional and lifestyle advice, which I will share with you next weekend in the second part of this article. You will learn about the role of good fats, fiber, exercise, and other factors that impact our heart health. So please stay tuned.

Please be aware that cardiovascular disease is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. Never change any medication or start a new regimen without talking to your medical doctor about it!

If you want to take a deeper dive into your personal situation, and get a detailed evaluation with individually tailored recommendations please feel free to contact me anytime at 905-580-9946 or book a free discovery call via my website

I would be happy to support you on your way to a better well-being!

Stay safe,

Daniela Wachter

Medical disclaimer:

Please be aware that cardiovascular disease is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. Never change any medication or start a new regimen without talking to your medical doctor about it!

The information on this page is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health care professional. This content is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases. Always consult with your primary care physician or licensed healthcare provider for all diagnosis and treatment of any diseases or conditions, for medications or medical advice as well as before changing your health care regimen.

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