All entries for July 2011
This is from a great site "Health Realizations"
Over 16 percent of U.S. adults have high cholesterol, defined as 240 mg/dL and above, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even the average level for Americans, 200 mg/dL, is borderline high, they say.
This high cholesterol, public health agencies say, is putting people at an increased risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. This stated “fact” scares millions of Americans into take statin cholesterol-lowering drugs to get their levels as low as possible … but what if this “fact” was actually not true?
Does Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease?
Cholesterol is actually an essential part of your body, used to produce cell membranes, steroid hormones, vitamin D and the bile acids your body needs to digest fat. Your brain needs cholesterol to function properly, as does your immune system, and if a cell becomes damaged, it needs cholesterol in order to be repaired.
In fact, making excess cholesterol is actually your body’s response to inflammation, which it does to help heal and repair your cells. So if you have high cholesterol you probably have high inflammation levels too (more on this later).
Many Americans are under the mistaken impression that all cholesterol is bad, but in reality cholesterol is good for your body and necessary for you to live. Unfortunately, the “lipid hypothesis” (aka the “diet-heart hypothesis”), the one that claims foods high in saturated fats drive up your cholesterol levels, which clog your arteries and lead to heart disease, is widely accepted and has helped to spread the misinformation about cholesterol throughout the public.
But the lipid hypothesis is actually seriously flawed.
In his book The Cholesterol Myths, Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD explained that Ancel Keys, who performed the study upon which the Lipid Hypothesis is based, used cherry-picked data to prove his point that countries with the highest intake of animal fat have the highest rates of heart disease.
Dr. Ravnskov revealed that the countries used in the study were handpicked, and those that did NOT show that eating a lot of animal fat lead to higher rates of heart disease were left out of the study, leading to entirely skewed, and faulty, data.
One recent study even found that there is no association between eating saturated fat (which is supposed to drive up cholesterol levels) and heart disease. The authors wrote:
Does This Mean You Can Eat Eggs Again?
If you’ve been shunning eggs because you fear they will raise your cholesterol, you needn’t avoid this healthy protein source any longer.
For starters, eating cholesterol is not what gives you high cholesterol. According to the Harvard Heart Letter, it’s a myth that all the cholesterol in eggs goes into your bloodstream and your arteries.
“For most people, only a small amount of the cholesterol in food passes into the blood,” the Heart Letter states. “The only large study to look at the impact of egg consumption on heart disease—not on cholesterol levels or other intermediaries—found no connection between the two.”
Eggs are also an excellent source of healthy nutrients, including choline, a B vitamin that may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia and more. Egg yolks also provide the most readily absorbed form of lutein, a yellow-hued carotenoid that may help fight everything from cancer and cataracts to macular degeneration and aging.
For more information, be sure to read The Truth About Eggs: How to Tell the Good From the Bad
What is Actually High When it Comes to Cholesterol?
Not only does evidence suggest that saturated fat does not cause heart disease by way of high cholesterol, but there is considerable questioning of what actually constitutes “high” cholesterol in the first place.
The American Heart Association states, “About half of American adults have levels that are too high (200 mg/dL or higher) and about 1 in 5 has a level in the high-risk zone (240 mg/dL or higher).”
But according to lipid biochemistry expert Mary Enig, PhD in the Weston A. Price Foundation quarterly magazine:
What this means is that many Americans may be taking statin cholesterol-lowering drugs unnecessarily, believing their cholesterol is dangerously high when it is not.
Statin Drugs: Is Modern Medicine’s Cure-All Harming Your Health?
Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.
They work by interfering with an enzyme that your body needs to make cholesterol. Along with lowering cholesterol, the drugs -- which include Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor, Pravachol, Crestor and others -- may also help your body reabsorb cholesterol that has accumulated on your artery walls, helping to prevent further blockage.
However, although cholesterol drugs do lower cholesterol, there is question over whether or not they actually lower your risk of heart disease.
For instance, as Business Week reported, James M. Wright, a physician and professor at the University of British Columbia, analyzed evidence from years of trials with statins and was surprised at what he found among data from patients with no heart disease who were taking the drugs:
As Business Week continued, when you look at the fine print of data surrounding cholesterol drugs, the benefits often altogether disappear. Referring to one figure stated by drug maker Pfizer, which said 3 percent of patients taking a placebo had a heart attack compared to 2 percent of patients on the statin drug Lipitor:
Suddenly the drugs don’t sound so miraculous, do they?
They also carry steep risks.
In one of the most revealing looks into the true side effects of statin drugs, a review published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs found nearly 900 studies of adverse effects linked to the drugs.
"Muscle problems are the best known of statin drugs' adverse side effects," Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and co-author of the study, told EurekAlert. "But cognitive problems and peripheral neuropathy, or pain or numbness in the extremities like fingers and toes, are also widely reported."
Other side effects included increases in blood glucose levels, tendon problems and an increase in liver enzymes, leading to permanent liver damage. Because of this latter risk, people taking the drugs must have their liver function tested periodically.
Nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, headaches and skin rash are other known side effects.
Statin drugs are also known to block the production of important nutrients in your body, including CoQ10, which is beneficial to heart health and muscle function. If CoQ10 levels become depleted, which is common in those who take statin drugs, it can actually cause heart failure.
So What is the Best Way to Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels?
Remember the inflammation connection? Your body tends to make more cholesterol when it’s in a chronically inflamed state. What causes the underlying inflammation?
Inflammation is often due to poor diet and the consumption of processed foods or lack of live healthy raw foods. For instance, if you eat a lot of fast food, you probably have increased inflammation levels, as pro-inflammatory foods include sugar, soda, alcohol, bread, trans fats and red meat.
Inflammation is a problem because when your body is in a chronic state of inflammation, the inflammation can lodge in your muscles, joints and tissues. In fact, chronic inflammation is a leading cause of many diseases, both physical and neurological, including heart disease.
So, if you’re interested in keeping your heart healthy without taking drugs, reducing inflammation is an excellent first step, as this will typically naturally put your cholesterol levels into a healthy range. Some top tips to do this are:
Predicting and reducing a patient’s risk of having heart disease is the cornerstone of preventive cardiology. Doctors have many options on how to do this including tabulating risk factors like diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and family history. However, some patients will go on to develop heart disease with few or no risk factors. In fact, the majority of heart attacks occur in patients who would be deemed “low risk”.
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the ability of carotid ultrasound (an ultrasound study of the main artery in the neck) to predict an individual’s risk of developing heart disease.
Nearly 3000 healthy patients with an average age of 58 underwent an ultrasound examination and then were followed for seven years. The ultrasounds were evaluated for the presence or absence of plaque as well as the thickness of the arterial wall (cIMT).
Patients with even minimal plaque in the neck arteries were noted to have double the risk of heart disease compared to those who did not have plaque. A similar relationship was also found with patients who had thickening of the arterial wall which is a very early sign of plaque build up.
Carotid ultrasound testing can be performed in a doctor’s office, is relatively inexpensive and involves no radiation. This study demonstrates that the findings of a carotid ultrasound gives doctors a powerful tool to predict, and thus reduce, a patient’s future risk of heart disease.
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at over 120,000 people who were healthy and not obese at baseline and followed them for up to 20 years. The study participants were watched very closely with regard to what they ate, what they drank and how they spent their time.
Slow and Steady:
The first finding from the study is that weight gain on average is insidious. Participants added slightly less than one pound per year which makes it difficult to detect in the short term but explains how a person could add 10 or 20 pounds without noticing.
Potatoes Found to Be the Worst:
Of all of the foods associated with weight gain, French fry and potato chip consumption was associated with the largest weight gain (7 and 3 pounds over 4 years respectively). Sugar sweetened beverages were also found to add pounds. Additionally, processed and unprocessed meats encouraged weight gain. While sweets and desserts contributed to weight gain, their relative contribution was modest.
Yogurt Best to Help Lose Weight:
As expected, increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables was associated with net weight loss as was whole grains and nuts. However, the biggest weight loss was seen in patients who ate yogurt. This was somewhat of an unexpected finding and may relate to the pro-biotic effects of yogurt. Other types of dairy products (both whole fat and low fat) were relatively weight neutral.
Exercise More, Watch Less TV and Sleep Just Right:
All patients who exercised enjoyed some relief from weight gain and the biggest reduction was seen in those with the most exercise. Regarding television, every hour spent watching television each day added 0.31 pounds. Interestingly, it appears that there is a “sweet spot” for sleep that is 6-8 hours per night which is associated with weight loss. People who slept more than 8 hours or less than 6 saw weight gain.
What About Alcohol?
There was an increase in weight of 0.41 pounds for every drink per day. This reinforces the concept that alcohol can be healthy at low levels (1-2 drinks per day) but harmful above that.
So what are the take –home messages from this enormous observational study? Eat more yogurt, avoid potatoes, sleep 6-8 hours every night and only watch TV while you are on the treadmill.
It’s time to change the way we think about fitness, diet and exercise. The words often imply “work” or “restriction” of some sort to many. Let’s consider movement, fuel, and activity as replacement words – ok, euphemisms, for these concepts. Let your blogging yogi here introduce you to an ancient word/concept that encompasses the very idea of being alive, let alone, fit. It’s called prana. Four thousand years ago or more, when the practice of yoga was invented, it was created around the ancients’ awareness of movement and activity that produced life force.
Prana is a Sanskrit word meaning life force, or vital energy, particularly referring to the breath. Pranayama is the act of practicing or extending this vital energy – as in breathing deeply in and out to fan or fuel the force of life within the body.
We all have this vital force within us. With lungs that can expand, when fully inflated, from our collar bones to our hip bones, and with upwards of 600 voluntary muscles in our bodies, the prana potential in each of us is divinely woven right into the fabric of our beings! We were made for movement, and active movement requires fuel.
We all know we can’t drive our cars on “empty.” We are careful to check the gas tank before a journey to avoid running out of gas. Our bodies, the most precious equipment we own, should be thought of in the same way. Since I’m using an automobile analogy for the body, with the cost of gas these days, it’s nice to know a good portion of our body’s fuel is absolutely free! Don’t stick with Regular gas (common sit-at-your-desk breathing) don’t always settle for the Mid-grade (you walked the dog today,) but fill up with the Premium stuff (I worked myself into a great sweat today,) as much as possible! Think about it. If you had your choice at the pump - it’s all free, would you choose Regular or Premium gas for your most prized machine? Premium fuel comes out of the same pump as the Regular stuff, simply by adding movement. The more active the movement, the higher quality gas becomes automatically available. Awesome machines we own!
The quality of our breathing will directly correlate to the quality of our life! You want to gain vitality? Breathe effectively and efficiently. What makes us breathe this way? Our movement and activity. The more muscles we engage in our movement and activity, the more fuel is required, the more our metabolic rate raises, the more calories are burned, the more toning and control you gain over the muscle groups, and on and on go the benefits. Stay mobile. Stay active. Inadvertently “exercise” or “work-out,” in the process!
Prana also applies to a way of eating. And so, again, pranayama is the act of extending life force through fueling our bodies with vital energy. Food is another source of energy for our bodies. Simply, put, whatever is alive, not preserved, will serve to raise your level of vitality and give you the proper fuel to achieve a higher level of fitness.
Apples, skin and all, have more life than applesauce made of apples that have been peeled, cooked and often sugared. Spinach that’s fresh and uncooked has more life than spinach in a can or a frozen block of spinach in the freezer. Think a bit deeper into this prana concept and the apple from the tree, for example, allows you to also take in the vital force from the sun, the rain, and the earth that created the fruit. We, just as the ancients’ thought of it, ingest the forces of creation. Now, that’s lively eating!
The fewer ingredients a food has, the better it is for you. Your body is alive, feed it life! To cook it, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, is to kill it. These foods are far more efficiently burned and utilized in the body than items with an expiration date beyond a few days. Most canned and dry goods have a shelf life of 1 - 2 years with a scientifically engineered extended “freshness” date. Think about how long it sits within you, therefore, as well!
“Best if used by…” Beware! Many times it’s already over being at its “best” long before that date. Oats, raw nuts, buckwheat, and some other dry goods in their single, pure form are excluded. Keep your energy source simple in your refrigerator and your pantry and thereby, set up your meals and snack attacks for success, and you’ll see the benefits in your shape and fitness level.
Keep it simple and get the body you want. By changing our way of thinking, we can change our way of being. I’m 49. I’ve had four children. That’s me in the pink and orange bikini – picture taken last week from my Iphone. Get your prana-body. The simple concept of prana can bring the body you want to life.
Be well. Live well.
By Karen Cutrona-Underood, E-RYT, Owner, Blue Moon Yoga and Fitness, Inc.