Eat Your Heart Out: Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

heartshannon

Hearts: they keep us from being jerks and they also keep us alive, which is preferable and cool. They pump harder than a horndog to move that nutritious blood around your body. They can’t take holidays either, those poor suckers, and if they do – well, you dead. So let’s treat them like the winners that they are, and feed them the sort of rocket fuel that makes them happy. 

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) envelops a range of diseases, such as heart attacks, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease caused by atherosclerosis (accumulation of plaque on arteries) and thrombosis (sneaky, dirty, nasty blood clots). CVD accounts for significant morbidity and mortality in the developed world and is a leading cause of death in Australia (Heart Foundation 2013). Risk factors for CVD include advancing age, family history, dyslipidemia (cholesterol levels more deranged than Gadaffi), hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption (Lord, help us), inactivity, and, importantly, diet.

Now, any dingleberry could probably tell you that diet affects the incidence of heart fuck-ups, but it’s good to know that epidemiological studies agree. Some foods are beneficial in preventing and treating CVD, and some will gladly jizz all over your heart, spit on it, and walk away high-fiving their evil counterparts. Friggin jerks! 

Foods that are Mr Good Boys:

Nuts: Various studies concur that consuming nuts several times a week significantly reduces heart disease and the incidence of myocardial infarctions (when you heart goes “tick.. tick.. tick.. tick BOOM! = not good). Explanations for this benefit include the high quantities of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in nuts. These fats have positive effects on blood lipids by lowering LDL (low density lipoproteins = the bad-arse cholesterol) and total cholesterol, which helps rebalance weirdo-wacky-harmful cholesterol levels. The fats also reduce LDL oxidation. Oxidation of LDL involves that bad-arse cholesterol reacting with free radicals. Let me explain this: imagine the LDL is some dickhead you know. They’re already a dickhead, but then they go and take Crystal meth and then they turn into a right cock, and start punching everyone and smashing things. That is oxidised LDL. It is volatile and it goes and messes up your sweet arteries, damaging the tissues and building plaques (atherosclerosis). So if you reduce this occurrence, and combine it with the anti-inflammatory qualities of nuts, you have yourself a reduced risk of atherosclerosis (remember that shitty stuff that clogs your arteries?).

Arginine, an amino acid present in many nuts, may also prevent and slow progression of CVD.  Arginine is a substrate for nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and inhibits atherosclerosis progression through anti-platelet activity. Nitric oxide also helps guys get boners. Just sayin’. Nuts also contain fibre, vitamin E and minerals essential to general heart health. Pass me a nut please, actually, pass me two, as they are best served in pairs. Sorry, Lance, but it’s true.

Whole Grains: These monkeys lower the risk for CVD through various mechanisms. Soluble fibre found in most whole grains lowers blood cholesterol levels by binding with bile acids in the gastrointestinal tract, causing their excretion (like the person on the dance-floor who falls over and drags you down with them). The liver then increases cholesterol consumption to replace lost bile acids, thereby reducing blood cholesterol levels. Thanks liver! You really are a giver.

Whole grains are legendary antioxidants as well. So like their friends, nuts, they prevent oxidation of LDLs (remember those filthy meth-heads?) which reduces the clogging of your arteries and your risk of CVD. They also have an anti-inflammatory effect (through their balancing effect on insulin), which has a positive effect on blood vessel integrity. Aim for a couple of servings of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats, for example) a day, at least! Refined grains, on the other hand, are harmful to the heart, explained down below.

Fruits and Vegetables: 

Large scale studies have found that a minimum of 5 serves of fruit/vegetables daily reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by around 30%. Fruit and vegetables are rich in many nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, antioxidants and fibre. These nutrients affect various physiological functions, such as improving blood lipids, blood viscosity and agglutination (whether or not they stick like shit to a blanket), reducing oxidation, reducing blood pressure, and increasing insulin sensitivity. The high fibre content reduces cholesterol (like those lovely Whole Grains). Antioxidant content in fruit and vegetables also benefits individuals by preventing damage to the blood vessels, thereby reducing that shitty, clogging, atherosclerosis.

Combatting hypertension is also essential in managing CVD. Some flavonoids, such as those found in onions and peaches, can assist nitric oxide function, improving blood vessel function. The mineral magnesium is abundant in many fruit and vegetables. It behaves as a calcium channel antagonist which stimulates vasodilation (nice, loose, chilled blood vessels). These effects could reduce blood pressure and strain on the heart. High potassium intake also lowers blood pressure as it encourages the kidneys to excrete sodium.

Eat heaps and heaps of fruit and vegetables. Just do it.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These guys are very special, so they have a post all of their very own, see here:

http://shannonskitchen.com/2014/06/02/omega-3-fatty-acids-whats-so-special-about-fish-oil/

Foods that will buggar it all up:

Certain foods can contribute to the onset or exacerbation of CVD, and include:

Refined grains:  Western diets are high in refined carbohydrates. God damn it. Refined grains have lost many micronutrients during processing and this lack of nutrients compromises the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis, undertake repair and thrive. Boooooooooooo. Studies suggest higher refined carbohydrate messes with cholesterol levels – increasing LDLs (those monsters) and reducing HDLs (the friendly cholesterol). Refined grains are ranked high on the glycaemic index as they are digested quickly, causing blood sugar elevation. This blood sugar spike triggers increased secretion of insulin. If refined grains are consumed in excess over long periods, metabolic damage and insulin resistance can occur. This constant spiking and falling of blood sugar levels and insulin levels damages blood vessels and promotes inflammation, which in turn can increase atherosclerosis. Let’s not ignore that consumption of refined grains is also correlated with obesity, a predominant risk factor for CVD.

We have all heard dudes roostering on about saturated fat being bad for the heart, but modern research suggests that refined grains are more detrimental to CVD risk than saturated fat (if you are interested for more information, check out this and that). So to look after your ticker, and your entire body (waistline included) ditch refined grains and replace them with whole grains.

Trans Fatty Acids: Trans fats. What a bunch of absolute menaces. Complete arseholes. They are artificial and are found in many fried foods and hydrogenated vegetable oils such as margarine. That’s right, margarine is not healthy. Consumption of trans fats has been strongly associated with a higher risk of CVD. Trans fats adversely affect blood lipids, and excessive consumption raises LDL cholesterol (bad dudes) while lowering HDL cholesterol (good dudes). These absolute dropkicks also promote inflammation and thrombus formation (blood clots that can find themselves causing very inconvenient blood-vessel roadblocks: the kind that make you go dead). They are in deep-fried foods, many packaged foods (like snack foods), baked foods, and margarine.


There is so much more to talk about, and so many foods to have and to leave. But if you’re eating real food (whole foods, not packet foods) then you’re on the right track. Food doesn’t just determine your size, it also determines the health of your precious inners. Like you, I kind of need my heart. I’m still going to eat a sausage roll every now and then, I’m not going to lie to you. But let’s try to do more of the good stuff, and less of the bad.

Savvy?

Shannon x


READING, IF YOU’RE A NERD:

Anderson, J. and Hanna, T. 1999. ‘Whole grains and protection against coronary heart disease: what are the active components and mechanisms?’. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 70 (3), pp. 307-308. Available at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/307.full 

Appel, L., Br, S, M., Daniels, S., Karanja, N., Elmer, P. and Sacks, F. 2006. ‘Dietary approaches to prevent and treat hypertension a scientific statement from the American Heart Association’. Hypertension, 47 (2), pp. 296-308. Available at: http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/47/2/296.full 

Connor, W. 2000. ‘Importance of n- 3 fatty acids in health and disease’. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 71 (1), pp. 171-175. Available at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/71/1/171S.full

Damasceno, N., Perez-Heras, A., Serra, M., Cofan, M., Sala-Vila, A., Salas-Salvado, J. and Ros, E. 2011. ‘Crossover study of diets enriched with virgin olive oil, walnuts or almonds. Effects on lipids and other cardiovascular risk markers’. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 21 pp. 14-20. Available at: http://predimed.onmedic.net/Portals/0/crossover.pdf 

Dauchet, L., Amouyel, P., Hercberg, S. and Dallongeville, J. 2006. ‘Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of cohort studies’. The Journal of Nutrition, 136 (10), pp. 2588-2593. Available at: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/10/2588.full 

Dokken, B. 2008. ‘The pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease and diabetes: beyond blood pressure and lipids’. Diabetes Spectrum, 21 (3), pp. 160-165. Available at: http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/21/3/160.full

Gillingham, L., Harris-Janz, S. and Jones, P. 2011. ‘Dietary monounsaturated fatty acids are protective against metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease risk factors’. Lipids, 46 (3), pp. 209-228. Available at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11745-010-3524-y 

Heart Foundation Australia. 2013. Data and Statistics. Available at: http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/information-for-professionals/data-and-statistics/Pages/default.aspx

Hu, F. 2003. ‘Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview’. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78 (3), pp. 544-551. Available at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/544S.long

Hu, F. 2010. ‘Are refined carbohydrates worse than saturated fat?’. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91 (6), pp. 1541-1542. Available at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/6/1541.full.pdf+html 

Liu, S., Stampfer, M., Hu, F., Giovannucci, E., Rimm, E., Manson, J., Hennekens, C. and Willett, W. 1999. ‘Whole-grain consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: results from the Nurses’ Health Study’.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70 (3), pp. 412-419. Available at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/412.full

Lopez-Garcia, E., Schulze, M., Meigs, J., Manson, J., Rifai, N., Stampfer, M., Willett, W. and Hu, F. 2005. ‘Consumption of trans fatty acids is related to plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction’. The Journal of Nutrition, 135 (3), pp. 562-566. Available at: http://nutrition.highwire.org/content/135/3/562.full 

Mellen, P., Walsh, T. and Herrington, D. 2008. ‘Whole grain intake and cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis’. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 18 (4), pp. 283-290. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17449231 

Reaven, P., Parthasarathy, S., Grasse, B., Miller, E., Steinberg, D. and Witztum, J. 1993. ‘Effects of oleate-rich and linoleate-rich diets on the susceptibility of low density lipoprotein to oxidative modification in mildly hypercholesterolemic subjects’. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 91 (2), p. 668. Available at: http://www.jci.org/articles/view/116247/pdf/render

Sabate, J. and Wien, M. 2013. ‘Consumption of nuts in the prevention of cardiovascular disease’. Current Nutrition Reports, pp. 1-9. Available at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13668-013-0059-x 

Seal, C. 2006. ‘Whole grains and CVD risk’. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 65 (01), pp. 24-34. Available at http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FPNS%2FPNS65_01%2FS0029665106000048a.pdf&code=b3bc201c43b88d69a52396b9fb4b0cce

Siri-Tarino, P., Sun, Q., Hu, F. and Krauss, R. 2010. ‘Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease’. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91 (3), pp. 502-509. Available at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/3/502.full 

Wang, C., Harris, W., Chung, M., Lichtenstein, A., Balk, E., Kupelnick, B., Jordan, H. and Lau, J. 2006. ‘n- 3 Fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not alpha-linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease outcomes in primary-and secondary-prevention studies: a systematic review’. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84 (1), pp. 5–17. Available at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/1/5.full

Wu, G. and Meininger, C. 2000. ‘Arginine nutrition and cardiovascular function’. The Journal of Nutrition, 130 (11), pp. 2626-2629. Available at: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/11/2626.full 

13 thoughts on “Eat Your Heart Out: Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

  1. i’ve been a vegetarian for 20 yrs. the healthy kind not the kind that eat massive amounts of cheese/bread/pasta and say ohhh i’m a veg. which of course they are. they’re just not always the picture of health.

    so i am one of the healthy, active, green munchers that limit dairy, eggs, cheese, bread, pasta, etc super clean eater. 95% of the time.
    i have high mother fuckng cholesterol.
    as in so high they’ve been offering me meds for the last 10 yrs. which i have refused to take. i don’t even like to take an aspirin. but i would smoke up some medicinal maryjane if it was available and legal where i live… but that’s a whole other thing… i digress.

    when i initially found out about the high LDL i cut out eggs, cheese, sugar, butter, alcohol. EVERYTHING!!!!
    i ate oatmeal 2 times a day for months. i lived on fucking oatmeal. fuck me and that plain oatmeal.

    i shat myself. not even being funny here. I SHITTED MYSELF taking the kids to school. there was nothing i could do. i shake my head still in disgust over this.
    i was trying sooooo hard to get my LDLs down. all that work and only got down a few points but still so high. LDLs are dirty little cuntbags.
    frustrated as fuck!

    since all that i’ve have my levels checked a few times. still high!
    i am vigilant about my health but i am convinced what is considered high, is really just ‘normal’ for me.
    oh and not a hereditary issue either. they are all carnivores and ramming butter sticks in their gobs.
    their cholesterol is A-FUCKING-OKAY!!!!! bastards.

    this was a novel. sorry. but any thoughts on this because i’m at a loss.

    • trekkiemaiden

      It’s the starchy carbs that raise triglycerides and promote the formation of small particle LDL – you want large fluffy particle size that don’t get stuck in arteries. . In effect you may well have high levels of healthy sized LDL particles already – so get the particle size checked and maybe you can relax!! If not cut out more of the insulin promoting starchy carbs – just eat non-root veg, and berries for fruit, and don’t worry about eating butter and eggs. You may not even need to cut out dairy, – that depends on your own body. We are all different.

      • thank you for your input! i will be getting my levels checked again soon and will ask about particle size. i have never heard of such a thing and it’s never been suggested it’s just been all about pushing the meds.

    • Jill

      Leave your cholesterol alone, it’s perfectly fine. If your lower it too much you’ll get depressed and aggressive.
      The low-cholesterol obsession has been proven to be false.

      • thanks jill. i just had my cholesterol levels checked again… still terribly high however i got in to see a new doctor who is a little concerned but also not an alarmist. she also said that doctors are divided on what exactly is the correct levels.
        for now i’m going to keep on keepin on with what i’m doing and i’m back to some oatmeal but not getting crazy with the shit.

      • trekkiemaiden

        Agree totally Jill. But if you’re still concerned make sure you get the particle sized checked. The numbers are meaningless without that. If all large and fluffy LDL then you will get those docs off your back xx

  2. ps. thank you for your input! seriously!
    if you are curious and you’re up on these things my
    total was 7.8
    LDL 5.6
    HDL 1.63

    this is actually quite improved from my last reading 6 yrs ago. this article got me thinking a lot about getting my shit together and having my numbers checked again. i’ve just been not dealing with tests because i have sever medical phobias (childhood trauma). just the scent of bandages makes me anxious. i hate fucking needles too. so this posting was a swift kick to the box.
    shannon if you wonder if your work actually makes a difference… fuck yeah it does sister.

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