You probably heard that heart disease is the Number One killer of Americans. And you may think you understand what causes it. But what if you’re wrong?
Most of us associate heart disease with having a heart attack. And this is certainly one of the most common types of heart disease, known as Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). CAD is caused by a narrowing or “hardening” of the arteries, which can result in a heart attack.
Here’s a common myth about Coronary Artery Disease:
Narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis) is caused by eating too many eggs, too much red meat, dairy products, and bacon – foods with high cholesterol that clog the arteries.
Now for the myth-busting:
Eating eggs does not lead to heart disease, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. Their research, published in 2004 in the Journal of the American Medical Association and since then supported by other clinical studies, found no connection between egg consumption and heart disease.
According to integrative health expert Dr. Andrew Weil, most recent research indicates that the real cause of CAD is damage to the arterial lining. The arterial lining may be injured by an excess of free radicals from lifestyle factors such as smoking, or environmental sources such as pollution, radiation, pesticides, plastics, household cleaning agents, lawn chemicals, etc.
Another cause of arterial damage may be the natural amino acid homocysteine. Excessive levels of homocysteine can accumulate in the blood when a person is deficient in Vitamin B6 and folic acid.
High levels of sugar in the blood also may cause arterial lining damage by pushing down the good (HDL) cholesterol and raising triglycerides. The artery-clogging plaque resulting from high cholesterol and triglycerides set the stage for a heart attack.
Consumption of too much salt leads to high blood pressure, stressing the arteries beyond normal limits.
Inflammation from arthritis, viruses, infection or other causes may also lead to damage of the arterial lining. This damage results in a natural repair process of patching that builds up calcium and cholesterol deposits.
Excessive (lifestyle-induced) stress and the resulting high levels of stress hormones, can wreak havoc with the entire body and, over time, cause injury to the arterial lining.
Heart disease researcher Malcolm Kendrick, M.D., has cited the following as the factors most damaging to the artery walls:
- High blood sugar levels.
- High levels of insulin.
- High levels of cortisol and other stress hormones.
- High levels of triglycerides.
- High levels of homocysteine.
- A lack of certain vitamins and nutrients including Coenzyme Q-10, magnesium and chromium.
What lesson can we take away from this? Common sense would indicate that eating excessive amounts of red meat, eggs and bacon isn’t a good idea, health-wise. But simply avoiding these foods doesn’t guarantee heart health. Many factors contribute to the damage to arterial lining that leads to Coronary Artery Disease, so the wise course would be to look at all of your lifestyle and environmental risks and make smart, health-promoting changes where they are needed.
Do you have a daily regimen for prevention of heart disease?