Cardiometobolics: The new science behind heart health
Heart disease is still the #1 killer in North America. Very expensive interventions have not changed this fact over many decades.
It is not a single entity but a complex chronic disease with many diverse causes and diverse outcomes from high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, elevated blood lipids, aneurysms and stroke.
Most heart disease is entirely preventable and what makes it preventable is human behaviour. The following is a list of basic healthy living rituals that makes heart disease preventable:
- no smoking or recreational drugs
- regular exercise
- healthy diet
- stress reduction/management
- satisfying employment
- unpolluted air, water and earth (drinking purified water is definitely possible here but the other two may not be)
- strong positive connections to family and community
- expression of spirituality
As individuals we can make healthy choices to do the following:
- Eat primarily organic whole foods (whenever possible) that are rich in colour
- Look for opportunities to walk up stairs or to work or to the grocery store rather than ride. Wearing a pedometer to monitor progress may be fulfilling.
- Prioritize time with family and friends to get real face time. Eat together and turn off the computer, the television and the cell phone!
- Make time for spirituality. Practices such as meditation and yoga fulfill the desire for spiritual expression in those who don’t identify with religion.
- Recognize when we have enough material things and turn our attention to activities rather than consumption.
- Monitor risk factors with your health care practitioner to identify areas that require improvement with targeted nutrient therapy.
Identifying Cardiometabolic Risk Factors
The cholesterol mode of heart disease is outdated. Lipid levels are useful to know but there are other biomarkers that can be measured to identify cardiometabolic disease which is related to inflammation, oxidative stress and autoimmunity. These include the following:
CRP (hs): elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) indicate inflammation due to infection or tissue injury anywhere in the body. If both the CRP and the Lp-PLA2 levels are high, the risk for a heart attack or stroke increases significantly. Exercise along with many natural nutrients and foods lower CRP.
Homocysteine: high levels may cause injury to blood vessel walls increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke, osteoporosis and peripheral artery disease. Reducing homocysteine is done with methylating nutrients such as B12, Folate and B6 among others.
Lp-PLA2: (also known at the PLAC test) high levels of Lp-PLA2, an enzyme produced by a type of white blood cell that causes inflammation in artery walls, can predict risk of a heart attack or stroke. When both Lp-PLA2 levels and blood pressure are high, stroke risk increases significantly. Natural nutrients lower Lp-PLA2.
Small LDL Particles: The size as well as the number of LDL particles is important in determining risk. The small LDL’s can cause plaque build up and progress much faster as they enter the arterial wall more easily than large LDL particles. Having too many small LDL particles is a powerful risk factor for a heart attack. Certain nutrients and avoiding wheat according to Dr. Davis, author of “The Wheat Belly” decreases small LDL particles.
Large HDL particles: It was always understood that if you have a lot of HDL particles in the blood this was protective against heart disease. But the size also matters and the larger they are the better they can transport cholesterol out of the arteries. Weight loss, exercise and stopping tobacco improve the number of these larger HDL particles.
Vitamin D (25 OH) or vitamin D blood levels: Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to increased risk of metabolic syndrome, Type II diabetes and heart disease.
These advanced forms of blood tests are offered by such labs as Berkeley HeartLab, Cleveland Heart Lab and Boston Heart Labs.
Many people have either elevated LDL cholesterol and or lower levels of HDL cholesterol and they want to avoid the statin drugs due to their side effects and controversy. These tests can help people make choices about their health care and take more aggressive measures to naturally change these biomarkers. In science measurement precedes change.
Dr. Ingrid Pincott, naturopathic physician, has been practicing since 1985 and can be reached at 250-286-3655 or www.DrPincott.com