It’s February and with no surprise, the media is all over ‘heart disease’ awareness campaigns.  But if you keep following what the media (and your doctor) push, you will probably get what most of Americans are going to get.

What are Americans going to get?

How about 1 in 3 will die of CardioVascular Disease (CVD)? How about a death from CVD every 40 seconds?

How about every 40 seconds someone has a stroke and about every 4 minutes someone dies from a stroke?

They like to say deaths have decreased from CVD by 31% from 2000 – 2010.  How about an almost 30% increase in heart related surgeries from 2000 to 2010?  I’ll give it to modern medicine for saving your life in the immediate danger but if our healthcare system was truly about health, you shouldn’t be laying on the OR table in the first place.

How about 920,000 Americans having a heart attack this year?  How about 1/2 of those will show no prior symptom?  How about 1/2 of those silent heart attacks have a first symptom of death?

And if you don’t think your health is at risk, how about your wallet?  Since we are shifting to a universal health care system, your taxes go to paying $315 Billion dollars every year.  Don’t think your tax dollars are paying for it?  In 2010, it was estimated that over 2150 Americans died every day of CVD.  That equates to about 785,000 deaths/year in 2010 (today it’s estimated closer to 1 million).  ONLY 150,000 came from people younger than 65.

What rite of passage does a 65 year old have in this country?  They qualify for Medicare, the government funded health plan.  How does the government fund a health plan?  Through your tax dollars.

One of the ways that the media via the government and heart association try to change your behavior is to drill into your head that cholesterol is the enemy and is an early warning sign of CVD and should be controlled…or you will die.

UCLA study analyzing heart attack patients nationwide found that 75% of the heart attack victims had LDL (supposed bad cholesterol) within the safe limit.  The researchers analyzed data from 136,905 patients whose lipid levels upon hospital admission were documented in the AHA data base. This accounted for 59 percent of total hospital admissions for heart attack at participating hospitals between 2000 and 2006.


The deadly irony is that the researchers conclude that maybe cholesterol isn’t low enough?  How about opening your mind to the possibility that the cholesterol – heart disease connection is about as solid as the Iraq War – Weapons of Mass destruction connection?

They have been chasing the cholesterol weapon of mass destruction since 1913 when Russian pathologist Nikolai Anitschkow showed that he could produce plaquing in the arteries of rabbits by feeding them a diet rich in cholesterol.  Sounds logical, right?  It does until you actually stop and realize rabbits don’t eggs.  Could the damage be occurring because a species was fed something not genetically congruent with their health requirements?  Could that be the same reasoning for humans today?  We’re being fed a diet that’s not compatible with our innate genetic requirement?

The bigger problem is convincing you there is good and bad in the world of the human body.  Your body ALWAYS does the appropriate thing.  Your body raises blood pressure save your life.  Your body switches to favoring production of LDL over HDL to save your life.  Your body dumps sugar into your bloodstream to save your life.  The labeling of these things as bad is what drives a pharmaceutical industry with poor health outcomes.

The problem occurs when we chronically put ourselves in danger and then use medication to feel better as we continue to commit suicide.  It’s like the anti-acid commercials.  What do you mean your body violently reacts negatively when you feed it hotdogs, fries, cake, and beer?  Take this purple pill so you feel better as you belly up to the food that is destroying your body.

If it’s not cholesterol, than it must be all those smokers?  Smoking is a huge risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease.  As stupid as smoking is, it’s at historically low numbers in the US.  If smoking is going down, then shouldn’t the prevalence of heart disease too? What kills me is that an estimated 10% of women smoke during pregnancy still.

Health, United States, 2008: With Special Feature on the Health of Young Adults. National Center for Health Statistics (US) . Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics (US); 2009 Mar.

Smoking Rates. Health, United States, 2008: With Special Feature on the Health of Young Adults.
National Center for Health Statistics (US) .
Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics (US); 2009 Mar.

We have cholesterol levels at historically low levels and the same for smoking rates.   It must be those pesky high fat diets causing obesity?  When did the attack on fat begin?  You can trace it back to 1976, when Senator George McGovern called a hearing to raise attention between heart disease and diet.  Let the attack on fatty foods begin and the heroics for low fat food like pretzels, Snackwells, and whole grains begin.

In 1984, Time released this cover that probably has had more influence on the American nutrition habits over the past 30 years than any other media outlet.

March 26, 1984

March 26, 1984

Let the ensuing low fat diet craze begin.  If high fat diets were the problem leading to obesity, which is a top 3 risk factor for heart disease, then these initial recommendations should produce a stabilization or even a drop in obesity rates.  OOPS!!

Obesity. Health, United States, 2008: With Special Feature on the Health of Young Adults. National Center for Health Statistics (US) . Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics (US); 2009 Mar.

Obesity. Health, United States, 2008: With Special Feature on the Health of Young Adults.
National Center for Health Statistics (US) .
Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics (US); 2009 Mar.

Time magazine smartened up a bit and then released this cover photo last year in 2014.  Maybe they saw the UCLA study.



Let’s review.  We have cholesterol under control.  We have smoking under control.  The attempt to control obesity by controlling fat intake totally backfired.  And we are left with 1 in 3 dead of cardiovascular disease each year.

Maybe it’s time to change courses?  Maybe we should attack sugar intake as this can lead to the other risk factors that have been chased for he past 30 years.  Yes, even an increase sugar intake can make you dumber, leading to your increase chance of smoking.

I’m not talking about the processed sugar carbs alone.  Yes, these are contributors but let’s attack the ‘healthy whole grain’ carbs that have been billed the hero my entire life.  Let’s attack wheat specifically, one the largest government subsidies.   How dependent on wheat are you?

Let’s break this down.  You consume sugar; this sets up a reaction with insulin to attempt to store it for later.  First attempts are in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen.  These stores are limited   Once you fill up your glycogen stores (about an active day’s worth), the liver and muscles cut you off and the excess sugar is stored in the form of triglycerides.  The easiest place to store these triglycerides is in the butt, gut, and thighs.

This is why so many have trouble losing weight.  They get their exercise on, which can deplete the glycogen stores.  As a reward, they skip the Snicker’s bar and instead snack on low fat pretzels.  Pretzels have a higher glycemic index than a serving of vanilla cake with M&M’s on top.  All you did was restore the short term glycogen stores and never touched the fat you were hoping to burn in the midsection.

Triglycerides are the reason for the attack on fat, since it’s 3 fat molecules and one derived from sugar with 98% stored as the saturated fat, palmitic acid.  The fat fact that seems to get ignored is that high fat foods don’t stimulate an insulin response which lead to the formation of triglycerides.  Low fat (high sugar) foods do.  This is why I pick on wheat, since we consume so much of it and it has such a high glycemic index.

There is an index that rates how high a food will raise your blood sugar levels.  It’s called the Glycemic Index.  Glucose is the gold standard with a score of 100.  If you look at a list of foods rating glycemic foods, you will notice wheat products rank the highest.

Check out some of your favorites.  Notice how many of them are low fat like bagels, pretzels, and graham crackers.  Ever wonder why eating low fat is making you fat?  I’ve seen countless triathletes and distance runners with flabby bellies because they carb load so much.  Trust me, you have enough energy stored, you don’t need to consume more.

Wonder Bread: 73
Whole Wheat Bread: 71
Pretzels: 83
Honey: 61
Baguette: 95
Gatorade: 78
Grape Nuts: 75
Graham Crackers: 74
Ice Cream: 57
Apple: 39
Orange: 40
Pear: 38
Banana: 62
Fruit Roll Ups: 99
M & M’s: 33
Snickers: 51
Vanilla Cake from mix with vanilla frosting: 42
Bagel: 72

The problem isn’t just the triglycerides but the inability to utilize them.  The more insulin is released into the body, the more toxic it becomes.  The more exposed to insulin, the less the cells listen and become insulin resistance.  This leaves both sugar and triglycerides elevated in the blood stream.

Your body is always in a state of adaptation and won’t leave you with high blood sugar.  In attempt to diminish the damaging effects of blood sugar, your body will combine the sugar onto a protein.  These are called Advanced Glycosylated End products (AGEs).  You may be familiar with these if you have ever had your HbA1C tested (Hemoglobin A1C).  It’s a measurement of sugar attached to hemoglobin, your oxygen carrying component of your red blood cells.

Red blood cells live on average of 90-120 days so a HbA1C can give you an estimated 3-4 month blood sugar average, volumes more accurate than a fasting blood glucose test.  The AGEs makes the cells stiffer, less pliable, and more susceptible to damage and rapid aging.  If cells are being damaged and aging faster, this is a recipe for oxidation and inflammation.

Therein lies the bigger problem.  If you get a cut, your skin swells up (inflammation).  Cholesterol rushes to the scene to patch it up.  You form a scab and unless you keep ripping the scab off, your body heals nicely.

If that wound is in your arteries (from sugar and AGE’s), where you don’t feel it, cholesterol is rushed to the scene by LDL and VLDL to patch it up.  Since it’s an injury, inflammation occurs to aid in the repair.  You form a scab (plaque) in the artery like you just did on your skin.  In this case, since your AGEs are elevated, it’s like repeatedly ripping off the scab as well as creating new cuts for your body to repair.  Due to swelling and scabs forming on top of scabs, the diameter of the artery diminishes.

What gets blamed?  Cholesterol.  You’ve seen it 100 times.  It’ never the kid that instigates the fight that gets caught, it’s the one that reacts.  Cholesterol is reacting.  AGEs and inflammation are the instigators.  Rewind the video to see how the fight actually started.  I’m sure you’ll see a lot of sugar involved in the form of wheat products.

How do you stay heart smart?  Test for the right things.  

It’s important to know cholesterol numbers but even more important is the makeup of those HDL, LDL, and VLDL numbers.  Not all cholesterol is created equal.  Some are smaller, some are larger.  Some are protective, some not so much.  This is why I run a VAP test for people looking to be heart smart.

You should be routinely tested for inflammatory factors as well like CRP, Homocysteine, Ferritin, and Fibrinogen (the main culprit in blood clots).

Don’t forget to check AGEs.  Again, the most popular is HbA1C and if you know anyone diabetic, this is often tested.  But it’s not just a risk factor for diabetes, it’s a risk factor for your longevity and aging process.

Need help?  You know how to find me.

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