The threat of COVID-19 still looms large...
Last March, as states around the country shutdown, folks were scared... They wouldn't step outside without a mask and hand sanitizer. I know plenty of people who sanitized all of the groceries and packages coming into their homes to keep the coronavirus out. Lots of us haven't seen much of our families or friends in months.
For nearly a year now, people around the world have upended their lives in an effort to protect themselves against the pandemic.
In December, the media reported that COVID-19 surpassed heart disease as the No. 1 killer in the U.S. And now, government health "experts" are telling us to wear not one, but two masks when we go out.
And despite some pandemic fatigue, people are still taking special precautions.
But why aren't we giving our heart health the same level of urgent concern?
Heart disease was the leading cause of death for 94 years prior to 2020... And it will likely be again someday.
Today, I want to focus on the main dangers that our hearts face. Let's start off by distinguishing three different terms associated with the well-being of our hearts:
1. Heart Attack is when blood flow to the heart becomes blocked, resulting in damage to part of the heart muscle. This blockage often occurs as the result of fat and cholesterol that builds up in the arteries that lead to the heart (the coronary arteries), forming a plaque. We shared how the symptoms of a heart attack vary between men and women on Tuesday.
2. Heart Disease is a term that's used to describe a number of conditions that affect your heart, including blood vessel disease (like coronary artery disease), heart rhythm problems (arrythmias), heart defects, heart valve disease, disease of the heart muscle, and heart infection. Heart disease is an overarching term that includes heart attack and heart failure underneath its umbrella.
3. Heart Failure is when your heart muscle doesn't pump blood as well as it should. This can be the result of narrowed arteries or high blood pressure. Symptoms of heart failure include:
People rarely talk about a major contributor to heart issues... inflammation.
Inflammation occurs when plaque accumulates in your arteries, and your body sends cells to the area to neutralize the threat. This cell deployment can inadvertently cause some of the disrupted plaque deposits to build up in nearby areas and create a blood clot, which effectively cuts off blood flow to the heart.
A study published in 2017 tested 10,061 individuals who had previously experienced a heart attack to see if reducing a person's inflammation would reduce the risk of blood clotting at places in the arteries containing an accumulation of plaque.
Researchers turned to antibodies to reduce inflammation. Antibodies are like sticky forks that attach to things and allow other cells in the body to eliminate the effect of whatever the fork tines stick to. Researchers administered 150 milligrams of the monoclonal antibody, canakinumab, every three months over a 48-month period.
This antibody blocked certain proteins in the body that affects inflammation and led to a significantly lower rate of recurrent cardiovascular events when compared with a placebo.
So, if we target our issues with inflammation, we can significantly improve the health of our hearts.
Here are some of the best ways to reduce inflammation in your body...
1. Eat Real Food – Avoid processed foods like the plague, especially those with high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats. These types of foods allow free radicals (unstable atoms that swap and steal electrons from stable atoms, and cause cells to breakdown) to damage your blood vessels over time.
Foods that cause inflammation include sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, and processed meat.
Swap out the junk for nutritious choices that will fuel your body in healthy ways. Foods that reduce inflammation include berries, fatty fish, broccoli, avocados, green tea, peppers, mushrooms, grapes, turmeric, extra virgin olive oil, dark chocolate and cocoa, tomatoes, and cherries.
2. Get Regular Exercise – When we exercise, our bodies release nitric oxide, which keeps our arteries relaxed. Aim to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. Read more about exercise from some of our past issues: Getting the Right Amount of Exercise is Easier Than You Think and Protect Your Heart With One of the Best Exercises in the World.
3. Slim Down Your Waistline – The fat cells that get stored around your abdomen – also known as visceral fat – include chemicals that cause inflammation and blood clotting to occur. Visceral fat releases these chemicals – cytokines called interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor ("TNF") – into the body that trigger the immune system's inflammatory response. And, as we've already pointed out, when these inflammatory cells begin to break down arterial plaque, they can inadvertently cause a blood clot.
Slim down your waistline with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Avoid simple carbohydrates and sugar, which are known to contribute to visceral fat.
4. Regulate Your Emotions – Over time, prolonged stress (in the form of anxiety, depression, anger, aggression, negativity, or fear) can cause inflammation. A 2018 study found that negative emotion was associated with the presence of inflammatory cytokines in the blood samples of 220 adults who were tested over a two-week period.
Make your daily stress-relieving practices a priority. I enjoy using yoga (and other forms of exercise), short periods of mindful meditation (like sitting in bed for an extra 12 to 15 minutes doing Transcendental Meditation), and music to help boost my mood (I was just grooving to "Free" by Ultra Naté) and relieve stress.
So get started today... Reduce inflammation and protect your heart.
What We're Reading...
- Read the study on using canakinumab for anti-inflammatory therapy.
- Something different: 25 science facts you never learned in school.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
February 25, 2021