CAT | General Health
It seems every day there’s a new diet trend to follow: forgo the fat; steer clear of carbs, eat like our hunter-gatherer ancestors did—but is there a downside when it comes to heart health? You bet. Here’s why you should skip what’s trending and follow the Love Your Heart Eating Plan:
The Low-fat Dilemma
Low-fat diets have been widely recommended for the reduction of heart disease risk because saturated fats increase LDL cholesterol. The problem is that low-fat diets often become high-carbohydrate diets, which have been linked to a reduction in HDL cholesterol, higher triglycerides, and increased levels of small, dense LDL cholesterol, all of which have been shown to increase heart disease risk.
When low-fat diets were first recommended back in the 1970s, food manufacturers simply started to replace fat with carbohydrates to keep foods tasting good. Unfortunately, the result of the low-fat, high-carb diet craze has been an unprecedented increase in obesity, diabetes and heart disease—the exact opposite of what was originally intended.
Dissecting Low-carb Diet
While the low-carbohydrate diet has some heart health benefits, there are big drawbacks. Many low-carb diets are also low-fiber diets—in large part because low fruit and vegetable intake—but fiber is an important component in a heart-healthy diet (Brenda Watson recommends at least 35 grams each day). If you follow a standard low-carb diet, you likely won’t be getting the important benefits of high intake of dietary fiber.
Another downfall of the low-carb diet is the initial stage of the diet. It involves severe carbohydrate restriction—often under 20 grams daily—which rapidly puts the body into a state of ketosis, whereby fat is burned for energy in the absence of available glycogen (the stored form of glucose, or sugar, in the body). This kind of strict carbohydrate restriction requires special monitoring of ketone bodies in the urine to ensure excessive ketones do not trigger ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition common in undiagnosed diabetics.
The Problem with Paleo
Although high in fiber due to the emphasis on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, the modern Paleo diet tends to contain insufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D due to the absence of dairy foods and the low sun exposure of modern people and (hunter-gatherers lived outdoors and thus enjoyed plenty of sun exposure). Further, the Omega-3 content of modern meats is not what it was in Paleolithic times, so to obtain enough Omega-3s, high amounts of cold-water fatty fish are recommended. However, high fish consumption today may not be safe due to methylmercury contamination.
Finally, the Paleo diet does not limit fruits or starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Fruits contain high amounts of fructose, which does not raise blood glucose levels but can have many detrimental effects. Fructose is processed in the liver and contributes to increases in LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein-B (a protein linked to arterial plaque and heart disease). Starchy vegetables rapidly break down into sugar, which contributes to increases in blood sugar levels.
The Love Your Heart Solution
Think of the Love Your Heart Eating Plan as a hybrid between a low-carb diet and the Paleo diet—taking the positive attributes from each while removing the negative attributes to create a heart-healthy diet rich in nutrients, full of flavor, and without the characteristic hunger pangs and carb/sugar cravings of the conventional low-fat, high-carb diet. Get started today with these delicious Love Your Heart recipes!
Are the recent headlines true? Can being married really improve your heart health? As it turns out, yes—a healthy marriage may indeed be good for the ol’ ticker.
According to a recent nationwide study conducted by researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Center, our marital status does, indeed, affect our risk of heart disease. Overall, researchers surveyed 3.5 million U.S. men and women between the ages of 21 and 99. Here is a breakdown of their key findings, presented last month at the American College of Cardiology Annual Scientific Session & Expo:
- Being married carried a 5 percent lower risk of having any cardiovascular disease than being single
- Widowed and divorced people were, respectively, 3 percent and 5 percent more likely to suffer from any kind of cardiovascular disease, including peripheral artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, and coronary artery disease
- Younger married people, those under age 50, had a 12 percent lower odds of disease than younger single people
- Older couples, between the ages of 51 and 60, had 7 percent reduced risk, while those above 60 had approximately 4 percent lower odds of disease
- For risk factors of cardiovascular disease, smoking was highest among divorced people (at 31 percent) and lowest in widowed people (at 22 percent); and obesity was most common in single and divorced people (at 31 percent and 30 percent, respectively). Hypertension, diabetes and being sedentary were most common in widowed people (at 77 percent, 13 percent, and 41 percent, respectively).i
It makes sense, said cardiologist and CBS News contributor Dr. Tara Narula in a recent segment. “We’ve known about this concept of a marriage advantage since almost the late 1800s when it was first described to improve your overall survival,” Narula stated. “And now we’re recognizing that it may be as important as traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”
Essentially, having a good marriage means having a spouse who has your back—one that encourages you to make healthier dietary and lifestyle choices such as eating better, exercising, quitting smoking, and even taking your daily meds. Spouses also offer a solid support system during stressful times and may even notice early signs and symptoms of heart disease risk that their partners may not notice on their own.
However, experts like Narula stress that the quality of the marriage is important, since marital distress can often lead to higher blood pressure, higher stress levels and even depression—all of which can negatively impact heart health.