For decades, the government has been promoting politically correct, pet theories about the causes of heart disease. They tried to blame cholesterol, eggs, meat, saturated fats, salt, alcohol…you name it. But, one by one, real science has shot down each of these theories.
Unfortunately, many primary care doctors aren’t aware of the current research. And they continue to use all the wrong numbers and ask all the wrong questions.
Plus, last year, the American College of Cardiologists and the American Heart Association muddied the water even further. They developed a new, mysterious mathematical formula for assessing your heart disease risk. And if you have more than a 7.5 percent risk for suffering a stroke or heart attack over the next 10 years, they recommend you take a statin drug. This misguided advice would put 70 percent more of the population on statin drugs.
The truth is, there are 10 very clear risk factors for heart disease:
Risk factor No. 1: High blood pressure
High blood pressure is the No. 1 cause of heart disease. So, you should do everything you can to keep it under 140/90. Including safe, proven drug therapy, if your doctor recommends it. In my special report called The Insider’s Secret to Conquering High Blood Pressure & Protecting Your Heart, I tell you about safe and effective generic drugs for lowering blood pressure. Subscribers to my newsletter get this report for free. If you aren’t yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.
Risk factor No. 2: Age
Heart disease risk goes up for all of us as we get older. For men, it starts creeping up after age 45. For women, it’s after they hit 55.
Risk factor No. 3: Pre-existing conditions
Men and women who already have coronary artery disease or another chronic condition like diabetes have a 20 percent greater risk of experiencing an actual heart event over the next 10 years. (Coronary artery disease is narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart muscle.)
Risk factor No. 4: Smoking
Of course, cigarette smoking is also a risk factor for heart disease. But only for men and women who smoke more than one or two packs per day. This behavior also increases lung disease and lung cancer risk. But smoking isn’t the only factor contributing to these risks for most people.
And remember, several important, large studies looked specifically at the effects of light cigarette smoking or cigar-/pipe-only smoking. (Most studies lump all smokers together.)
These studies found light cigarette smokers and cigar-/pipe-only smokers do not have higher heart disease risk. In fact, their overall chronic disease risk was the same as nonsmokers. Plus, these light smokers even had a healthier weight.
So, if you smoke and you want to lower your heart disease risk, it’s important to cut back to less than half-a-pack per day. (Less than 10 cigarettes per day.)
Risk factor No. 5: Family history
If you have a close male relative who had heart disease before age 55 years or a female relative who got it before 65 years, you run a higher risk of developing it too.
Risk factors No. 6 thru 10: Specific blood markers
You and your doctor should also pay very close attention to these four important numbers: homocysteine, blood sugar, hemoglobin A1C, and C-Reactive Protein (CRP). You can learn more about these critical numbers in the article “Seven critical heart health markers more important than cholesterol” that appeared in the May 2014 issue of Insiders’ Cures.*
Obviously, some of these risk factors are ones you can’t control (like getting older and family history). But there are steps you can take to lower your overall risk of heart disease.
First of all, keep your blood pressure under control. As I mentioned earlier, it’s the No. 1 thing you can do to prevent heart disease.
Second, manage your stress. It’s easier said than done, for sure. But many mind-body techniques can help. Including biofeedback, meditation and yoga. They all help lower stress. And they help lower blood pressure as well.
But not everyone responds in the same way to these techniques. For example, some people respond very well to meditation. And others, may not at all. To find out which approaches will work best for you, take this short quiz.
You also can learn more about how to lower stress and heart disease risk naturally in my book called, Your Emotional Type.
Third, you should also follow a heart healthy diet. But don’t let the government’s food edicts confuse you. You don’t need to avoid natural foods that contain cholesterol–such as eggs, shellfish and healthy meats. These foods are actually very nutritious and good for your health–and your heart. Plus, you shouldn’t cut out all saturated fats. Or even cut out all salt.
And if you take a statin drug (which I hope you don’t), be extra careful about your diet. As I mentioned earlier this month, the “statin gluttony” study found men and women who take statins tend to loosen their lifestyle habits. Eventually, they gain weight and increase their blood sugar–which are real problems!
As I explained in recent weeks, make sure to get some healthy exercise too. The biggest improvements come when you stop being a sedentary “couch potato” and start some light, regular exercise–like yard work, housework, walking, or swimming–every other day. Adding more exercise adds some marginal benefits. But don’t overdo it. Extreme exercise harms your joints and your heart muscle.
Last, make sure to keep your vitamin D levels optimal. Research shows adequate vitamin D levels may also help lower your risk of heart disease (not to mention other chronic diseases). A blood level above 50 ng/ml is healthy.