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Heart Diseases/ Strokes

Heart diseases are diseases of the heart where there is a buildup of cholesterol-rich plaque inside the inner wall of the coronary arteries - the blood vessels that crown the heart and supply it with oxygen-rich blood. This plague accumulation subsequently causes hardening of the arteries and narrowing the path for blood flow and eventually causes clots or blockages, which leads to heart attacks or strokes. There are many types of heart disease that affect different parts of the heart and occur in different ways such as deformities of the heart, irregular heartbeat, weak heart muscles, and dysfunctional heart valves.

A stroke is a sudden interruption in the blood supply of the brain. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die in minutes. Most strokes are caused by an abrupt blockage of arteries leading to the brain, known as ischemic stroke. Other strokes are caused by bleeding into brain tissue when a blood vessel burst, known as hemorrhagic stroke.

The only direct cause for heart diseases and strokes is cholesterol: low HDL cholesterol level, high LDL cholesterol level, high triglyceride level, and high HbA1c level. Cholesterol is a white, waxy substance that is not found in plants, only in animals. It is an essential component of the membrane that coats all of our cells and it is the basic ingredient of sex hormones. Our bodies need cholesterol and they manufacture it on their own. We do not need to eat it but we do when we choose to consume meat, poultry, fish, and other animal-based foods such as dairy products and eggs. In doing so, we take in excess amounts of the substance, causing accumulation on the wall of blood vessels.

Low vitamin D level also affects the heart and the blood vessels negatively.

Associated Causes
Other associated causes are smoking in which the nicotine and carbon monoxide in the smoke putting a strain on the heart by reducing how much oxygen our heart gets, raising our blood pressure, speeding up our heart rate, making blood clots more likely; high blood pressure which is a sign that the heart and blood vessels are being overworked with lesser efficiency; diabetes in which the high glucose in the bloodstream can damage the arteries, causing them to become stiff and hard and insulin resistance, which enhances chronic insulin signaling in the heart, leading to heart failure caused by high blood pressure; inflammation in which the body repeatedly assaults itself because it tries to assault the cholesterol-rich plagues; depression where the entire body system is down-regulated, cortisol level increases, insulin resistance increases, inflammation increases, and oxidative stress increases; and hyperthyroidism which worsens glycemic control and increased insulin requirements.

Nutrition is the key. Switching to a plant-based whole food diet can prevent and reverse heart diseases and strokes by cutting off the supply of fatty cholesterol that accumulates in the arteries. The optimal cholesterol level aims at less than 150mg/dL for total cholesterol level and 50-70mg/dL for LDL cholesterol level. At the same time, we need to raise our HDL level to between 40 and 60 mg/dL whereas over 60 mg/dL is optimal.

·      In order to drastically lower LDL cholesterol level, we need to drastically cut out trans-fat, which comes from processed foods and naturally from meat and dairy; saturated-fat, found mainly in animal products and junk food; and dietary cholesterol, found exclusively in animal-derived foods. Instead, we fill our plates with vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruit, and beverages such as water, coffee, tea, oat milk and nonfat soy milk.
·      Whole plant food is also high in fiber content, which processed and animal-derived food have none at all. Fiber helps control cholesterol and blood sugar levels which subsequently reduce the amount of artery-clogging plaque in blood vessels. High fiber diet also lowers blood pressure - oats, bran, barley, beans, fruits, vegetables, whole-grain.
·      Plant is also a primary source of potassium. It helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, nerve signals, reduce blood pressure and water retention, protect against stroke and prevent osteoporosis and kidney stones. Rich potassium is found in green leafy vegetables; beans; sweet potatoes; pumpkin; fruits such as banana, orange, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricot, grapefruit.
·      Citrus fruits increase blood flow and decrease blood pressure because they contain a phytonutrient called hesperidin.
·      Plants are high in antioxidants, 64 times more than animal food. Antioxidant-rich diet works to prevent the circulation of oxidized fats in the bloodstream, decrease artery stiffness, prevent clots, and lower blood pressure, and lowers inflammation, which is caused by free radicals.
·      Incorporating healthy fats such as olive oil, fatty fish, flaxseed, chia seed, nuts, avocado, and soy.
·      Vitamin D rich food includes fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, tuna; egg yolk; mushroom; and other fortified food such as yogurt, almond milk. Sunlight is also an excellent source of vitamin D.
·      Red wine is also beneficial for heart health if triglyceride level is under control.
·      Salt is linked to heart disease through its role in elevating blood pressure and increasing the risk of stroke. Therefore, limiting daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams or less is essential in a heart-healthy diet.
·      A healthy diet can reduce heart disease and stroke risks by reducing cholesterol and blood pressure and at the same time improve blood flow and antioxidant capacity.

We also need to stop smoking and get our blood pressure, diabetes, inflammation, depression, and hyperthyroidism in control.

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