Sure, your doctor has talked to you about cholesterol and blood pressure, but what about the other causes of heart disease?
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5. What motivates you?
Mark C. Houston, MD, has spent more than 20 years researching and treating heart disease. “I realized many years ago that the medical community hasn't been doing a good job at reducing heart disease,” says Houston, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Heart Disease: The Revolutionary Book that Reveals the Truth Behind Coronary Illnesses—and How You Can Fight Them. Here, he sheds light on overlooked heart saboteurs.
BN: Why did you want to write What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Heart Disease?
MH: There are several hundred risk factors for heart disease that aren't being evaluated or treated. Addressing only blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and smoking still leaves more than 50 percent of patients at risk for heart disease. I want to educate physicians and the public about all of the risk factors.
BN: What are the most shocking myths about heart disease?
MH: For decades, we’ve been told that if the five major risk factors for heart disease are kept under control, you’re practically guaranteed not to have a heart attack. And, frankly, that’s a lie. The truth is, abnormal cholesterol levels are not the primary causes or indicators of heart disease. More things you may not know:
- Consuming a high-cholesterol diet or eating eggs does not significantly raise blood cholesterol levels for most people.
- All LDL cholesterol is not bad and all HDL cholesterol is not good.
- A fasting morning blood sugar reading of 99 mg/dL—deemed normal by most labs—is not safe or normal. Instead, it indicates an increased risk of heart attack.
- A normal body weight does not ensure heart health, as it doesn’t reflect the amount of the “belly” fat that promotes heart disease.
- So, what is the real reason people have heart attacks? For many, it's inflammation, oxidative stress, vascular autoimmune, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity and increased body fat.
BN: What are some of your recommendations for people who want to prevent heart disease (or even reverse it)?
MH: Omega 3 fatty acids are number one. I also strongly recommend vitamin K2 (use the MK-7 form), garlic, resveratrol, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin E (gamma delta tocotrienols), D-ribose, L-carnitine, curcumin, N-acetyl cysteine, and glutathione. I find that a low-sodium/high-potassium and high-magnesium diet is beneficial. As outlined in my book, it’s a compilation of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, focusing on fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, lean meat, fish, and wild game. And it limits refined carbohydrates and grains (even whole grains). This may come as a shock to those who are used to the “6-11” servings of grains recommended by the USDA, but grains are simply not foods that we have evolved to consume.