Heart disease is a very real concern for most of us. With increased life expectancy, more of us are living to an age where our muscles begin to weaken. And when our muscles weaken, it isn’t only our skeletal, visible muscles that degrade. Our heart muscles start to soften too. This makes us very vulnerable to cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease describes a wide range of ailments which contribute to an increased rate of heart failure, hypertension, and heart attacks in sufferers. The most serious risks are posed by muscle weakness and a buildup of plaques in our arteries. A weak heart doesn’t pump blood as efficiently around the body, and may eventually cease to beat due to its weakness. And plaques in the arteries restrict bloodflow, causing raised blood pressure, and can even come loose, potentially causing obstructions in the brain, which cause strokes, and the heart, which cause heart attacks.
The most essential ways of guarding against heart disease are to ensure our bodies are in excellent working order. Daily, or at least weekly exercise, a combination of high intensity and endurance workouts, not smoking or consuming things that we are allergic to, and keeping stress levels low will all reduce our risk of heart disease.
But no matter how much we try and live healthy, if we aren’t eating the right stuff we can still put ourselves at risk. In the 70s we decided that fat was the enemy. It was making us fat and wrecking our hearts, or so we thought. But in the wake of new guidelines demonizing fat and recommending higher carb intake, our waistlines and rates of heart disease increased dramatically. Because of these contradictions we investigated the effects of fat on our bodies. It was first found that dietary cholesterol does not cause elevated blood cholesterol in the long term. Next we discovered that many plant-based fats are incredibly good for us, and widely consumed by people from cultures that are slimmer and longer lived than ours. Then the next scapegoat, saturated fat, was found to have no effect of heart disease rates outside of the West. After that, we discovered that fish oils are as beneficial to us as natural plant oils. And now we are starting to realize that whole, unprocessed fats, even saturated ones such as bone broth or coconut oil, are actually very healthy for us.
We started eating fewer of our healthy fats, like cholesterol found in egg yolks, and replaced these healthy fats with processed vegetable oils and trans fats. But even when we cut back on them we replaced them with carbs. And not healthy carbs. We replaced our healthy fats with unhealthy fats, and our unhealthy fats with simple sugars and processed white starches. This is what is driving our spike in obesity and heart disease.
A high fat, low carb diet can go a long way to reducing our risk of heart disease. First of all, by reducing our intake of carbs we can focus on quality over quantity. Replacing abundant simple carbs with a few whole carbs and lots of low carb leafy greens and root vegetables means we get more nutrition for fewer calories. Eating fewer calories reduces inflammation throughout our bodies. We are also raising our blood sugars less, which reduces inflammation everywhere, including in our arteries and heart. A less inflamed circulatory system means a significantly reduced risk of heart disease.
Eating more fats is a great step to improving satiety and reducing our calorie intake. But we must also focus on quality fats. Whole, unprocessed, natural fats like the oils found in fish and naturally-reared meats, coconut oil, olive oil, and grass-fed butter are all powerful antioxidants. They also help nourish the immune system by carrying vitamins and minerals essential to proper immune function. It is also important not to overcook our fats. Overcooked fats and proteins can lead to increased consumption of AGEs, which are oxidizing and bad for our hearts. By eating healthier, minimally cooked, natural fats, we can improve our cardiovascular health and reduce our risk of heart disease.