Back in January I wrote What Are My Chances of Getting Heart Disease enumerating the risk factors we all have for this number one killer of human beings. We are all vulnerable but we can control many of our risk factors through proper diet and exercise.
Dr. Stephen Devries, Executive Director of The Gaples Institute of Advanced Medicine, speaking before Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Healthy Transitions Program®, explained how very little medical practicioners know about nutrition. Dr. Devries’s background includes over 20 years of experience as a university based preventive cardiologist with formal training in integrative medicine. He is spearheading a program at Northwestern Memorial to bring doctors up to speed on this important aspect of health care.
Centers for Disease Control statistics report that heart disease causes almost 25 percent of the deaths in the U.S. It is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
Dr. Devries said that the saddest thing about these statistics is that 80 percent of heart disease is preventable. He said that while statin drugs reduce heart disease by 34 percent, the Mediterranean Diet reduced it by 72 percent.
I wrote about this diet slowing mental decline in April 2011. On the Mediterranean Diet there are five servings of vegetables per day, two servings of fruit, cooking oil is limited to canola or olive oil, whole grains are consumed and two meals of fish per week.
One serving of leafy green vegetables per day cut the risk of heart disease by 23 percent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report only 25 percent of adults eat three or more servings of vegetables per day. Only 33 percent of adults eat two or more servings of fruit a day. So it isn’t a surprise that heart disease is our number one killer.
Regarding cholesterol readings of LDL – the ‘bad’ cholesterol – Dr. Devries said that small dense LDL molecules were more risky than the larger molecules. Unless your family has a history of heart disease, he said it is not necessary to be tested for the size of the LDL molecules in your personal cholesterol.
Two strategies for increasing your LDL cholesterol molecule size included getting more exercise and cutting down the carbohydrates in your diet. As we have written time and again: eat less; move more; live longer.
Dr. Devries said that individuals with heart disease in their family may have a condition called Lp(a) which is a toxic sandwich of fat and blood clotter. If you have this genetic risk factor, he said it could be worth being tested for it.
As a student of positive psychology, I was gratified, but not surprised, to learn that the European Heart Journal reported a 10-year study showed that individuals with a positive, happy life outlook had a 50 percent lower risk of getting heart disease.
A University of Michigan study showed that people who looked at pictures of tranquil scenes in nature derived cognitive benefits compared with individuals in urban industrial settings.
Finally, Dr. Devries said that a study of 201 patients with coronary heart disease showed that meditation reduced heart attacks by 43 percent.
To read further on reducing stress, there is How Can I Reduce Stress …
and 10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy and Live Longer.