The 4 Real Risk Factors for Heart Disease You Need to Know

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Saturated fat and cholesterol have been getting a bad rap for decades – but as it turns out, they’re not the risk factors for heart disease we’ve believed them to be. A recent meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that higher levels of saturated fat consumption actually don’t increase the risk of heart disease.

In recent years, doctors have been coming full-circle on the whole anti-fat crusade: According to Dr. Larry Kaskel, MD, Lipidologist and Medical Director of Northwestern Wellness Center, who is unaffiliated with the recent study, we’ve been duped into believing that fat is to blame for heart disease. In reality, there’s no hard evidence to back this claim.

“The plaque that builds up on artery walls isn’t caused from eating fat,” Dr. Kaskel said in a statement. “Risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, infections and smoking cause damage to the artery walls. As the body attempts to repair these injured spots, plaque forms. It’s a misnomer that plaque is just fat; it’s a graveyard of dead red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, cholesterol from those dead cells, and numerous different organisms including bacteria and viruses. That’s what is in the plaque – not just fat and cholesterol.”

So if cholesterol’s only at the scene of the crime and isn’t one of the primary risk factors for heart disease… what is? Inflammation in the artery walls. According to Dr. Kaskel, heart disease may actually be an infectious disease where unstable, inflamed plaque scabs are to blame. “Drug companies knew they’d make more money by keeping patients on Statins, so they demonized fat and cholesterol rather than investing in the root of the problem,” said Kaskel.

The Real Risk Factors for Heart Disease

1. Too much sugar
Long story short, sugar is evil. It damages arteries, increases blood pressure and ages your organs. It’s not just about avoiding foods that contain sugar, but foods that turn into sugar once you eat them such as refined carbohydrates.

2. Not enough fat and protein
Kaskel advises eating a balanced diet that includes more fat and protein and less carbs as the best way to stay heart-healthy and avoid diabetes. Replace all that sugar with vegetables and fats, both unsaturated and saturated. Foods like nuts, fish and avocados (unsaturated), and butter, unprocessed meat and coconut oil (saturated).

3. Trans fats
While doctors might not agree on whether you should eat saturated fats, they’ll all agree that trans fats should be avoided at all costs – you know, since they’re practically plastic.

4. Stress
Stress in small doses is healthy, but these days chronic stress has become the status quo – everything is a deadline. When you have a steady stream of cortisol (the stress hormone) running through your body on a perpetual basis, you’re opening yourself up to a scroll of health issues – including heart disease. Reduce stress, reduce inflammation.

Are you surprised by the real risk factors for heart disease?


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Image: Taryn