Interview with Prof. Dr. Clemens von Schacky: Omega-3 Index
Heart and cardiovascular disease is a general term used to describe arteriosclerosis or the hardening of blood vessels from a build-up of calcium plaque or calcium deposits. This is a result from fatty substances found in cholesterol and other residues. Cancer, heart and cardiovascular disease are the biggest killers in today’s Western civilisation. Heart and cardiovascular diseases are often brought about by an unhealthy lifestyle: not enough exercise, an unhealthy diet and negative stress. People with a healthy and varied diet, and no negative stress, run a much smaller risk of heart attack than those who do not watch what they eat, exercise little and are subject to huge amounts of negative stress.
Here are the 6 factors that determine an increased risk of heart attack:
- Genetic predisposition
- High lipoprotein level (a)
- High blood pressure
- High serum homocysteine level
- Excessive serum cholesterol level
It is urgently advised that anyone belonging to one (or more) of these high risk groups get themselves tested for:
- Calcium plaque in the coronary artery
- Homocysteine level in blood serum
- Lipoprotein-a or Lp-(a)
- Low HDL content (beneficial cholesterol)
- High triglyceride levels
It is not cholesterol but oxycholesterol that is dangerous
It is not the total amount of cholesterol that is important; it's the amount of bad (LDL) cholesterol, the ratio between LDL and HDL and the extent to which the cholesterol is oxidised. These factors are referred to as the oxycholesterol level. Oxycholesterol is harmful to the arterial walls. Cholesterol is likened to oil: when oil sets, it can't be poured from the bottle any more. Likewise, when cholesterol is oxidised, it can no longer flow through the arteries.
It is not likely that traditional physicians who carry out a cholesterol test will measure the amount of oxycholesterol. Always ask your GP for clear information. You should ask for the ratio between bad LDL and good HDL cholesterol if a cholesterol test is carried out on you. Someone with LDL 150 and HDL 30 is more at risk from heart disease than someone with LDL 150 and HDL 90. Too many physicians only take the total cholesterol content into account and routinely prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs from a cholesterol level of 220. Also ask about the homocysteine level (read on for more details).
A healthy alternative to cholesterol-lowering drugs
Following a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and losing weight if you are overweight is the best way to lower blood cholesterol and avoid heart and cardiovascular disease. If you eat lots of fruit and vegetables resulting in a low saturated fat intake, and your cholesterol is still unbalanced, the following is recommended:
- Reduce your intake of all saturated fats. A reduction in the saturated fat intake is the most effective way of lowering blood cholesterol.
- Limit your daily intake of cholesterol.
- Introduce olive oil into your diet. There's a reason the Mediterranean diet is often dubbed the world's healthiest. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic acid or omega-9), antioxidants and squalene and helps lower the LDL cholesterol level.
- Limit the use of coffee, black tea and coke.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin B (grains, fruit, beans, leafy vegetables).
- Vitamin B12 and folic acid help to lower the homocysteine level.
- Eat more complex carbohydrates rich in plant fibre.
- Drink green tea regularly.
- Eat plenty of garlic, onion, chillies and shitake mushrooms.
- Take 1g EPA-DHA or 1.8g pure EPA.
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