Cholesterol and heart health
It may surprise you to learn that half of all heart attacks happen in people with normal cholesterol. A groundbreaking study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 10,000 people who had suffered heart attacks and saw elevated blood levels of a protein associated with inflammation – C-reactive protein, or CRP. They administered an anti-inflammatory drug to some and a placebo to others; the anti-inflammatory group saw 37 per cent less inflammation and 15 per cent fewer cardiovascular events (such as heart attacks) compared with the placebo group.
Remember the days when we all believed eggs were a nutrition no-no? Fortunately, as the above-referenced study might suggest, science has uncovered a lot about cholesterol and heart health since then. More recent research has shown that while certain foods contain cholesterol, many aren’t the main cause of high ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in the blood.
Cholesterol comes in different kinds of protein-containing particles, including high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs). The cholesterol theory of heart disease is that certain particles, such as LDLs and VLDLs, accumulate and clog the arteries with plaque.
After researchers discovered that one form, HDL, may actually be protective to the heart, many cardiovascular clinicians have backed away from using total cholesterol as the marker of heart health. Since then, LDL cholesterol has become the concerning indicator to watch (though some doctors look at all non-HDL cholesterol, including both LDL and VLDL).
Now that researchers know high-cholesterol foods don’t actually raise blood cholesterol that much, they’ve had to look to other culprits, says registered dietitian Marie Spano. Public enemy number one turns out to be sugar: It may be even worse than saturated fat in raising cholesterol and overall heart disease risk, per research in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.
According to research published in JAMA, a diet high in sugar – and sweetened beverages like soft drink are a major source – drives up bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (another type of blood fat), while depressing levels of good HDL cholesterol. Add these sweet beverages to your list of foods to avoid if you are concerned about high cholesterol.
Processed red meat
One of the foods to avoid with high cholesterol is meat. You may not realise, however, that your body needs some cholesterol – it’s put to use building cells and crucial hormones. According to research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, lean and unprocessed red meat, when eaten as part of a Mediterranean-style diet, may improve heart health.
“This study is important because it shows that red meat can be part of a heart-healthy eating pattern, like a Mediterranean-style eating pattern,” says Wayne W. Campbell, professor of nutrition science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, in a news release. A meta analysis published in Circulation concluded that consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher risk of heart disease. The Purdue study showed that adults who are overweight or moderately obese could benefit from a Mediterranean-style diet with or without red meat as long as the red meats were lean and unprocessed.
Now here are 11 signs you might be headed for a heart attack symptoms.