MOST HEART ATTACKS HAPPEN IN THE WINTER. DON’T LET HOLIDAY EATING PUT YOUR LIFE AT RISK
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death around the world.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States dies of a heart attack. Nearly 700,000 people die in the United States each year from heart disease. More than 800,000 people have a heart attack each year and about 80% of these cases are a first heart attack.
In most people, the first sign and symptom of heart disease is a heart attack and then it is too late to take corrective action. Interestingly, most heart attacks happen in the winter months of December and January. These statistics have not improved in decades.
Why doesn’t this get as much attention as COVID? These statistics are simply unacceptable, especially since we now know what causes heart disease, we know how to diagnose it, we know how to treat it and we know how to reverse it.
Why Do Heart Attacks Peak in Winter Time?
Nothing affect heart disease more than our diet and what we put in our body. There are a number of reasons for the increased heart attacks during the winter but much of the evidence can be attributed to our diet and lifestyle over the holidays.
Heart attacks are caused by inflammation, oxidative stress and immune dysfunction in the lining of our blood vessels that causes plaque to rupture, platelets to clot disrupting blood supply to the heart.
Without question, a poor diet can increase inflammation, oxidative stress and immune dysfunction. Our habits over the holidays provide a perfect storm for a heart attack in patients with underlying heart disease or already at risk for heart attack.
Most people are off work for several weeks. We gather with friends and family and typically eat large meals with lots of desserts. Many people consume excessive alcohol and most people become sedentary with no physical activity.
The winter months are cold and cold causes peripheral blood vessels to constrict to converse heat. The increased constrictive nature can cause blood pressure to increase. Increased blood pressure is the number one risk factor for heart attacks.
Many people and families stress over finances or from the loss of loved one from previous holidays. Stress is a major trigger for heart attacks.
This scenario is a ticking time bomb for many people. Most people never give this any thought though and it ends up killing people unneccesarily.
Protecting Yourself from a Heart Attack During Winter
So how do we change course and protect ourselves from heart attack this time of year?
It is really very simple. Follow these steps below:
- Before any large meal, take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar will acidify the stomach so you can fully digest meals and break down proteins into amino acids. Many people do not make sufficient stomach acid, mostly from taking antacids. As a result, your body cannot break down proteins into amino acids. When undigested protein fragments enter the gut, your body recognizes these fragments as foreign and our immune system becomes activated. This is the basis of food-borne allergies. Remember immune dysfunction is a hallmark of heart disease and heart attacks.
- Always make your first bite or plate consists of mixed greens salad ideally with olive oil and vinegar. Green leafy vegetables contain nitrate which the body can metabolize into nitric oxide. This process takes about 90 minutes. Nitric oxide prevents the immune dysfunction, oxidative stress and inflammation from an inflammatory diet. Other than providing protective nitric oxide, the salad will provide some satiety and a feeling of fullness so you don’t overeat the bad stuff.
- Control your portions and eat slowly. Don’t overfill your plate the first time around. Take your time, chew your food completely and wait at least 10 minutes before you go back for seconds. It takes time for the food you eat to shut down the secretion of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. If you allow time between seconds, you likely will feel full and not go back for seconds.
- Never eat desserts first. High sugar foods on an empty stomach will cause a sharp and rapid rise in glucose. Hyperglycemia causes inflammation and oxidative stress and actually shuts down nitric oxide production. Not a good scenario at all. If you do choose to eat desserts, wait at least 20 minutes after your meal so the sugar uptake can be controlled and delayed from the desserts.
- If you drink alcohol, consume in moderation. Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to be cardioprotective, meaning that it can protect the heart from damage from a heart attack. Limit alcoholic drinks to no more than 3 per hour. Drink at least 8 ounces of clean filtered water in between each alcoholic drink to maintain hydration and to dilute out the alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption causes inflammation and inflammation causes heart attacks.
- After each meal, go outside and walk or participate in some moderate physical activity. Physical activity increases nitric oxide production which helps protect from having a heart attack, especially after a large meal. Physical exercise will also help burn calories and help your body metabolize all the food you just ate.
- Control your stress. The holidays can be extremely stressful for many people. The stress hormone cortisol has been shown to contribute to heart attacks. Stress also causes people to eat and drink excessively further aggravating the situation. When you feel stressed, stop and take 10 deep breathes and gain composure.
- Give thanks. The holidays should be a time of celebration and thanksgiving. Be thankful for your friends and family. Be thankful to be born in a free country that provides us many opportunities and amenities that many people in other parts of the world do not have. Showing gratitude and love to God and others is healing and helps us deal with stress.
- If you cannot or will not do any of the things above, then by all means consider a nitric oxide product that can deliver nitric oxide gas to your body. There is nothing more important to preventing heart disease, heart attacks and strokes than nitric oxide. Loss of nitric oxide is what is responsible for heart disease. Symptoms of low nitric oxide is diagnostic for heart attack such as chest pains (angina), shortness of breath, ischemic pain radiating down arm or up into the jaw, exercise intolerance and high blood pressure. Restoration of nitric oxide through a plant based diet and physical activity has been clinically shown to reverse heart disease.
Change Your Habits…and Be Thankful and Loving
There is nothing more heartbreaking than to lose a loved one, especially during the holidays.
This month marks the third anniversary of the death of our 20 year old son from a car accident. Accidents happen and sometimes we cannot control or rationalize such acts.
However, we can control the destiny of our own health based on our choices, our diet and our lifestyle.
As mentioned above cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer worldwide. Despite undisputed evidence of what causes heart disease, these numbers have not changed. Information and knowledge is only valuable if it is acted upon and implemented.
We must change our habits if we wish to change the course of our own health. This holiday season, pay attention, make wise choices but most of all, be thankful and be loving.