Protecting your heart -- start by eliminating ultraprocessed foods

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In a 1964 episode of “The Lucy Show,” Lucy takes a job as a process server, and her first assignment is to serve another main character in the show, bank president Mr. Mooney. But after trailing him all over town, she somehow ends up as a stowaway on a ship headed for a 28-day cruise. Process serving wasn’t dished up again as such a catastrophe until Seth Rogan, as Dale in 2008’s “Pineapple Express,” took on that career choice and ended up dodging a drug lord!

If you’re serving up processed foods -- that almost invariably leads to disaster. A 10-year study published in the European Heart Journal found that folks with cardiovascular disease who’ve had a heart attack or stroke and continue to eat ultraprocessed foods are 66% more likely to have a second -- and fatal -- heart attack or stroke and 40% more likely to die from any cause than people who make sure to send ultraprocessed foods out to sea!

Eating healthfully part time and downing ultraprocessed foods other times didn’t help diminish the dangers of the deadly dishes. You can spot ultraprocessed foods: They have hydrolyzed proteins, maltodextrins, hydrogenated fats and additives like dyes, preservatives, anticaking agents, flavor enhancers and sweeteners listed on ingredients labels. Remember: Check ingredients labels on theoretically “healthy” foods, like breakfast cereals and fruit yogurt. 

My recommendation: Take this list of ultraprocessed ingredients with you when you grocery shop and check that they aren’t in what you buy, even if you haven’t had a heart attack or stroke -- yet.

Vitamin D and your heart health -- a new partnership revealed

When Stevie Wonder sang “Ain’t No Sunshine When You’re Gone,” he was lamenting a broken heart. Well, turns out when the sunshine vitamin -- the big D -- is gone (or at least deficient), you are risking a broken heart, too.

A first-of-its-kind study, published in the European Heart Journal, found that folks with a vitamin D deficiency were more likely to have high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (risk factors for heart attack and stroke), and those with the lowest of vitamin D levels had double the risk of heart disease as folks with healthy levels.

This new role for D in your health comes on top of everything else it does for you: Although we don’t know if, in the short term, increasing your vitamin D level into the normal range benefits you, we do know that long term, if you sustain a level above 35 ng/ml you’re likely to have healthier heart, brain, bone, muscle and immune-system function and glucose metabolism.

Around 24% of folks in the U.S. have very low levels (below 13 ng/ml) of D, and another 50% have levels below 35 ng/ml. So you want to get a blood test to see if you’re deficient. Also, up your intake of oily fish like salmon and sea trout, and foods (whole grain cereals) fortified with D.

Then if your blood test shows you are low -- take a daily supplement as prescribed by your doc. Dr. Mike eats salmon daily and takes 2,000 IUs of D3 a day to keep his level up.

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