Apr
06
2019

Healthier After Age 60

Unhealthy lifestyles have staying power, so what can we do be healthier after age 60? A recent CNN article describes 10 ways how to adopt a healthier lifestyle when you get close to retirement.

The thinking is that 5 years before your retirement at 65 you should perhaps adopt a healthier lifestyle.

2017 study by Dr. King regarding lifestyles before and after retirement

Dr. Dana King was the author of a 2017 study where lifestyles before and after retirement were compared.

Seven factors were examined, namely cardiovascular factors including physical activity, healthy diet, healthy weight, smoking status, total cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure. Retirees were more likely to have poorly controlled blood pressures compared to non-retirees. 23.9% of retirees had uncontrolled blood pressure versus 15.1% of non-retirees. This difference was statistically significant. There was another significant difference with regard to physical activity. Retirees were 1.85-fold more active than non-retirees. But sadly, the other 5 of the 7 points did not significantly improve. There were no differences in healthy weight, smoking rates, healthy diet, glucose levels or cholesterol control.

Healthier after age 60: how to change your diet

Adopt a Mediterranean diet. This is an anti-inflammatory diet that prevents hardening of the arteries. It lowers the bad LDL cholesterol and also triglycerides. It is also recommended to consume at least 2 tablespoons of olive oil per day. When you cook only with olive oil and use only olive oil and Balsamic vinegar for salads, it is relatively easy to reach or surpass the recommended 2 daily tablespoons of olive oil.

Healthier after age 60: how to change your exercise status

You have more time when you retire. The easiest to get into a routine regarding regular exercise is to get a membership in a gym. In the beginning you may want to see a trainer to show you some routine exercises on weight machines. You start the program off with 30 minutes on the treadmill. Before long you get used to the exercise routine and you feel stronger. But your system also produces much more of the protective HDL cholesterol, which is sensitive to regular exercise. If you have been physically inactive, get some input from your health care provider.

Healthier after age 60: how to change your weight

It is not exercise, but a healthy diet, which controls your weight. Having adopted a Mediterranean diet is a big first step in that direction. But it is also important to cut out sugar and starchy foods (potatoes, rice, bread, muffins, pasta etc.). This will reduce your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. On the long term you prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Healthier after age 60: how to change your smoking status

It is old knowledge that smoking cuts down on life expectancy. Better quit smoking now than later. It prevents heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and many other cancers.

Healthier after age 60: how to lower your blood pressure

Regular exercise, weight loss and quitting to smoke will all lower your blood pressure. Some people though continue to have high blood pressure. It is important to seek medical advice regarding this. People with persistent elevated blood pressure need medication to have this controlled in order to avoid getting a hemorrhagic stroke.

Healthier after age 60: how to lower your glucose levels

The diet I described will help you to control your blood sugars. Your doctor can order a hemoglobin A1C, which summarizes your average blood sugars over the past 3 months. Controlling your blood sugar is important to prevent type 2 diabetes. Diabetes reduces your life expectancy significantly. The risks are heart attacks, strokes, blindness, leg amputations, kidney damage and cancers.

Healthier after age 60: how to lower your cholesterol

When I discussed a healthy diet, I indicted that it lowers the LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. This reduces the risk of hardening of the arteries. A regular exercise program increases the protective HDL cholesterol, which reinforces the protection from heart attacks and strokes.

Healthier After Age 60

Healthier After Age 60

Conclusion

Whether we retire or not, we should all strife to achieve these 7 changes of lifestyle that Dr. Dana King has discussed. They were cardiovascular factors including physical activity, healthy diet, healthy weight, smoking status, total cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure. Each of these factors is important on its own. But when you tackle all of them simultaneously, there is a potentiation of these factors that allows you to get super-healthy. That’s what you want for your life after age 60. It is not too late to start! You want to be healthier after age 60!

May
19
2018

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Many times we hear terms like LDL and HDL cholesterol , but what lowers LDL cholesterol? We have to go back to a time when the ongoing Framingham Heart Study wanted to find out what caused a heart attack or a stroke. In the 1960’s scientists found out that cigarette smoking increased heart attack risk and also blood cholesterol. Then in the 1980’s the news came out that HDL (high density lipoproteins) reduced the risk of heart disease. Eventually several research institutions agreed that LDL (low density lipoproteins) was the culprit for causing plaque deposits in arteries. This caused heart attacks and strokes. LDL is often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol.

Clarification of HDL and LDL cholesterol

Recently a review article asked the question: “What is the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol?”

Below I will review what LDL and HDL cholesterol do in our system. I will also mention normal values for blood tests. This will help you to understand your own blood test results. Then I will review what you can do to lower LDL cholesterol and to increase HDL cholesterol.

The function of LDL and HDL cholesterol

Total cholesterol in the blood contains LDL cholesterol, small dense LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. The small dense LDL cholesterol is more dangerous than LDL cholesterol. It infiltrates the lining of the arterial walls aggressively. A normal LDL level is less than 100 mg/dL. When triglycerides, another form of lipid is high in the blood, LDL cholesterol forms a lot more small dense LDL cholesterol. This is the case in diabetics or in obese people. It is the reason why they are very vulnerable to develop heart attacks and strokes. The optimal range for triglycerides is less than 80 mg/dL.

HDL cholesterol is protective from hardening of the arteries and protects you from heart attacks or strokes. HDL dissolves LDL cholesterol, brings it to the liver, and the liver excretes it into bile. You want to have more than 60 mg/dL of HDL cholesterol in your blood.

Cholesterol math

The total cholesterol conventionally is calculated like this:

LDL cholesterol + HDL cholesterol + (triglyceride/5) = Total cholesterol

You see that the small dense LDL is not part of it here, but high triglyceride levels would increase the total cholesterol value as the inclusion of 20% of triglycerides in this equation compensates for this.

There is also a ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol that is important. This ratio should be below 3.4 for both women and men. This is also known as the ½ average risk for a heart attack or stroke. If your value is equal to that or below, you are in a very low risk category to get a heart attack or stroke.

Now I will deal with the question: what lowers LDL cholesterol?

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Now we need to review what can be done to lower an LDL cholesterol which is too high. Don’t tell me that you want to take one of the statin drugs. These drugs have serious side effects and are only indicated for the most serious cases of high cholesterol values.

Most common measures to reduce LDL cholesterol

  • Cut out red meat

    First of all, cutting out red meat (like beef, pork and sausages) to an absolute minimum, for instance once per week or less is important. The reason is that these meats have more cholesterol in them and also more saturated fats than any other foods. Compare that to poultry, fish and vegetables like beans, which are healthy food sources.

  • Eliminate trans fats

    Furthermore, we need to eliminate trans fats as they are causing heart attacks. There is an important difference between ruminant trans fats and artificial trans fats. Ruminant trans fats have been part of the human diet for millennia like milk fat and fat from cows that are on pasture or lamb. Milk products for instance contain fat with 2-5% natural trans fats. 3-9 % of the fat in beef and lamb consists of natural trans fats. Studies have shown that the body is able to handle these natural trans fats, and heart attacks are not more frequent in people eating moderate amounts of these products including butter from cows that graze on pasture.

  • Artificial trans fats

    Quite the opposite is true for artificial trans fats in margarine that comes from vegetable oil. Avoid bakery items like sweet pieces or muffins and other products that contain hydrogenated oils. Read labels! Use olive oil or coconut oil, but avoid vegetable oils like corn oil, safflower oil or grape seed oil to get away from trans fats and unstable oils that turn rancid. Rancid oils contain free radicals that oxidize LDL cholesterol and attack the lining of your arteries through small dense LDL cholesterol.

  • Cut out sugar and starchy foods

    Another important item is to cut out sugar and starchy foods because these will raise your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which also leads to hardening of your arteries. Starchy foods are broken down by pancreatic juices into sugar, which enters your blood stream, causing an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas. When the short-term storage of sugar as glycogen is exhausted in muscle and liver tissue, the liver has to process any surplus of sugar that is still there. The end results are triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Unfortunately the protective HDL cholesterol does not reach higher levels, when the LDL cholesterol is increased. A persistent diet of high-refined carbs will increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes. It follows from this that we are all better off cutting out sugar and starchy foods from our food intake as it will reduce LDL cholesterol and small dense LDL cholesterol.

  • Increase your soluble fiber intake

    Increase your soluble fiber intake by eating vegetables, oats and oat bran, lentils, fruits and beans. Why does this decrease LDL cholesterol? The liver tries to eliminate too much cholesterol by binding it to bile salts and excreting it into your small bowel. But the last part of the small bowel reabsorbs some of these bile salts, and from there they return to the liver. This is called the enterohepatic pathway of bile salts. Soluble fiber intake binds those bile salts and prevents re-absorption in the enterohepatic pathway, eliminating cholesterol safely in stool. Clinical trials have also shown that soluble fiber from psyllium, pectin, beta-glucans and others reduce LDL cholesterol by binding bile salts in the gut (interrupting the enterohepatic pathway).

  • Plant sterols and fiber supplements

    Plant sterols (usually sold as sterol esters) are recognized by the FDA as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, if taken in high enough amounts (2.4 grams of sterol esters per day). There are other useful supplements like artichoke extract, pomegranate, soy protein, Indian gooseberry (Amla), garlic and pantethine (vitamin B5) that are beneficial in terms of prevention of heart attacks and strokes. It would be too lengthy to get into more details here.

  • Take a whey protein supplement

    There are two major milk proteins, whey and casein. Only whey protein binds to total and LDL cholesterol, lowering both. It is available in health food stores. Follow the package insert of the whey product for dosing.

  • Increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake

    Omega-3 fats naturally present in fish oils and nuts. They increase the amount of circulating HDL cholesterol, which binds the bad LDL cholesterol. Go ahead and eat salmon, herring and mackerel as well as walnuts, ground flaxseeds and almonds. You can also take molecularly distilled (or pharmaceutically pure) EPA/DHA supplements. This pure form of fish oil is free of mercury and other heavy metals. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid or omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is the acronym for docosahexaenoic acid, an important supplement for the brain. Tests have shown that fish oil supplements at a dosage of 3.35 grams per day of EPA plus DHA reduce triglycerides by up to 40%, equally to Lipitor, but without the statin side effects. The end result: your total cholesterol/HDL ratio decreases, as does the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Here is a review of other oils in your diet.

Measures that will increase HDL cholesterol 

  • Eat foods with anthocyanin

    In a 24-week study with diabetic people HDL levels rose by 19% when food was eaten that was rich in anthocyanin. This consisted of eggplant, purple corn, red cabbage, blueberries and blackberries. The advantage of raising the HDL cholesterol level is that the total cholesterol to HDL ratio decreases, which lowers the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

  • Exercising regularly

    Exercising will increase your HDL cholesterol, which again decreases the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. This number should be between 1 and 3.5, the lower, the better.

  • Take a supplement called Ubiquinol, or Co-Q-10

    Adults above the age of 60 need 400 mg once daily, younger people need between 200 mg and 300 mg daily. Co-Q-10 prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which would aggressively attack the arterial walls causing hardening of the arteries. What causes oxidation of cholesterol? The answer is clear: fried foods like french fries or deep fried chicken will lead to oxidation; other culprits are margarine, commercially baked goods and cigarette smoking.

  • Calcium and vitamin D3

    Recently a study on postmenopausal and overweight or obese women found that supplements of calcium combined with vitamin D3 lowered cholesterol.

  • Polyphenols

    Flavonoids are the largest group among the polyphenols in such common foods as vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee, chocolate and wine. Over 130 studies on humans have shown improvement of the lining of the arteries (endothelial functioning) and lowering of blood pressure. Polyphenol consumption has a connection to a lower risk of mortality from heart attacks. Eat a Mediterranean type diet or a DASH diet, and you will automatically get enough polyphenols with your food. However, resveratrol, the powerful red wine polyphenol, warrants a separate daily supplementation as it prevents LDL oxidation in humans (Ref.1). Take about 250 mg of resveratrol daily.

  • Niacin/ nicotinic acid

    This supplement comes as “flush-free niacin” and also as extended release niacin. It can raise the beneficial HDL cholesterol by 30 to 35% when patients take higher doses of 2.25 grams per day. In a metaanalysis of 7 studies researchers found a significant reduction of heart attacks and transient ischemic attacks. These are precursor syndromes before developing a stroke. Niacin can change the small particle LDL into a large particle size LDL, which is less dangerous. Niacin also reduces oxidation of LDL, which stops the atherosclerotic process. For a healthy person 500 mg per day of flush-free niacin is adequate.

  • Curcumin

    This is a powerful heart and brain protector combining three different mechanisms in one. It is reducing oxidative stress. But it is  also an anti-inflammatory. In addition it counters the process that threatens to destroy the lining of the arteries. One study on healthy volunteers showed reduction of 33% in lipid oxidation, a 12% reduction of total cholesterol and an increase of 29% of the protective HDL cholesterol when patients took 500 mg of curcumin for only 7 days (Ref.1). This is the daily dose I would recommend for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

  • Vitamin E (tocopherols)

    This fat-soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and in the past health practitioners knew about its use as being heart supportive. Strangely enough some conservative physicians bad-mouthed this vitamin. In the meantime health practitioners have returned to using the vitamin. It turns out that there are 8 different types of tocopherols, with the alpha tocopherol being the best-known, but you also want to be sure that you are getting gamma tocopherol with your balanced vitamin E supplement every day. Newer research has shown that tocotrienol is more powerful than tocopherols. I take 125 mg of tocotrienols daily.

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

What lowers LDL cholesterol?

Conclusion

Over the years cardiovascular researchers have accumulated knowledge about supplements that will reduce LDL cholesterol or increase HDL cholesterol. It has practical value: you can look at your own lab results and choose what fits your situation best. You should always make these decisions together with your health care provider. None of the methods reviewed here have any serious side effects. On the other hand statins, as I have reviewed in the link provided, do have significant side effects. Keep in mind that cholesterol is a normal body component that our body needs to make human cell walls. But we do not need to smoke (stopping it lowers LDL cholesterol). We need regular exercise (increases HDL cholesterol). Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride values within the normal ranges that I listed and as a result you will do well in terms of preventing heart attacks and strokes!

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Apr
19
2014

Measuring Your Heart Function

Recently I came across a book by Dr. Steven Masley, cardiologist (fellow of the American Heart Association, see Ref.1). The heart’s function is to pump your blood reliably all your life. It is a complicated organ, but it works well, if we treat it well. Western medicine has taught us that with complicated machinery and tests we can assess how the heart is doing. But until recently there was no reliable easier way to assess our cardiac health function. The purpose of this blog is to summarize a three-pronged approach to measure your heart and blood vessel health. It is described in detail in Ref.1, but I doubt that many people have yet read this important reference book. It is also important to FIRST see your doctor whether you are able to do the Bruce protocol (treadmill test, the third component below). If you neglect to be cleared by your doctor you run the risk of possibly getting angina pains or getting a heart attack.

1. Carotid IMT or carotid intimal-medial thickness test: You measure the degree to which there is hardening of the coronary arteries indirectly by measuring the thickness of the lining of the carotid arteries (carotid IMT or carotid intimal-medial thickness test). Dr. Masley has showed over a period of 10 years and more in many patients at his Health Center that there is a close correlation between the degree of coronary artery hardening and the degree of hardening of the carotid arteries. He stated that his research has shown that “90% of the time, the carotid arteries, the coronary arteries, and even the arteries of your legs all grow plaque at the same time”. The gold standard for checking the condition of your coronary arteries is a heart catheterization as Dr. Masley explains (page 58). But he adds: “IMT testing should be the new gold standard for cardiovascular plaque testing. However, this is not yet the case. Despite its usefulness, 95% of doctors are not ordering this screening test for their patients. You can rest assured that this is a situation I am to change“.

Measuring Your Heart Function

Measuring Your Heart Function

2. A detailed lipid analysis called the VAP test: A detailed laboratory test analyzing your lipid fractions (LDL, HDL, total cholesterol and VAP test). The buoyant HDL fraction, called HDL2 is the key to having a low risk for hardening of the arteries. HDL2 is large, fluffy and is designed to remove garbage from within the lining of the arteries. Also, the cholesterol ratio is another measurement for a low risk for hardening of the arteries when it is less than 3.0. The first two tests assess how much hardening of the arteries there is present and when they are normal, there is a relative reassurance that nothing drastic (like a heart attack or stroke) should happen within the next 10 years provided you keep up a regular exercise program and healthy food intake.

3. Bruce protocol (Treadmill test): The Bruce protocol (treadmill test) is often done by a cardiologists, but can also be done through many gyms, where a trainer with experience in exercise physiology will do it. This functional test measuring cardiac output has been developed many decades back and has withstood the test of time. Here is an overview what this is. As the slope of a treadmill and the speed of the belt are increased, the heart needs to do more work to maintain blood flow to your extremities and vital organs. The trainer or exercise physiologist measures the response of the heart activity in relation to the increase of the exercise load. A complicated formula allows calculating how much your maximal cardiac output is. This test has several variations and can be complicated to understand. Essentially, the higher the numbers you can create, the better. Here is a table with various results of the VaO2max from Bruce protocols and how they are interpreted.

4. Treating abnormalities found with the three basic tests: These are the necessary tools that tell you where you are in regard to your heart function. People with heart failure should not do this third test, because their heart muscle is too weak to sustain this and they would get heart failure meaning that blood gets backed up into the lungs and there could be severe breathing problems leading to a lack of oxygen (anoxia) in the heart tissue, which in turn can cause irregular heart beats (fibrillation of the heart muscle) and a heart attack. Assume that the first two tests were within the normal limit for your age, then the Bruce protocol would give you the maximum heart output at the peak level of your treadmill test. At this point you are measuring directly the cardiac output (in other words what your heart is capable of pumping for you in a certain time unit). This measurement is what physicians call the VaO2 max  or maximal oxygen consumption. This is the best index for maximal heart capacity. If your levels are higher than normal, you have extra reserves with respect to your heart as a pump for times when you need it. If this latter tolerance test shows poor results, it usually means that you were inactive and you would benefit from an exercise program. If the first test shows hardening of the arteries more than is appropriate for your age, you would need to look at your eating habits. At the same time often the VAT values and the cholesterol ratio is off meaning that you are eating the wrong foods and it shows in your blood test results.

5. Advise regarding diet, exercise and relaxation: Dr. Masley’s book has several sections that explain what needs to be done when things are not normal. For instance, the author does not mince words when it comes to eating the right fats and cutting out sugar and starchy foods. For instance on page 199 there is a neat table that lists the fiber content of different foods. We need more fiber to slow down the absorption of sugary substances, which will minimize the insulin response following a meal. Dr. Masley also mentions that omega-3-fatty acids from fish and good seafood choices will balance the omega-6-fatty acids that would lead towards the arachidonic acid pathway, which causes arthritis, inflammation and cancer. There are many more dietary recommendations, too numerous to repeat them all here. Suffice it to say that molecularly distilled omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D 1,500 to 3000 Units daily, and magnesium supplements are all good for you heart. Vitamin K2 gets calcium out of your blood vessels and into the bone (100 micrograms per day). Other worthwhile supplements mentioned in the book are CoQ-10 (50 to 200 mg twice per day), but it would be wise to have blood levels drawn, which should be above 2.5mcg/ml to which the CoQ-10 intake could be titrated. Curcumin and Resveratrol are also recommended. Most of all, it seems that regular physical exercise such as a balanced gym program is the single most effective way to reverse hardening of the arteries as measured by the carotid IMT testing.

Conclusion: Times have changed. It used to be thought that our lives were following a one-way street downwards. During periods of malnutrition, lack of exercise, being sessile and abusing alcohol and drugs this may well be the case. However, we now know that this is reversible. Change to healthier food, start smoothies with organic vegetables in a mixer, get going and walk. Jog or use a gym to get regular exercise. Physical exercise reverses the fat deposits inside the lining of the arteries. The HDL-2 fraction rises and helps counteract the elevated LDL cholesterol. Even the mood of the person who exercises regularly becomes more stabilized. Using these simpler three tests the physicians will not need the more complicated Thallium heart scans, heart catheterization etc. These three tests described above are well worth being done every two years, so that you can monitor what’s going on with your heart and blood vessels in general. What questions do you have? You could ask them below.

More information on heart disease: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/

References: 1. Dr. Steven Masley, MD: “The 30-day Heart Tune-Up – A Breakthrough Medical Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”, Center Street, A Division of Hachette Book Group Inc. New York, Boston, Nashville, USA © 2014.

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014