When we left off, we discussed the questions you should be asking instead of just saying, “How do I lower my cholesterol?"
In part two, we discussed the questions "Are there blood tests that can be helpful?" and "How do I know if I have plaque buildup in my arteries?"
In part three, we will be discussing "How can I prevent plaque from building up in my arteries?" and "What can I do if I have plaque buildup in my arteries?"
How can I prevent plaque from building up in my arteries?
Thankfully, you can make many lifestyle changes to help keep your arteries healthy.
The first is to stop smoking (yes, vaping is still smoking). Smoking is the number one cause of atherosclerosis. There is no more significant step you can take to improve your health than to quit smoking. The same goes for smoking the ganja. Occasionally having a joint is no big deal, but smoking marijuana every day is quite bad for your lungs and arteries. How about having an edible or tincture instead? Inhaling smoke of any kind is quite bad for you.
Next up is that old classic, exercise. That’s right, it’s time to get your butt moving. Regular aerobic exercise is the best for cardiovascular health. In addition, it can help to lower the amount of fat in your blood, reduce your blood pressure, and help with weight loss.
It is best to start slowly with brisk walking, running, swimming, and bicycling. Shoot for 30-40 minutes 4-5 days per week.
Third, on our list is cold exposure. You will hate me for this one at first, but it is beneficial in improving circulation and blood flow. Over time you might enjoy it.
The cold exposure process is like exercise for your blood vessels - via vasoconstriction and vasodilation. It also promotes increased intolerance to stress, improves immune function, improves synapse function, and reduces inflammation and pain.
Start with hold and cold shower contrasts for 30 seconds at a time. Then, gradually increase the times between contrasting temperatures. Over time, you will notice that it will get easier and easier as your body adapts and gets stronger. Your ability to withstand the cold will improve significantly in just a few days.
The human body is incredible. The more we push it, the stronger it gets!
Our next stop is stress reduction. Chronic high levels of stress have a very damaging effect on your arterial health. According to the Cleveland Clinic:
“Stress increases the plaque rate, and it can accumulate in the arteries. It makes platelets sticky and prone to forming clots that can block arteries. Stress can also cause arteries to constrict, starving the heart of nourishing blood and triggering chest pain or a heart attack.”
Having a dog is a great stress reliever. Adopt one from a shelter today and make both of your lives better! Plus you get more exercise and sunshine when you go for walks together!
Getting stress under control is a huge key to keeping your arteries clean and healthy. Check out our blog article, Stress 101, to learn all about keeping your stress under control.
Next up is sleep. When you sleep, your body repairs itself, reduces inflammation, and performs a whole host of essential functions. Having healthy sleep is crucial for your arterial health. Short and interrupted sleep duration increases the buildup of arteriosclerosis throughout the body.
One thing that helps a lot is blue-light-blocking glasses. Blocking blue light helps with your body's melatonin production. It is especially beneficial to wear these at night.
Another important thing you can do to improve melatonin production is to get sunlight on your face during sunrise and sunset.
Check out this link for other great tips to improve your sleep hygiene.
Another important step is to get your blood pressure under control. Uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to:
And much more
High blood pressure adds force to arterial walls, which over time damages the blood vessels and increases plaque buildup.
Changes in diet, quitting smoking, stress reduction, and exercise are the best ways to get your blood pressure under control. Some people have underlying health issues which may require medication. If you have high blood pressure, you should talk to your doctor right away because leaving high blood pressure untreated is a recipe for serious health problems.
Next is to get your blood sugar and fasting insulin numbers in the proper range. Diabetes and chronically high blood sugar levels increase inflammation and slow blood flow, which dramatically increases atherosclerosis. As with blood pressure, changes in diet, stress reduction, and exercise are the best ways to get your blood sugar and fasting insulin levels under control.
Are you starting to notice a trend?
Last but certainly not least is your diet. Second only to smoking, what you eat and drink has a massive impact on your arterial health.
First up is fluids. It's vital to drink lots of water for healthy circulation. There are some very adverse effects of not drinking enough water on your cardiovascular system.
Impair vascular function
Impair blood pressure function
Reduce endothelial function
Increase sympathetic nervous system activity
worsen orthostatic tolerance
So get hydrated. If you have trouble remembering to drink enough water, this water bottle helps to remind you to drink enough.
If you don’t like the taste of water, try mineral water, such as Gerolsteiner, or check out these great ways to liven up your water game:
One of the things I want to emphasize is the importance of eating a whole food diet. It’s not whether you are keto, paleo, carnivore, vegan, vegetarian, or anything else. The key is that you should be eating real food.
All of the fake foods companies try to sell us, even those labeled “heart-healthy”, exist to increase profits, not to make you healthy. Your foods should consist of real ingredients that you can recognize, not whatever Frankenstein's monster is the flavor of the month.
Many plant beverages contain inflammatory seed oils, lots of sugar, and added forms of calcium such as carbonate, citrate, di, and tricalcium phosphate, which can increase plaque builup in your arteries. Choose those without all of the additives.
Besides the obvious things like cutting down on sugar, processed foods, refined flour, and junk food, there are several dietary steps you can take to help keep your arteries healthy.
The most important step you can take in your diet to keep your arteries healthy is greatly reducing your intake of the omega-six fatty acid, linoleic acid. This is not easy because it is in so many foods.
The ideal ratio of omega-six to omega-three is between 3-5:1. Unfortunately, in the United States, it is very common to have a ratio of 50-100:1. This creates many health problems, especially for your cardiovascular system.
So how can you improve your ratio?
The first is to eliminate vegetable and seed oils. In terms of keeping your arteries healthy, these are by far the worst foods you can eat. Think of them as concentrated inflammation and oxidative stress in a bottle.
Here is a list of vegetable and seed oils:
Fake butter spreads- Yes, even the ones from the health food store.
While palm oil may not be rich in omega six, it is the worst food from an environmental standpoint, and massive amounts of slavery are involved in its production, so we recommend avoiding it.
They are found in many processed foods like chips, cookies, and crackers. Read the ingredients carefully to ensure no seed oils are present.
Check out this article to learn more ways to reduce omega six in your diet, find substitutes for vegetable oils, and improve your omega six to omega-three intake.
The USDA calls these horrible oils nutritious. Shame on them.
Here are some foods with particular benefits for your arterial health. While we put them in various categories, many can fit in multiple places.
These are foods that can help to improve circulation and blood flow.
Cayenne and other spicy peppers
Improve nitric oxide production
Don’t forget they can make your urine turn pink.
If you don’t feel like cooking beets, good quality beet powder is a great way to get some in your diet if you do not eat them.
Avoid raw spinach as it is very high in oxalates.
These are foods that can help to reduce the stickiness of platelets. If you take blood-thinning medications or medicine to reduce platelet stickiness, please talk to your doctor before consuming these.
Good quality Ceylon cinnamon
Not all types of cinnamon have the same benefits.
Fresh pineapple cores
Foods that help to reduce oxidative stress:
In the winter, good frozen berries have more nutrition than fresh ones.
Freeze-dried berry powder is also a great option for smoothies and yogurt.
Not the juice, fresh or frozen.
Red and purple grapes with the seeds
Make sure to eat the seeds.
Whole food grape powder is an excellent option for smoothies or yogurt if you don't eat them.
Citrus fruits -
Not the juice. Eat the actual fruit.
Avoid grapefruits if you take medication.
Good olive oil
Most olive oil is adulterated with vegetable and seed oils or has very low levels of polyphenols.
If your olive oil has a very mild taste, it will not have a lot of polyphenols.
Here is a link to a list of good olive oils.
Here is a link to our favorite, super high polyphenol olive oil.
For those of you who hate cutting up squash, squash powder is great to add to soups and stir fry.
Often green tea has contaminants such as heavy metals, gasoline, and pesticide residues. So be very careful of the source.
Foods that help support healthy cholesterol metabolism and production.
Good-quality capsules are a great option for those who do not like organ meats.
Good-quality capsules are a great option for those who do not like fish eggs.
Probiotic rich foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, etc.
Foods with particular nutrients that provide benefits for arterial health:
Omega Fatty acids
These are rich in vitamin K2 (as Mk4) and many other compounds that help to keep your arteries healthy.
Make sure your nuts are very fresh. Do not buy from bulk bins!
Taurine, carnitine, zinc, b12, cysteine, and a host of other nutrients
Ethically sourced cacao nourishes the body and uplifts the mind.
What do I do if I have plaque buildup in my arteries?
The first step you should take is to have a conversation with your doctor about a treatment plan. Often it is a good idea to see a cardiologist and get a more in-depth workup if you have plaque buildup.
In addition to the lifestyle changes listed above (you need to do them, don’t mess around in with plaque in your arteries, especially quitting smoking, exercise, and eliminating vegetable and seed oils), we recommend focusing on getting these particular foods in you as much as you can, as they have very potent benefits for your cardiovascular health.
Low heavy metal, high flavonol cacao is our favorite arterial health food.
Cacao is rich in polyphenols that help to promote healthy arterial flexibility, support nitric oxide production, and reduce oxidative stress.
It is also one of the richest food sources of magnesium, which has many beneficial effects on your cardiovascular system.
Cacao can be very high in heavy metals, so knowing that the source is clean and free of contamination is very important.
Cacao is also rich in many compounds that help to support relaxation, calm, and healthy stress response.
We recommend at least one serving per day of high polyphenol cacao.
Pomegranates can significantly affect arterial plaque, blood pressure, and oxidative stress.
We recommend getting the frozen seeds and eating them as is or throwing them in smoothies.
Shoot for about 4 oz per day.
Getting enough omega-three is extremely important for arterial health.
Shoot for at least one 4 oz serving of low mercury wild-caught seafood per day.
Natto helps to support healthy blood flow and healthy blood pressure while helping to reduce platelet stickiness.
It is also rich in nattokinase, which helps to break down fibrin.
Shoot for at least one tablespoon, 1-2 times per day, between meals. Eat at least an hour apart from food.
If you take blood-thinning medication, talk to your doctor before consuming natto.
Fresh pineapple cores
The cores of pineapple are rich in an enzyme complex called bromelain.
The bromelain helps to reduce platelet stickiness.
You can blend the cores into a smoothie.
Shoot for one core per day in between meals, at least an hour apart from food.
If you take blood-thinning medication, talk to your doctor before consuming many pineapple cores.
Good olive oil helps to support healthy fibrinogen levels.
Ensure it is of excellent quality because most olive oil is adulterated with seed oils and is low in polyphenols.
Shoot for at least one tablespoon per day. Eat this oil off the spoon, drizzled on food or salads, not cooked for the most benefit.
Egg yolks are rich in phosphatidylcholine.
This compound performs significant cholesterol metabolism, cell membrane structure, and arterial health functions.
Berries have protective effects on arterial health.
Shoot for four ounces per day of fresh or frozen berries.
It's time to head to part four and learn about supplements to support healthy cholesterol levels and arterial health.
Professor Dog says to get a snack and move on to part four.