Tag Archives: heart attack risk

Mummies had heart disease

An Egyptian mummy kept in the Vatican Museums.

Image via Wikipedia

Even the ancient Egyptians had heart disease.  I’m not sure why this is such a surprise, but the researchers who conducted the study seemed to be very surprised.

Traditional medical thinking on heart disease goes like this; heart disease is caused by eating too much fat, mainly from meat, and a sedentary lifestyle.  That’s basically it.  Yes, there are other risk factors to take into consideration like smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc, but talk to your average medical doctor and they will tell you that eating high levels of animal fat coupled with too much TV is a recipe for disaster.

I couldn’t disagree more and this new study confirms my thoughts.  I agree that lack of exercise is a big issue with heart health.  That one is not debatable.  I also agree that smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes are big players.  I disagree that eating too much animal fat is a problem.

Dr. Greg Thomas is part of a team of scientists that recently discovered the earliest known case of atherosclerosis — clogged arteries — in ancient Egyptian mummies.

Dr. Thomas said, “Our hypothesis was that they wouldn’t have [heart disease], because they were active, their diet was much different, they didn’t have tobacco.”

One of the mummies the team scanned was a princess in her 40s, who presumably ate fresh food and wasn’t sedentary. “That she would have atherosclerosis,” Thomas says, “I think we’re missing a risk factor.”

According to scientists the ancient Egyptians had access to meat, but not a lot of it.  Their diet consisted mainly of fruits, vegetables and grain.

Perhaps the problem isn’t meat.  I would contend that a diet high in grains, as is the case with the pharaohs, could lead to atherosclerosis.  Grains are high in the inflammatory group of fatty acids called omega-6.  Meats are also high in omega-6s.  The difference? When grains are consumed the hormone insulin is secreted which funnels all of the omega-6s in that meal into a very potent pro-inflammatory pathway.  It is this inflammation that leads to heart disease.  When one consumes animal fat no insulin is secreted thereby allowing those omega-6s to actually be driven into a protective and anti-inflammatory pathway.

I also have a problem with the assumption that a princess in ancient Egypt was not sedentary.  If you look throughout history, the upper class has been historically, well, lazy.  They’ve had slaves, servants and serfs to do everything for them.

The combination of low activity levels and a diet high in grain leads people to be unhealthy.  A person does not need to be overweight to be unhealthy either.  There are plenty of people in this country who are considered to be ‘healthy’ in terms of body weight but are actually not very healthy at all.

In my opinion, the fact that an ancient Egyptian princess had atherosclerosis is not earth shattering.  Human physiology has not changed over the last 2,000+ years.  A diet that is high in grains, whole or otherwise, will lead to a pro-inflammatory state.  This pro-inflammatory state will lead to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s to name a few.

If you want to avoid heart disease, or any other inflammatory disease for that matter, make sure grains are a smaller part of your diet.  Get your carbohydrates from fruits like berries and eat plenty of vegetables.  Make sure you consume plenty of protein as well.  Eat the diet of our ancestors from 10,000 years ago not 2,000.  That’s before human beings learned to cultivate grain, mill it and refine it.  Once that happened, as was the case in ancient Egypt, inflammatory diseases began to rise including atherosclerosis.



Filed under Diet, Public Health

Before you take that Ibuprofen, read this!

Ibuprofen Polka~Dots 2

Image by CLCsPics via Flickr

A recent study consisting of 116,000 people has supported other research that NSAIDs pack a dangerous risk for your heart.

NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are a very popular class of drugs that are used for many things including fever reduction and pain management.  They are most commonly used to reduce the aches and pains of every day life such as headaches, back pain and arthritis.  Below is a list of NSAIDs that are approved in the U.S.

The names you will recognize are probably aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.  They are the best-selling of the NSAIDs.

This new research was a meta-analysis of 31 other studies that looked at prescription strength NSAIDs.  The data, however, likely applies to the over the counter NSAIDs one can buy right off the shelf.  It is very easy to take prescription strengths simply by taking too many of the over the counter version, something millions of Americans do every day.

What was found was that by taking these medications there is a significant increase in the risk of stroke, heart attack and cardiovascular death.  The study did not take into account the known risk of bleeding associated with the entire NSAID class of drugs.  (Click here to read about “baby” aspirin and its dangers.)

So what do you do if you have pain?

The most important thing you need to do is consume an anti-inflammatory diet.  The principles of this diet work on the same metabolic pathways that the NSAID class of drugs does, but without the nasty side effects.  Plus, by changing your diet you get the added benefit of more energy, a better cholesterol profile and reduction in total inflammatory load.  These are things the NSAIDs could never claim to do.

How to eat an anti-inflammatory diet

There are also supplements that work quite well.  First, fish oil is a must.  It is potently anti-inflammatory and there are many studies to back up its usefulness in pain reduction.  Be sure to get a high quality fish oil.  Low quality fish oils are filled with toxins and will do more harm than good at worst and do nothing beneficial at best.

For pain reduction I recommend 6 grams (6,000 mg) per day of fish oil.  The number of capsules that will take depends on the potency of the brand you buy.  You will likely get more for your money if you buy the oil and take it by the teaspoon.

Other supplements that work quite well are the anti-inflammatory herbs such as ginger and turmeric. When taken consistently, they significantly impact pain levels.  They are also available in many products over the counter.  I always recommend, however, that one sees a health care practitioner that is trained in functional medicine before trying this on your own.  Your results will be much better if you see a doctor who can manage your care with you.

Enzymes such as bromelain are also of benefit.  Bromelain is an enzyme derived from pineapples.  It is potently anti-inflammatory.

NSAIDs are overly used and are often misused.  This, in part, leads to their problems.  If people could change their diet and use natural alternatives for pain management, heavy reliance on NSAIDs could be a thing of the past.  In my book, that would be a great thing.



Filed under Big Pharma, Diet, Public Health