Now that we are on the other side of the holidays, we are starting to see the posts about how much weight people gained. It’s a little scary (For the record, we did not gain any weight and we did not feel deprived). It also means that people (hopefully you) are more open to hearing about how to make better choices going forward.
Did you know that the three days of the year you are most likely to suffer a heart attack are Dec 25, Dec 26 and Jan 1? People joke about “heart attack on a plate” but it seems it’s true. Since you’ve survived those three scary days, let’s talk about how your food choices affect the inner workings of your circulatory system (that’s how your blood flows through your body and keeps you alive and kicking).
First a bit of how your body works (It’s easy. You won’t get lost. I promise.)
All of your blood vessels are lined with a single layer of cells (called the endothelium) that is designed to keep blood flowing nicely. Think of it kinda like Teflon for your pipes. When we are young and healthy nothing sticks and blood flow is great. But over a lifetime of eating fat and cholesterol-rich meals of milk, eggs and meat, our Teflon starts to wear out.
As it wears out, particles start to stick. In an effort to protect you, your body pushes the sticky stuff behind your Teflon wall (remember, it’s only one cell thick). You can think about it like a pimple inside your blood vessel (Nasty I know. But it’s the truth).
Now your blood is having to flow around this bulge. Of course, if your blood is full of fat and cholesterol, a bulge is a great place for it to continue to stick; making the problem worse.
The friction of the blood flowing around the bulge covered by a weakening Teflon can cause the pimple to burst, dumping all the gross stuff into the blood. Your body responds the only way it knows how to an invader, clotting blood around it. Unfortunately, that clot blocks for flow of blood and causes a heart attack (or a stroke if it’s in the brain).
Now you know the science of a heart attack. Let’s talk about what weakens our Teflon and how we can make it stronger.
Let’s say you decide to have a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich (or something similar) for breakfast. This is a high-fat, high-cholesterol, low-nutrient meal. For the next four hours your blood is going to be flooded with fat. Your body is going to be working double time to remove it, mostly by sticking it on your hips (it’s really easy to turn the fat you eat into the fat you wear).
But just when your body thinks it’s getting ahead of the game, lunch rolls around. If you eat like most Americans, it’s another animal product-based meal (cold cuts with mayo, grilled chicken, a burger – it doesn’t matter it’s all fatty). Another four hours of your body trying to clear the blood.
Snacks, dinner, dessert – is there ever more than four hours between fat being dumped into your system? In all likelihood, no.
If you were to draw blood from someone who just ate a meal like I described, it would be visibly cloudy with fat. And all this time your Teflon is under attack. The more fat and cholesterol you ingest in one sitting and over the course of several days without a break, the bigger the strain.
When you think about the rich foods, cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, etc, etc, etc, it’s no wonder heart attacks peak over the holidays.
How to Heart Attack-Proof Yourself
First and foremost – STOP DUMPING FAT INTO YOUR SYSTEM THREE TIMES A DAY (Yes shouty capitals. It’s that important).
Your fat intake should be only about 10% of your total calories. In the US “lean” meat is up to 30% fat. Obviously, that’s a problem. Switch out the meat for starch or a grain (if you are afraid of carbs check out the post Why Carbs are GOOD for You). We like beans, sweet potatoes and quinoa.
Next, eat some green things (not cooked in butter) for Pete sake! Your mother told you veggies were good for you and she didn’t even know that your blood vessels have a Teflon-like layer inside them. Dark greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc) help your body make nitric oxide which keeps your Teflon strong. Cruciferous veggies are good too (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, etc).
One meal might not kill you but a string of “it’s just one meal” will. The 610,000 people a year who die of a heart attack in the US don’t have a chance to make changes. If you haven’t had a heart attack yet, or have survived one, don’t keep eating the food that is killing 1671 people a day. You are smarter than that. I know you are.
If you are ready to heart attack proof your diet but feel overwhelmed with where to start, book a Jump Start Consultation with Dr Robyn. Your Teflon layer will thank you.
Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at Health@RnRJourney.com.