Atherosclerosis is the buildup in and on your artery walls that restricts blood flow.
If you live with atherosclerosis, you’re also living every day with the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
And if you’ve been reading my Health Kicks for any length of time, you know that’s a sensitive topic for me!
My grandmother died from a massive heart attack. Both of my great-uncles died young of heart attacks… one was 54. The other was only 48. And my mother had a stroke at age 47 and then an emergency quintuple bypass at 60.
I always say that heart attacks and strokes stalk my family.
As atherosclerosis worsens, the blood supply to your heart can become more and more restricted, your heart has to pump harder and harder and, eventually, that blood flow restriction can cause chest pain and shortness of breath. Once that blockage is complete, you’re a ticking time bomb.
Or things could go the other way…
Sometimes part of that plaque buildup simply ruptures, forming blood clots, which could land you in the hospital with either a heart attack or a stroke. That’s because if those blood clots travel and block off a blood vessel feeding your heart, you have a heart attack. If the blood vessel they block sends blood flow to your brain, you have a stroke.
Yet, no matter which way atherosclerosis steals your health… it’s still gone. It’s a lose-lose situation.
But there is a way to win…
A brand new study by scientists at Scripps Research has found a way to prevent and even reverse narrowing of the arteries.
Surprisingly, the secret they found doesn’t start in your arteries… it starts in your gut.
Peptides and a healthy gut microbiome
More and more research over the past two decades has proven a connection between gut health and just about every other organ and system in your body, including your heart. It has also proven that when the microbiome goes bad, disease follows close behind.
So, the Scripps researchers had a big leg up with knowing where to start. But of course, they still had a long way to go.
For the study, the team set out to determine whether or not improving the health of the microbiome affected narrowing of the arteries.
To do this, they fed mice compounds called peptides that enhance gut health. Peptides are natural compounds that our cells use to regulate our gut microbe populations — basically slowing the growth of bad bacteria and allowing the good to flourish.
And guess what…
They found that when the microbiomes of mice were remodeled to a healthier state, their cholesterol levels went down and their arteries became healthier.
They discovered that having a healthy gut microbiome strongly inhibits the thickened-artery condition known as atherosclerosis and:
- Reduced blood levels of cholesterol by approximately 36 percent in just two weeks
- Reduced atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries by approximately 40 percent after 10 weeks
Simply improving the mice’s gut health improved atherosclerosis and cholesterol by more than a third!
Grab your own gut health
Okay, I know what you’re thinking…
That’s great and all, but I don’t have those peptides that the scientists used to make such a big change in gut and artery health.
To that I say, maybe not… but that’s alright.
Isolated peptides formed in a lab aren’t the only way to shift your microbiome to the healthy range.
A few easy ways to improve your gut health naturally include:
#1 — Add probiotics
You’ve probably already heard about probiotics and how they can help you stay gut healthy. But if not, here’s a quick reminder of how they work…
Probiotics are the “good” or beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. When the good bacteria outweigh the bad, your gut microbiome is in good shape to keep the rest of you in good shape.
You can get your probiotics through foods like yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut. You can also get them through an easy-to-take supplement.
#2 — Eat less sugar
A diet high in sugar (and even artificial sweeteners) has been shown to encourage the growth of bad bacteria, leading to gut dysbiosis or an imbalance of beneficial to bad bacteria.
Be sure to limit sweetened foods and drinks and look for hidden sources of sugar since you’ll find it lurking in things you might never think, like ketchup.
#3 — Take antibiotics only as necessary
While antibiotics kill off dangerous bacteria, they can also wipe out your good flora in the process.
Ask your doctor about alternatives to antibiotics whenever possible.
#4 — Get some rest
Irregular or disturbed sleep has the power to tip the balance of your gut microbiome to the dark side.
This makes establishing good sleep habits, like waking up and going to bed at the same time each day, vital to the health of your gut microbiome and your arteries.
Remember, your gut health and your artery health go hand-in-hand… take steps now to get gut healthy so you can stay heart healthy.