If you’re over 40, you’ve probably had your cholesterol checked by your doctor.
Because 40 is when everything falls apart, right?
No, seriously, it’s a good age to start watching a certain type of cholesterol (known as low-density lipoprotein or LDL) that causes the walls of your arteries to thicken.
And if they thicken, you have less room for your blood to flow, and you could end up with dangerously high blood pressure.
But also, high levels of LDL in your blood are a key risk factor for atherosclerosis and that can lead to heart disease and even stroke.
So, your doctor has probably warned you plenty about this “bad” cholesterol. But what your doctor hasn’t warned you about is another bad kind of cholesterol that can spell double the heart trouble…
The worst form of bad cholesterol
Now, your cholesterol usually becomes a health concern if that notorious LDL number is high. But some new research has indicated that your LDL alone is likely not the problem.
There’s another type of bad cholesterol known as oxidized LDL. And if you’ve got regular old LDL and oxidized LDL floating around in your veins… you’ve got double trouble.
I’ve written a lot about free radicals, antioxidants and oxidation, so you probably know that oxidation is a bad thing. When cells are oxidized by free radicals — things like pollutants, heavy metals, unhealthy processed foods and bad habits, like smoking and drinking, bad things result. Cells age prematurely and can become mutated and cause disease.
Well it turns out that LDL cholesterol can become oxidized as well, and that means if you have high cholesterol, some of it could very well be the oxidized kind. And that’s a big problem.
How much of a problem? That’s what researchers at the University of Illinois wanted to find out…
First, they had to create some oxidized LDL in mice. And the easiest way to do that was to feed one group a high fat diet that mirrored the levels of fat, protein and carbohydrates typically found on a fast food menu. The other mice were fed a well-balanced diet.
They found that mice on the fast food diet quickly developed stiffer arteries, all the way down to the layer of endothelial cells surrounding their blood vessels. In other words, the fast food diet stiffened arteries at a cellular level.
They then applied the same concentrations of LDL and oxidized LDL to human endothelial cells in culture and took the precise same measurements. They got the same results…
LDL and oxidized LDL each caused artery thickening individually, but together, that change was amplified!
In other words, adding in oxidized LDL — like when you eat that order of fries — can fundamentally disrupt the integrity of the endothelial cells in your blood vessels, setting you up for atherosclerosis.
Researcher Manuela Ayee, said, “A very small amount of oxidized LDL dramatically changes the structure of the cell membrane for the worse.”
Protecting your arteries from atherosclerosis
Clearly, if you want to keep your arteries from stiffening, avoiding the chain of events brought on by a high fat fast food diet is your first step.
Strongly consider switching to a Mediterranean diet, chock full of olive oil and other nutritious foods that help keep your blood flowing smoothly. But don’t stop there…
Seek out foods that are antioxidant powerhouses, like blueberries, pomegranate and goji berry to fight oxidation. One of the strongest antioxidant supplements is resveratrol found in the skin of grapes. Get it daily.
Beyond that, I also recommend getting nutrients that promote healthy, elastic and pliable arteries like these:
Vitamin K2 — Promotes healthy blood flow and blood pressure and is a powerhouse when it comes to reducing calcium deposits in your arteries and reducing stiffness.
Pterostilbene — Helps block the creation of Angiotensin II — an enzyme that stiffens the walls of your blood vessels and triggers a hormone that increases the amounts of sodium and water retained by your body.
Green tea extract — Contains catechins that have been proven to reduce oxidative stress and soothe inflammation, supporting your heart health.
Grape seed extract — Activates nitric oxide in the lining of blood your vessels to keep blood platelets from sticking together and relaxes your arteries to promote healthy blood flow.
It’s now been conclusively proven that eating a high fat diet can lead to atherosclerosis and raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Break the chain of events that amplifies that danger and protect your blood vessels.