Do you know what the No.1 killer that causes the death of about 18 million people around the world in a year is?
Cardiovascular disease! In Cambodia, about 25% of the deaths were due to cardiovascular disease in 2016, it’s been increasing, as about 15% in 1996.
What is cardiovascular disease?
“Cardiovascular disease is the term for all types of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease (clogged arteries), which can cause heart attacks, stroke, congenital heart defects and peripheral artery disease." (nhlbi.nih.gov)
How does this occur?
As our diet has been transformed to more convenient, fast food diet, plaque accumulates inside the coronary arteries, and supply it with oxygen-rich blood. This buildup of plaque is made out of cholesterol and other substances, and it builds up within the inner walls of the blood vessels. This is called clogged arteries, and narrows the natural flow of oxygen-rich blood. This process occurs slowly over time, and if the plaque leads to blood clots, the blockage of blood flow can cause a heart attack.
So, it’s best to reduce cholesterol if you want to reduce the risk of plaque building up in your blood vessels, and yes, reducing the risk is possible! We can’t just brush our vessels to clear it off like brushing our teeth with toothbrush or floss, we should avoid what cause the disease.
To reduce the so-called “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, you need to drastically reduce your intake of :
Trans fat – Many foods at supermarkets and restaurants contain trans fats to enhance taste and extend shelf life. However, trans fat increase your risk for heart disease and many other chronic diseases. The foods contain trans fat include; processed foods such as cakes, cookies, candies, doughnuts, pizza, fried food, margarine etc. and from meat and dairy.
Saturated fat – Despite that saturated fat has been associated with increased risk of heart disease, some saturated fats may have health benefit. So you want to limit the intake of saturated fat, not eliminate completely. Saturated fat is found mainly in animal products and junk food, processed meats, many desserts, whip cream, palm oil, cheese, etc.
Is it cholesterol or inflammatory that cause heart disease?
However, cholesterol is important and our bodies make cholesterol too. The important role of cholesterol is that it comes to help heal the inflammation, which leads to the controversial topic whether the cholesterol or inflammation that is causing the disease. Inflammation may be a more important indicator of heart disease risk than high LDL cholesterol levels, so what are the causes of inflammation?
Stress – it’s now been recognized that mental and emotional stress can cause inflammation, not only physical damages. Constant stress leads to the leaky gut, which causes poor absorbtion of important nutrients, and many problems to your body.
Processed sugar – sugary sweets and drinks such as cakes, cookies and soda, and refined carbs such as white bread spike blood sugar levels, leading to increased inflammation.
Saturated fat – again! See above.
Trans fat – again! See above.
It seems obvious that eating too much processed foods and added sugar can increase the risk of heart disease, due to higher LDL cholesterol levels and inflammation. Luckily, we have easy access to healthier foods such as vegetables and fruits here in Cambodia. Eat these real food more, and stay healthy!