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Recognizing Causes of Chronic Illness
Part 2: Preventing Cardiovascular Disease
(This post was supposed to cover heart, metabolic, cancer, and other disease prevention, but heart health has already taken up 2000 words, so it will be further broken up - follow ups will be over the next couple months as people probably want to hear other things than preventing chronic illness).
Last week we went over the metrics and recognizing different aspects of chronic illness.
This post we are going to go more detailed into prevention techniques and specific protocols to improve our chances of never getting a chronic illness and remedy the most common issues.
We need to again look at the most common issues and break those down into specific root causes.
When we think of things like heart disease, then we can deduct down to aspects like lipid profile, blood pressure, red blood cell count, etc. and specific remedies that can address those issues.
Then we also have precautions we can take to greatly reduce our risk of other chronic illness—things like cancer—which we can use things like certain antioxidants (inositol comes to mind here) to slash our risk of ever developing an issue.
In reality, we can’t guarantee or prevent everything. Nature and genetics unfortunately win at the end of the day. However, what we can do is to stack our deck in a way that gives us the best odds.
Life has always been a gamble.
We will start here as this is the leading cause of preventable death and chronic illness.
This can have a plethora of causes, but the ones in our control are going to be lipid profile, blood pressure, and red blood cell count.
First thing we MUST do is get bloodwork done and identify any issues you might have. You simply won’t know until you test it, and heart disease is a silent killer.
If you do have issues, you have to then look for your course of action. We are going to go over the most common.
Before I go into these, this is not medical advice nor should you just assume this will cure your issues. I am simply providing solutions to issues, call them mild or moderate, if you’re in urgent, life threatening shape you MUST work with a true medical professional.
This is meant to serve as preventative means and act as a protocol to improve your health.
Elevated lipids greatly increase your risk of heart disease. Having too many lipids/triglycerides in your blood will cause build up of plaque in your arteries.
When this happens we are at HUGE risk for blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
The numbers you are going to want to monitor are:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
Within these, we have general ranges we want to be within, though there are mixed thoughts on LDL levels and whether they actually increase your risk for heart disease.
This is your overall cholesterol level — the combination of LDL-C, VLDL-C and HDL-C.
The number range you want to be in for this is under 200 mg/dl.
Anything higher than this is becoming an issue.
Here are the composite ranges for Total Cholesterol:
Normal: Less than 200 mg/dL
Borderline high: 200 to 239 mg/dL
High: At or above 240 mg/dL
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
When we reference bad cholesterol, this is what we are talking about. LDL builds up in the blood vessels and can increase our risk of cardiovascular disease.
The number range you want to be in for this is under 100 mg/dL. (For diabetics under 70 mg/dL).
Again, anything higher than this can cause problems.
Here are the composite ranges for LDL:
Optimal: Less than 100 mg/dL (This is the goal for people with diabetes or heart disease.)
Near optimal: 100 to 129 mg/dL
Borderline high: 130 to 159 mg/dL
High: 160 to 189 mg/dL
Very high: 190 mg/dL and higher
Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)
This type of cholesterol can indicate an abnormal lipid metabolism - it is typically found in low amounts when your blood sample is a fasted sample (mostly comes from your most recent meal). It also contains the highest level of triglycerides among our Total Cholesterol levels.
VLDL is best lowered by lowering triglycerides.
2 mg/dL to 30 mg/dL is considered “normal” for this type of cholesterol.
Anything higher can lead to a plethora of issues including the development of atherosclerosis which in turn can lead to a stroke or heart disease.
It also risks forming non-alcoholic-related fatty liver disease.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
When we reference good cholesterol, this is what we are talking about. It functions to decrease the LDL buildup in your blood vessels.
The number range you want to be in for this is above 60 mg/dL.
This is just the scientific term for the fat from foods we eat. Elevated levels of triglycerides can cause and are typically associated with cardiovascular disease and pancreatic inflammation.
The number range you want to be in for this is under 150 mg/dL.
Here are the composite ranges for Triglycerides:
Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL
Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dL
High: 200 to 499 mg/dL
Very high: Above 500 mg/dL
Again, can’t reiterate this enough, if the issue is acute and severe, you will need medical intervention; however, if you have not reached that point, you have options.
Again, I won’t harp on this, we already know, but exercise, proper diet, and quality sleep are prerequisites to any advice/suggestions I will make.
Those will solve 90% of all issues.
When it comes to lipids we have a few supplements that can make the world’s difference and help us avoid statins.
Citrus Bergamot is HUGE in improving lipid profile, and if you’ve followed me for any amount of time at all you know I scream about this until my face turns blue.
It works, extremely well.
Citrus Bergamot improves overall lipid profile by reducing what we don’t want (LDL, total cholesterol, triglycerides) and increasing what we do want (HDL).
When taken with fish/krill oil the effects are even more apparent (due to the heart benefits of omega-3 fatty acids), so pairing these 2 together is always a good idea to improve lipids.
Garlic also has positive effects on our lipid profiles and it is way too easy to add some cloves to your food. This does NOT mean eat all the garlic bread at Olive Garden, but incorporating some raw garlic into your diet can help.
If you do have to take a statin for severe lipid issues, it’s pretty crucial to supplement CoQ10 as statins will deplete the CoQ10 within the body. CoQ10 is crucial to heart health.
Curcumin is another supplement that is excellent for heart health and is a potent anti-inflammatory. Curcumin has multiple health applications and improving lipid profile is simply 1 of many functions it has to improve health.
Berberine is a supplement that I also mention a lot because not only does it improve insulin sensitivity, it also can have a very positive effect on lipid profile by lowering total and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL.
Green Tea will also give us benefits to our lipid profile, again, along with a plethora of heart (and other areas) benefits, to include lower blood pressure.
With anything for heart health, you need to consider Vitamin K2 as it is very beneficial to heart health and works synergistically with a lot of the things listed here.
Blood pressure is measured in mm Hg (millimeters of Mercury).
The only way to know whether your Blood Pressure is normal or high is to measure it.
High blood pressure is usually developed overtime due to lifestyle - not enough exercise, poor diet choices, smoking, etc. Other health conditions such as diabetes can also affect blood pressure.
How We Measure It
We have two numbers that measure our blood pressure:
Systolic Blood Pressure - this is the top number measured and indicates how much pressure is exerted against the artery walls as our heart beats.
In most cases, this number rises steadily as we age. This is typically due to long-term buildup of plaque and an increase of stiffness of arteries which increases risk of vascular and/or cardiac disease.
Diastolic Blood Pressure - this is the bottom number measured and indicates how much pressure is exerted against the artery walls as our heart is at rest between beats.
Types of Blood Pressure
There are five categories of blood pressure:
Normal - systolic and diastolic is less than 120/80 mm Hg
Elevated - systolic higher than 120-129 mm Hg and diastolic less than 80 mm Hg
Hypertension Stage I (High BP) - systolic higher than 130-139 mm Hg or diastolic is higher than 80-89 mm Hg
Hypertension Stage II (High BP)- systolic higher than 140 mm Hg or diastolic 90 mm Hg or higher
Hypertensive Crisis - systolic higher than 180 mm Hg and/or diastolic is higher than 120 mm Hg
Risks Associated with High Blood Pressure
How To Mitigate High Blood Pressure
These should be obvious, but we aren’t always perfect. The best way to mitigate high blood pressure is to make healthy lifestyle choices, some of these include:
Consistent exercise - at least 150 minutes a week, though I recommend more activity than this (daily walks, lifting 3-5x a week, etc).
Maintain a healthy weight—higher body fat % increases your blood pressure - (more body for the heart to pump blood to).
Limiting alcohol (or cutting it out completely).
Choosing healthier food - avoid processed foods.
Quit Smoking (if you do that).
Stress Management - there are many protocols that can help us manage stress.
*If these don’t work for you, consult a doctor.*
Now onto more specific fixes after we have taken care of the major lifestyle factors.
When it comes to blood pressure, increasing circulation is key. This might sound counterproductive, but increasing circulation is caused by vasodilation—the widening of blood vessels.
When the blood vessels are relaxed and widened, there is physically less pressure being applied to them.
Think about a kinked hose vs an unkinked hose. The unkinked hose is going to have less force and pressure coming out of it. This also sounds counterproductive but anyone who has seen it happen knows that a kinked hose is how you make a makeshift “power washer”.
So that's our focus here, vasodilation and the relaxing of our blood vessels.
We first can look at very basic things:
Beet Root Extract
These are all very basic, easy-to-get supplements that will help decrease blood pressure via vasodilation.
We also have other factors that are going to influence blood pressure, a big one of these being water retention.
Water retention can cause your body to work harder to pump blood, and thus increase blood pressure.
For this reason, we can take certain supplements that will safely help us reduce the amount of water we hold. Those are:
Astragalus (great for kidney function)
Pycnogenol (again great for kidneys)
Potassium rich foods (be careful on supplementing)
Vitamin C (has mild diuretic effects)
Beyond this, there is a single product that is a natural blend of herbs and plants that has been a staple in the bodybuilding community—where blood pressure is a serious issue due to drug intake and massive size—to keep blood pressure in check.
This supplement is called “Carditone” and it can be used, as a last result, if these other supplements do not help reduce blood pressure.
Start with half a dose and adjust based on biofeedback by monitoring your blood pressure throughout the day.
Again, if levels are severe, or this doesn’t work, consult a doctor as a beta blocker might be what you absolutely need in the moment.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
The final metric of heart health we will look at is your total red blood cell count. Within this we have multiple markers we need to keep in mind to prevent or solve some health issues.
Markers - The Number Ranges Considered Normal
Hemoglobin normal range:
Male ages 15+ should be within these numbers: 13.0 - 17.0 g/dL
Females ages 15+ should be within these numbers: 11.5 - 15.5 g/dL
Hematocrit normal range:
Males should be within these percentages: 41 - 50%
Females should be within these percentages: 36 - 44%
Platelet Count normal range:
Adults should be within these numbers: 150,000 - 400,000/mL
White blood cell (WBC) normal range:
Adults should be within these numbers: 5,000-10,000/mL
What CBC Determines
CBC consists of various tests to measure your Red Blood Cells (RBCs - carry oxygen throughout body), White Blood Cells (WBCs - immune system and fight infection) and platelets (cells that help our bodies clot).
Within a CBC test, Total CBC and its parts will be measured, counted and evaluated through these characteristics:
CBC without differential - total number of WBCs counted.
CBC with differential - this test observes how many of each kind of WBCs you have (we have 5 different types to differentiate from - granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, & basophils) monocytes, and lymphocytes (T & B cells)).
Hemoglobin - this will measure your hemoglobin / the protein present in RBCs.
Hematocrit describes the concentration of RBCs in your blood.
CBC tests tell us a number of things:
The total number of RBC or erythrocytes, WBC or leukocytes, and platelets present in our body.
The size and shape of our blood cells.
The number of new blood cells our bodies are producing.
Some things CBCs can detect:
Vitamin / Mineral deficiencies
Cancers like lymphoma or leukemia
Anemia (caused by reduction of hemoglobin or low RBC)
Argranulocytosis (extremely low count of a WBC - granulocytes).
Thalassemias (less hemoglobin and low RBC).
Sickle Cell Anemia (RBC sickle-shaped or broken down)
Infections, especially those that cause low or high WBC.
Bone Marrow disorders
Side effects from medications
Fixing Common CBC Issues
This could evolve into an entire post alone on blood count, things like cancer, HIV, etc.
That is extremely out of the range of what we are going to talk about… instead we are going over common, preventable issues you will see on bloodwork.
The first one that will stick out the most is hematocrit, which can present issues if both too high or too low. The main issue we will see is it being too high which greatly increases our risk for blood clots.
If you are on TRT, pay attention to this. Athletes in general will have higher hematocrit.
While donating blood does temporarily lower hematocrit, there is evidence that repeated phlebotomy can actually increase red blood cell count over time.
So while this is a great solution for temporary, acute issues, long term we need to attack the root of the issue.
For this we want to look at things known as iron chelators.. These effectively reduce the absorption of iron, and thus lower hematocrit.
Good iron chelators are:
Green Tea Extract
And, unfortunately, if you tend to run around with hematocrit in the 50’s, you probably need to reduce red meat consumption.
Diet cannot be “one size fits all”, and even though you see posts about the health benefits of carnivore, keto, etc. if you are genetically prone to thicker blood/higher iron, this lifestyle could kill you.
Now, if your hematocrit/iron is low, then you are going to want more iron in your diet. Then red meat becomes your friend and you need more.
If your hematocrit is low, consider vitamin B12 and folate as this can be caused by a deficiency in these vitamins.
Another issue, especially surrounding the current landscape of issues I will not name, is blood clotting.
Managing your lipids is one thing and will help, but we can attack and avoid issues further by taking advantage of a supplement called nattokinase.
Nattokinase has been shown to improve deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and Superficial vein thrombosis (SVT) quite substaintilly1.
It is also worth being tested for Factor V Leiden and Prothrombin disorders as a large amount of the population is running around with these 2 (if not both) and could take action to prevent blood clots from ever becoming an issue.
There are numbers of other steps we can take here, especially things like antioxidants, that we will go over in other articles specifically about their applications to our health and preventative measures.
Putting It All Together
I am actually out of space for a substack email or else I could’ve gone into even more detail.
This post is important because you get one heart, and when the damage is done, it is extremely hard to restore normal health again.
I cannot place more emphasis on the importance of bloodwork and EKG’s as you cannot solve and identify issues if you have no idea they are happening.
You will not be able to prevent all issues, some are genetic and simply out of our hands, but with that being said, we can take steps to avoid most issues and improving issues we might have.
This post was not meant to serve as a diagnosis or medical advice, and you should not blindly follow anything it says—this serves as education only to help you better understand some of the solutions and things in your control.
If you have something like low iron, it would make zero sense to take an iron chelator—use common sense.
If you can control your lipids, blood pressure, and your complete blood count, you will be fighting most of the battle when it comes to heart health.
Please do not neglect your heart, it is the single failure point for a lot of people’s health and ultimately leads to an unnecessary, premature death.
Tomorrow on the Paid Substack, we are going over what to do if you want to Maximize Fitness Results—meaning you want to make fitness your number 1 priority, or even take the steps to make it your career.
Typically we look at this from an efficiency manner—meaning how can we maximize our time and fitness while working and focusing on other priorities in life?
This post is the opposite, and even if you don’t want to make it your absolute top priority, there will be a lot to take away from the post that can help you reach whatever fitness result you want.
If this sounds like you, upgrade today from free to paid for only $5 a month—you’ll have gotten that back in value from your first paid post.
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This is not Legal, Medical, or Financial advice. Please consult a medical professional before starting any workout program, diet plan, or supplement protocol. These are opinions from a Cartoon Ox.