Heart Health 101

Heart Health 101

Suppressing symptoms with pharmaceuticals to treat high blood pressure or cholesterol means missing the investigation as to why these are high in the first place.


We know that blood sugar issues and metabolic syndrome contribute to heart disease. In fact there are multiple factors that affect heart health and its worth looking into because often these can be treated and pharmaceuticals can be avoided along with the side effects.

Low cholesterol is known to contribute to disease and death in those with brain disorders and with mental health problems. Low levels are also dangerous for women and the elderly but we rarely hear about this. Conventional medicine is still treating cholesterol as though it is the problem when we know it is not. This obviously leads to more problems. 

Cholesterol is carried on lipoproteins. Science used to believe that it was the concentration of cholesterol on these particles that led to CVD but recent studies have disproven this. Damage to arterial walls occurs not by the cholesterol carried in these particles but by there being too many particles in the blood at once particularly LDL particles.

Those who are at highest risk of heart disease may have normal or low cholesterol but high LDL particles. If one of these people only has their cholesterol tested it may seem that they are in the clear. Those with high LDL-C but low LDL-P are still given statins to lower cholesterol and these drugs have some of the worst side effects.

Our body needs a certain amount of cholesterol. LDL-P carry both cholesterol and triglycerides. When there are more trigycerides then there is less room to carry cholesterol and so more LDL-P are produced. Checking triglyceride levels is crucial as is looking at thyroid health as this can also increase the LDL-P. Thyroid hormone increases LDL receptors. It is also involved with cholesterol production in the liver and cholesterol absorption in the intestines.

Speaking of intestines would you be surprised if I told you there is a link between the markers we’ve been talking about and gut infections? Cholesterol, LDL-P, tryglycerides and low HDL are all linked with H. Pylori infection to name one culprit. In fact treating the gut can result in lowered LDL-P with no other interventions.

Soluable Fiber: Plant Food

Want to improve your life span and quality of life? Soluable fiber increases clearance of LDL, improves insulin sensitivity and binds to cholesterol. It is found in most root veggies, some that grow above ground and in some fruit.

Healthy Fats and Good Chocolate

Macadamia nuts, almonds and olive oil provide excellent sources of good monounsaturated fat. Dark chocolate lowers blood sugar and LDL. It also improves insulin sensitivity.

CoQ10 and Polyphenols

Organ meats and vegetables have plentiful anti-oxidants. They along with polyphenols are protective. Eating a range of colorful vegetables, spices and teas are provides enough and supplementing from reputable companies is also good.

Fish is better than Statins?

Once study showed that eating cold water fatty fish was more effective at reducing death than Statin drugs. The benefits of consuming enough EPA, DHA and long chain omega 3 fats has several benefits to cardiovascular health. Keep in mind that recent studies show that fish is better than fish oil.

Sleep and Move

Of course having fun, feeling connected and enjoying life are crucial for heart health. Sleep duration needs to be between 7-9 hours per night for adults. College age, adolescents and children require more sleep. Devices have no place in the bedroom as the light exposure interferes with the suprachiastmic mechanism in the brain and is disruptive to deep sleep cycling.

What is the Real Point of Meditation?

What is the Real Point of Meditation?

What is Mindfulness really?

What strikes me as I emerge from another week of meditation retreat is the fundamental shift I witnessed in both myself and the others who committed to the journey. This transformation is unique. I see people physically change and become more themselves. What is happening and is this mindfulness?

Relaxation and Stability

Mindfulness is a word that is being used a lot these days. Usually it is referring to what occurs in the first step of meditation. This step brings about relaxation and creates stability. It involves focusing on one thing like the breath entering and exiting the body. When we are calm we are able to witness our thoughts and begin to see how much power we give them. This is an important first step. A lot gets lost if we stop here.


Meditation is an effective tool for lowering cortisol.  The amount of medical research on mindfulness and meditation is impressive.  Both topics receive nearly 5000 hits each in PubMed.  Nearly all is focused on step one of meditation. So what’s step two?

Once a certain amount of stability has been established our lives begin to show up full force. Its as though the volume gets turned up and our capacity to meet it grows.   I like to think about this in terms of human development. Each stage creates the foundation for the next. As we grow we reach a point that is beyond our reach and get destabilized. With meditation we have tools to work with this without shutting it down and thereby allowing growth to continue.

People change quickly when they meditate in a way that is not just about relaxation and certainly the opposite of suppressing life. Meditation provokes life to come at us full tilt. It increases our capacity to include everything especially those parts that we previously were not able to look at.

Growing Wings

Ego is a cocoon. Our DNA is wired so that we can grow beyond this self-centred way of being. The caterpillar becomes the butterfly because this is what is meant to happen.  As humans we need to train because we are easily distracted from what wants to emerge in us.

Learning to relax into the intensity of life is the real point of meditation. What comes through as we practice is an innate intelligence, a warmth and generosity. These qualities are what naturally arise because they are who we really are. It’s a natural part of human development for them to express.  It brings about joy and happiness.

Meditation retreat is by far the most important thing on my to-do list. I attribute the major growth spurts of my life to meditation.   Its not because these were on an agenda I made up. Life was able to come through more strongly because meditation gives life room to happen. Without practice our minds tend to manipulate, take over and even destroy the beauty that just is who we are.

What Actually Works for Stress

What Actually Works for Stress

Recently a friend reminded me that lowering expectations can increase happiness. “Let good by enough. Striving for perfect destroys the good.”

Lying down with my son at night I’ve had concerning sensations in my chest I’ve never experienced before.  Studying medicine often leads to feeling the body in new ways.  Chest pain on the wake of studying stress and cardiovascular health makes sense.

Heart Rate and Stress

On days when stress is higher your heart rate will have less variability. On these days it would be ideal to take it easy, exercise in a low impact way and do less overall.  By relaxing into what is happening physiologically we can regulate to a place of more variability.  A couple aps to track your heart rate are ithlete or BioForce.

Boundaries Create Joy

Reducing overall perceived stress means knowing yourself and your limits.  Saying “no” is one of the best ways to lower psychological and emotional stress.  Limiting time with people who require more than we have to give is helpful and that includes in the media.

Studies show that successful people also limit their to-do list to ONE thing a day.  If you can ensure that the one thing you devote yourself to is in line with your purpose and passion you are likely to experience all the benefits of good stress.

Good stress has a positive impact on our body. New research indicates that how we interpret sensation changes its effect physically.  That feeling I had in my heart could mean I’m not well or it could mean I need to slow down a little.

When total stress becomes more than we can handle its time to put ourself first. This is the opposite of being selfish because in the end it makes us a better parent, partner and better at whatever else we offer the world.

Meditation is Magic

Mindfulness is studied more than anything else.  I’ve mentioned this before and will continue talking about it.  It is by far the most transformative force I’ve witnessed both in myself and in others.  We know it is good for the heart (1), blood pressure(2), inflammation(3) and sleep (4).

Down time and reflection can help us reframe situations and accept what we can’t change. Cultivating empathy and gratitude also increase happiness.  An eight week course in mindfulness has proven to be as effective as a new drug for insomnia.  This highlights the power of empathy, social connection and real rest.

Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Yoga

Qi Gong lowers blood pressure, inflammatory cytokines and cortisol. It improves mood, cancer treatment, quality of life and ability to handle stress.

Tai Chi helps with hyper reactivity and focus.  It improves several markers of well-being and overall health.

Yoga improves blood sugar regulation in diabetics. It reduces stress and inflammation particularly those with irritable bowel disease.

Biofeedback help patients influence their autonomic nervous system.

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11595248
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18311126
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25537522
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25686304


10% OFF

Thank you for joining Amber Wood Health!