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Jonny Bowden, PhD, is a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health, and best-selling author of seven books including “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth”, “Living Low Carb:[…]

Contrary to popular knowledge, cutting cholesterol is not the best way to protect yourself from America’s leading cause of death. From reducing inflammation to acknowledging the implications of the “Rosetta Phenomenon,” Jonny Bowden outlines the five most effective things you can do to keep your heart strong.

Question: What are the five most effective techniques for preventing heart disease?

Jonny Bowden: If I had to pick five strategies to reduce the risk of heart disease, I’m going to start with one that every conventional doctor in America that hears this is going to roll their eyes. But all the doctors that I work with, the cutting edge people are going to be nodding their heads. And here’s the first one. Stop worrying about cholesterol. Cholesterol does not cause heart disease. Cholesterol is a bad predictor of heart disease. Fully half the people with elevated cholesterol have perfectly normal hearts and half the people who get heart attacks have normal cholesterol. It’s a lousy predictor, it’s a $20 billion a year industry. We’re focused on the wrong thing.

Inflammation, number one with a bullet in terms of strategies that will help prevent the risk of heart disease is to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is the key here. Omega 3’s, the number one anti-inflammatory compound on the planet. That’s why even orthodox medical organizations have you eat fish twice a week. I would go further, I would say eat fish more often than twice a week and take Omega 3 supplements. These are very anti-inflammatory. Even cholesterol is not a problem until it becomes oxidized and until it becomes damaged. And so I think we’ve way, way over-concentrated on cholesterol and way under concentrated on real risk factors, like inflammation. So, that would be number one with a bullet.

The second would be to exercise every day. Even 30 minutes a day of walking, which will not make you look like Mr. Olympia, it’s not necessarily going to create a weight loss, but it has been shown to completely reduced – well not completely reduce, but significantly reduce the risk from dying from heart disease. It also has been shown to actually grow new brain cells; the gray matter of the brain actually gets larger in volume. So, walking 30 minutes a day would be top strategy for reducing the risk of heart disease.

Number three would be eating a lower sugar diet. Less calories, less sugar, less processed carbohydrates, more vegetables, fruits, proteins, fat, and I say good fat. My definition of good fat is not just any fat that is not saturated because there’s plenty of very healthy saturated fats. Non transfats, non fried foods. So, any of the mono unsaturated fats, any of the Omega 3’s, some saturated fats from whole foods like eggs, all of these things are part of a good diet that can certainly reduce heart disease but particularly when calories can be cut back a little, like we talked about earlier.

Number four, reduce stress. Stress contributes to not only to aging in general, but certainly is a contributory factor in heart disease and to the extent that you can reduce it, you have added to your arsenal of things that can reduce heart disease. Let me give you an example of that. It’s a fabulous study called “The Rosette Phenomenon.” And this was done in the early part of the 20th century. It’s an area in Pennsylvania where the people had probably the greatest risk for heart disease that anybody had ever seen. They were smokers; they worked in the mines, in areas where the most stressful conditions and breathing god knows what. They smoked, they ate a terrible diet, and doctors observed that they had one of the lowest rates of heart disease anybody had ever seen. It’s certainly not what you would predict from their risk factors. How did this happen? How did this phenomenon, now known as The Rosetta Phenomena happen.

And what they found were, these were Italian immigrants who were very close knit. They stayed in the same community, they had dinner together, they had community events together, they were connected to the people in their communities, and this was such a powerful anti-aging and anti-heart disease strategy that it actually tended to mitigate these enormous risk factors in their diet and their lifestyle. That’s how important lowering stress is, and you can do that, again, not just with the deep breathing, but by community connections; outreach, doing things for others, making gratitude lists, deep breathing, thinking about joyous things, pursuing your bliss. All of that stuff would be one of the most powerful strategies I can think of to reduce the risk of heart disease.

And probably number five would be. Take the right supplements. Eat the right food and take the right supplements. A lot of supplements are very heart healthy. Coenzyme Q10, which by the way is depleted enormously by the number one drug that people are on in this country for heart disease which is statin drugs. They eat up CoQ10, which is one of the most important nutrients for the heart. Vitamin D, and again Omega 3’s, and that’s probably number one with a bullet.

It’s a fabulous strategy. So, between reducing inflammation, exercising every day, a lower sugar diet, reducing stress, and taking the right supplements I think is a very powerful strategy for reducing heart disease.