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What’s Good for the Heart is Good for the Brain

Jan. 9, 2014|179 views

What’s Good for the Heart is Good for the Brain

By now everyone knows that blood cholesterol levels are linked to the risk of heart disease. People with high levels of “bad” LDL-cholesterol are encouraged to lower their levels to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. More recently, doctors have begun to emphasize the importance, too, of higher levels of “good” HDL-cholesterol. This beneficial form of cholesterol is mostly influenced by exercise and genetics.

Experts used to think we could control bad cholesterol levels by limiting dietary intake of cholesterol-rich foods. But cholesterol is made in the body, and dietary cholesterol accounts for relatively little of the total balance of a person’s cholesterol. Triglycerides are also important. These chemicals are directly related to one’s intake of simple carbohydrates, so it’s actually easier to control one’s triglyceride levels through diet (that is, cutting down on carbs) than it is to lower cholesterol levels through the diet.

Most media reports fail to mention, though, that a healthful, whole foods diet featuring plenty of fruits and vegetables can positively impact one’s heart disease risk factors by providing natural antioxidants and other plant compounds that either remove cholesterol from the bloodstream, or keep it from turning against you. That’s because LDL is only problematic when it becomes oxidized. And it only becomes oxidized when a person is in a state of oxidative stress.

That’s less likely to happen if you’re consuming lots of antioxidant-rich foods. Grapes and berries are particularly good at reducing oxidative stress, for example, but many fruits and vegetables supply these beneficial compounds.

And here’s an added benefit: new research suggests that keeping your oxidized LDL-cholesterol in check also means that you’ll be less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The same processes that lead to atherosclerosis, blood vessel plaque formation, and heart disease are also linked to an increased risk of developing the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of the mind-robbing illness.

Bruce Reed, Sylvia Villeneuve, Wendy Mack, Charles DeCarli, Helena C. Chui, William Jagust. Associations Between Serum Cholesterol Levels and Cerebral Amyloidosis. JAMA Neurology, 2013; DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.5390healthy-body-scale-10

 

Tags:  antioxidant, health tips
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