Weekly Health Update Week Of: Monday, October 5th, 2015

Want a Quick, Easy, and Cheap Way to Decrease Your Risk for Heart Attack and Stroke?


Do you want the healthiest heart possible? You probably do. Unfortunately, most people do very little to improve their heart health until it is already too late.

That is mainly because, even though heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States, the first OBVIOUS symptom of heart disease for most people is usually a heart attack!

Well, if there was something very simple, easy, and inexpensive you could do that could probably decrease your risk for having a heart attack, would you want to know about it?

And if it was really so easy, would you start doing it immediately? If so, then you are going to love this. Here is why…

The “Heart Healthy” Diet

Healthcare professionals who are up on the current research know that the Mediterranean diet is “heart healthy” and has been shown to reduce an individual's risk for heart attack and stroke.

According to The Mayo Clinic, “Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. In fact, an analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults after following a Mediterranean diet were associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.”

Here are the basics of the Mediterranean diet:

  • Eat primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
  • Replace butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil.
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
  • Limit eating red meat to no more than a few times a month.
  • Eat fish and poultry at least twice a week.
  • Drink red wine in moderation (optional).

A major component of the Mediterranean diet is polyphenol-rich olive oil, but you have to be careful when you go to the store. This is NOT the olive oil you are probably buying from your local supermarket – the type of olive oil with a light taste found in many American kitchens. The type of olive oil you want is the green kind that has a lot of flavor. This “good” olive oil is artisanal, fresh pressed extra virgin from orchards in Greece, Spain, Italy, Southern France, and Portugal.

You see, the type of fats found in this type of olive oil are mono-unsaturated, and it is believed that mono-unsaturated fats are the source of olive oil’s heart-healthy benefits.

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, 25 healthy (not at risk for cardiovascular disease) European men aged 20-39 consumed doses of olive oil that were either low or high in polyphenols.

In other words, the doses were either the green, strong tasting, unrefined type (high in polyphenols) of olive oil or highly refined (low in polyphenols) kind. The researchers then checked the participants' low-density lipoprotein (LDL or the "bad" cholesterol) levels for markers of atherogenicity.

Atherogenicity is used to determine how likely your LDL is to cause cardiovascular disease.


Those who consumed olive oil high in polyphenol experienced a 12% reduction in LDL concentrations. Those who took the low polyphenol oil olive had a 5% decrease in LDL concentrations. That is a pretty big difference, but it gets even better…

When researchers looked at a specific marker for atherogenisity called apolipoprotein b (apo b), they found there was a greater reduction in apolipoprotein b in the group that consumed the high polyphenol olive oil.

They also measured Lipoprotein lipase (LPL) gene expression. Lipoprotein lipase is an enzyme that breaks down cholesterol and fat cells and reduces cardiovascular risk. LPL gene expression did NOT change in the group consuming the low polyphenol olive oil; however, the researchers found that the LPL gene expression increased 27% in the high polyphenol olive oil group!


Consumption of high polyphenol olive oil decreases LDL concentrations and also reduced the atherogenisity of the LDL in healthy, young men. This may be a big part of why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy.

One of the biggest take-home messages here is to be careful when selecting olive oil. Make sure you are buying and consuming olive oil that is artisanal, fresh pressed, and extra virgin so it is high in polyphenols. This olive oil will also be more green and flavorful and often has a little sediment at the bottom.

You may be used to the much less flavorful olive oil and high polyphenol olive oil may take a little getting used to, but the health benefits seem to be potentially quite large.

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