By Jon Vanzile
In a matter of just 40 seconds or so, one person in Europe will suffer a heart attack.1 That adds up to nearly 90 heart attacks every hour.
After years of accepting high death rates from cardiovascular disease, an advance has occurred in therapeutic prevention.
According to prominent Miami cardiologist Michael Ozner, M.D., we are standing on the brink of a revolution in the way we treat coronary heart disease.
This change is so profound that Dr. Ozner thinks we might finally “have the ability to take the majority of heart attack risk off the table.”
How is this possible?
It’s all thanks to a new understanding of what causes coronary heart disease—and an explosion in new treatments that will be used in the battle against this formidable enemy.
With these treatments, we may also be able to not only prevent atherosclerotic plaques from forming, but stabilize and reverse plaques that already exist. This reduces a major cause (coronary atherosclerosis) of heart disease.
It’s the Lipoproteins
Coronary artery disease occurs when cholesterol-carrying lipoproteins enter the artery wall and are then retained and oxidized. When this happens, immune system components enter the vascular wall and engulf these dysfunctional lipoproteins.
This process eventually leads to an atherosclerotic plaque, which can be thought of as a “pimple” in the artery wall. If the plaque ruptures, a clot can form and block the coronary artery, causing a sudden heart attack.
Contrary to what many people think, the problem isn’t cholesterol itself. Instead, it’s the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol. These lipoproteins come in different densities and sizes. The most potentially dangerous lipoproteins are low density lipoproteins (LDL) and remnant lipoproteins.
“Lipoproteins are like little taxi cabs in the circulation carrying cholesterol and triglyceride molecules to destinations where they are needed,” says Dr. Ozner, medical director of Wellness and Prevention at Baptist Health South Florida and author of multiple best-selling books on heart disease.
“If there are too many lipoproteins, they can penetrate the arterial wall. And once they get inside, they can become engulfed by macrophages leading to plaque development. If we can reduce the number of potentially harmful lipoproteins that enter the vascular wall in the first place, it will reduce the number of plaques that can rupture and cause heart attacks.”
Researchers are making advances on multiple fronts to reduce the number of dangerous lipoproteins and to shrink or stabilize existing plaques. Recent studies are showing a significant impact in cardiovascular disease with a reduction in heart attack and stroke.
Proven Ways to Stabilize and Shrink Arterial Plaque
When it comes to any discussion about reducing the risk of heart attack and heart disease, Dr. Ozner is adamant on one point: It always begins with following a healthy lifestyle.
We already know that following a prudent lifestyle dramatically reduces the risk of suffering from heart disease. This includes limiting sugar, refined starch, and saturated and trans fats while avoiding processed food, smoking, and excess alcohol. Staying physically active, reducing stress, and getting sufficient sleep are likewise important.
Dr. Ozner is also a proponent of the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on consuming healthy fats, whole grains, omega-3-rich fish, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. He believes in it so strongly he wrote the best-selling book, The Complete Mediterranean Diet.
A recent meta-analysis of published studies found that eating a Mediterranean diet significantly reduces coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.2
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- Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/heart_attack.htm.Accessed May 15, 2018.
- Grosso G, Marventano S, Yang J, et al. A comprehensive meta-analysis on evidence of Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular disease: Are individual components equal? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.2017;57(15):3218-32.