Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death today. What causes it and how can it be prevented with the so called “liquid gold”?
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “Coronary heart disease is a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to our heart muscle”. Smoking, high levels of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood, high blood pressure, high levels of sugar in the blood (due to insulin resistance or diabetes) and blood vessel inflammation are the main risk factors. However, coronary heart disease can be avoided or, at least, delayed by reducing the exposure to the risk factors. The recipe is simple: low animal fat, healthy diet (plant based, low in salt, added sugars, solid fats, and refined grains) and regular exercise, in other words, a healthy lifestyle.
This is what scientists concluded after years of research. The world’s first multinational epidemiological study was the innovative “7 Countries Study”, a research conducted during the 1950s in seven countries (Italy, Greece, former Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Finland, United States, and Japan). 13,000 healthy men from 40 to 59 years-old located on the above countries took part on this study. Scientists reached the conclusion that death rates from CHD can be predicted by knowledge of the average serum cholesterol. The people of Crete were the best performers in that study, since they had the lowest death rate by CHD. As a result, follow up studies were performed by the University of Crete.
In 1988, there was a new study on the inhabitants of Spili, a rural area in Crete. Most of the population that took part on it was obese and presented increased cholesterol levels. Moreover, smoking, hypertension, diabetes and a high occurrence of alcohol intake was common among them. The study confirmed the “paradox”: despite the high risk factors for CHD signs of coronary artery disease were scarce, as only a few men with a previous myocardial infarction were encountered. A follow-up study (SPILI II) was performed twelve years later, to re-confirm the initial outcome: an unfavorable cardiovascular risk. Taking into consideration that the Greeks are the highest consumers of olive oil worldwide, olive oil consumption was definitely connected to this “paradox”.
Some of you may think that following a healthy diet means eating tasteless food, but guess what: the Mediterranean diet is not only nutritious but delicious as well, when using extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, a truly powerful ingredient that can improve your health and enhance your wellbeing. Cardiologists recommend at least two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day. It’s so delicious and healthy, it may become your new habit! The message is obvious: love yourself, love your heart and follow a healthy lifestyle. This is the key to youthfulness, longevity and good heart health.
By Rena P.