What’s the number one killing disease in America? According to the CDC website, it’s cardiovascular disease—which includes heart attacks and strokes. Although they both are on the decline over the last decade; mainly due to mainstream medicine getting better at treating them, but not necessarily preventing them. Both are very serious issues but there simple things we can do lower our risk of these potential killers.

There are certain risk factors that we can’t really control, like gender (males have a higher rate than women until 60 yo then women out surpass men), or a strong family history of cardiovascular disease. Other risk factors we can control like not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, lowering our blood pressure, staying physically active, and eating real food as often as possible. Eating real food? Where have we heard that before!?

The American Heart Association and the CDC still recommend a diet “low in fat” that’s been debunked by more current nutritional science. Recent science has shown that eating a diet rich in healthy fats (saturated, monounsaturated, mainly) can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. We have been told for years that fat will clog our arteries, and while that is true, it’s not the fat that we eat that is dangerous it’s the fat we make in our livers via a process called lipogenesis.

Wait! What? Dietary cholesterol doesn’t clog our arteries? That’s right. There’s no correlation between dietary cholesterol and your blood cholesterol! So, in other words, you can’t eat enough whole eggs in your diet to influence your blood cholesterol level in a negative way (the worse fat we can eat is a trans fat, anything that says hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated is a trans fat, avoid them at all costs). But, as stated, our livers make cholesterol and it is this form of cholesterol that has the potential to build up in your blood vessels (a process called atherosclerosis). Why would the body create a substance like cholesterol that could be harmful? Well, the truth is, that cholesterol itself is very beneficial to body.

Many of your hormones are created from cholesterol. Your brain and other organs love cholesterol. The reason it can become dangerous is when it is oxidized. This occurs when we are inflamed or have excessive free radicals in the blood stream. One of the most common causes of excessive free radicals is “fake food” or in other words, processed food that is nutrient-depleted. Foods that contain high amounts of sugar create inflammation and excess free radicals. In fact, it is from excess sugar in our diets that we even make cholesterol in the liver. When we consume nutrient dense foods loaded with antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory substances then we can minimize the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Supplements are another good way to aid your body in the fight against plaque build up. A natural molecule produced in the body and also obtained via supplementation is called nitric oxide (NO). This powerful free radical and vasodilator supports normal cardiovascular performance and longevity by dilating blood vessels, allowing us to carry more oxygen and other nutrients to important organs in the body.