Ayurveda Explains Rise in Heart Disease among Middle-Aged in Healthiest Cities

Apparently, heart disease is on the rise! 

The Wall Street Journal analyzed rising rates of heart disease among middle-aged Americans (between 45 and 64), finding some of the healthiest places, like Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Greeley, Colorado, saw some of the highest death rates from heart disease, with a rise of nearly 25% in 2015-2016, compared to 2010-11.1

Top Ten Cities with Greatest Rise in Middle Age Heart Disease 

  1. Lexington, KY: up 27.9% 
  2. Atlantic City, NJ: up 25.7% 
  3. Corpus Christi, TX: up 25.7% 
  4. Lincoln, NE: up 25.1% 
  5. Ft. Collins, CO: up 24.4% 
  6. Beaumont, TX: up 24.1% 
  7. Ft. Wayne, IN: up 23.9% 
  8. Greeley, CO: up 23.5% 
  9. Colorado Springs, CO: up 23.3% 
  10. Kennewick, WA: up 22.5% 

Colorado, while it has the lowest rates of obesity and diabetes in the nation, has three health-conscious cities in the top ten! Thousands of people move to so-called healthy Colorado every year, so could these non-locals be bringing the heart disease?

A 2018 report found newer residents had lower rates of being overweight and obese than existing residents, which only confuses researchers in their quest to identify a cause for the sharp rise in heart disease. 

In This Article

Why More Heart Disease? 

Doctors and researchers continue to struggle to find the reason for this precipitous rise in heart disease. While diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity are on the rise in most of these areas, healthy, fit, middle-aged folks are also collapsing from heart disease.  

At the funeral of one 55-year-old victim who collapsed during a mountain bike ride in Colorado, his wife urged all of her husband’s friends to get their hearts checked out, even though most of them played hockey and rode mountain bikes. Many of them did get checked, and a whopping 11 of them subsequently received stents!1

So, why do you think heart disease is on the rise amongst otherwise healthy people? Is it too little exercise or, as mentioned above, too much exercise? Is it our diet? Smoking? Could it be our emotional health? 

What about Diet? 

Could diet be to blame? In one 2018-19 report, a screening of elementary school children showed more than 25% were obese and 19.2% had high cholesterol.1 Perhaps a lifetime of the Standard American Diet (SAD) spiked with junk food and highly processed comfort foods are behind this new middle-age surge in heart disease.

Interestingly, the 35-64 age group has several more cardiovascular risk factors than the 65 and older age group, including high blood pressure, smoking, and excess sodium or salt intake.1

I would be remiss not to not mention that the only diet that has repeatedly reversed heart disease in numerous studies is the vegan diet. The original study, published in the Journal of American Medicine  in 1999 by Dr. Dean Ornish, employed intensive lifestyle changes, including a 10%-fat whole foods vegetarian diet, aerobic exercise, stress management training (meditation), smoking cessation, and group psychosocial support, for five years.2,3

The mainstream takeaway from the Ornish study may be that we should consume a primarily plant-based diet and consume less meat and animal products. Studies suggest the longest-lived people on the planet (in the “Blue Zones”) eat a diet that averages ~10% animal protein, or meat (3-4 oz.) only five times a month.4

Furthermore, in recent years, there has been a major shift in the kind of fats we consume. Omega-3 fatty acids, from, say, fish and flax, are said to be heart-healthy, while omega-6 fatty acids, from seeds, are said to be pro-inflammatory and unhealthy for the heart.5

omega 3 fatty acids

While the American Heart Association sharply debates these findings,6 new research suggests the problem may be a dramatic shift in the ratios of omega 3s to omega 6s we consume. Highly processed omega-6 vegetable oils are the hallmark of a shelf-stable processed food. 

For most of our evolution, the ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats was 1:1. But, in the last three decades, consumption and quality of omega-6 fats has changed dramatically. Today, the average American has an omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio of 20:1. This increased ratio has been linked to a host of chronic health concerns, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues.7,8

The quality and makeup of modern omega-6 fats has changed dramatically for the worse. Omega-6 fats are derived from seeds and are highly vulnerable to rancidity when exposed to light and air. Remember, the fatty acids live deep inside each seed. To stabilize seed oils, they are highly processed, bleached, boiled, and deodorized to be shelf-stable. Today, these oils are used in breads and packaged goods to extend shelf life.  

There is no comparison between these shelf-stable cooking oils and consuming seeds. These processed oils may extend shelf life, but don’t be fooled—they do not extend your life! 

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Could it Be Too Much Exercise? 

The science is clear—a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But what about too much exercise? Studies way back in the 1970s reported increased cardiovascular damage in endurance athletes, such as marathon runners.10

Recent studies have followed endurance athletes and have identified increased risk of heart disease in long-term endurance athletes. One report concluded that:

Emerging evidence from epidemiological studies and observations in cohorts of endurance athletes suggest that potentially adverse cardiovascular manifestations may occur following high-volume and/or high-intensity long-term exercise training, which may attenuate the health benefits of a physically active lifestyle. Accelerated coronary artery calcification, exercise-induced cardiac biomarker release, myocardial fibrosis, atrial fibrillation, and even higher risk of sudden cardiac death have been reported in athletes.”9

body, mind, and sport nose breathing

Back in the 1980s, I started researching the long- term damage of over-exercising. To help people avoid the wear and tear from exercise, I wrote Body, Mind, and Sport and published studies on the benefits of nose breathing vs. mouth breathing during exercise. I wanted to reverse the “no pain, no gain” credo and give athletes permission not to break themselves down to build themselves up. 

Read my nose breathing articles here and learn how much exercise is good and how much is harmful.

Could it Be Stress + Broken Hearts? 

The science is in! Our emotions have a direct impact on prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.11-14 A number of clinical and experimental studies concluded: 

“Strong emotions, especially negative emotions, such as hostility, anger, depression and anxiety, precipitate coronary heart disease . On the one hand, coronary heart disease patients have difficulty in coping with stress and depression and experience negative emotions, like anger or frustration. On the other hand, positive emotions, especially hope, contribute to health benefits and lead to lower levels of coronary heart disease and other diseases.”11

Today, perhaps due to living in such a fast-paced society with excessive screen time, levels of stress, anxiety, and depression are sharply rising in America. Could this be the link to rising levels of middle age heart disease?15

What You Can Do: Ayurveda—A Sattvic Lifestyle 

The branch of Ayurveda that deals with longevity is called rasayana.16 The goal of longevity or rasayana therapy is to live a sattvic life. Sattva is defined as living a pure, loving, kind, non-violent life, dedicated to bringing benefit to the world, living a healthy lifestyle, and eating whole foods. There are four main types of rasayanas:4 

  1. Ahara rasayana – Eating whole, organic, seasonal food.16
  2. Vihara rasayana – A lifestyle in sync with the circadian clock.16
  3. Acharya rasayana – Living a peaceful, calm, non-violent life focused on compassion, gratitude, and love.16
  4. Aushadha rasayana – Using herbal rasayanas to ward off the woes of stress.17

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These four types of rasayana have to do with bringing sattva into the food, lifestyle, behavior, and herbs you consume. By contrast to a sattvic person, a rajasic person is satisfied through stimulation of the senses and a tamasic person is rarely satisfied, finding safe haven in retreat and withdrawal from life’s stressors. 

Living a sattvic life is predicted to fill your heart with love and kindness and maximize your longevity! 

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What do you think is the reason for the sharp increase in heart disease, even in healthy cities? I would love to hear your theories! 

References

  1. https://www.wsj.com/articles/heart-disease-strikes-back-across-the-u-s-even-in-healthy-places-11579015880 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466936/ 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9863851 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125071/ 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3335257/ 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4062196/ 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18408140 
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808858/ 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6132728/ 
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116747/ 
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6117769/ 
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28932967 
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19182280 
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633295/ 
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31279724 
  16. https://lifespa.com/rasayana-longevity/ 
  17. https://lifespa.com/dna-adaptogenic-herbs/ 

14 thoughts on “Ayurveda Explains Rise in Heart Disease among Middle-Aged in Healthiest Cities”

  1. The rise you have noted probably has many contributing factors, but non-native EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies), in particular, wifi and cell phone radiation, are a major factor. 5G will make things even worse. Read Arthur Firstenberg’s book “The Invisible Rainbow” to see the statistics and studies that show electrification is a major contributor to cardiac and other diseases.

    Reply
  2. Great article, Dr. John. My own heart is very sensitive to being surrounded by EMF. It is a known depleter of magnesium. Dr. Gerald Pollack describes the problem with the calcium ion channels. These athletes are wearing Fitbits and tracking everything. In fact, the whole population is using up badly needed magnesium.

    Reply
  3. Thank you, I appreciate this article. I have said for many years that there is no such thing as our hearts attacking us, in other words the term “heart attacks.” In my opinion our body’s will not attack us, however, they respond to how we are neglecting and treating them as if our body is a separate entity. I term this as individuals “leaving their bodies” or numbing out in order to cope with the fact that they are unable to feel deeply into what is happening in their lives. It is about facing ourselves daily and allowing for ALL feelings to be expressed and released in order to move more freely within and without. Wellbeing is a combination of many things. For me it is imperative to be able to be in contact with the deep emotions inside because by not contacting them they fester and create imbalances in our body which translates into a variety of diseases. Most people have not been taught to be in ALL of their emotions in a healthy and functional way. I experience appropriate expressions of healthy anger as good for the system. I am not saying that all expressions of anger are acceptable and here is the trick in this. Most of us are not taught that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to be in the feeling of anger. So then all anger is deemed to be a negative emotion. I will say again, there is a difference between healthy expressions of anger and anger that is expressed inappropriately or in violence or reaction. Thanks again for the article which has given me the opportunity to express a frustration that I feel around all “anger” being labeled as a negative emotion. Now my heart feels full and happy!

    Reply
    • Inappropriate, eruptive anger or violence is sign of liver problems. TCM.
      America is toxic. And they don’t care that drinking water is getting worse and worse every day.
      “Dirty” water isn’t removing toxins, but bringing new ones.
      Also, healthy individuals are now, consuming more “smart” fats.
      But, sometimes it’s more important to take something out then to bring in.
      And that would be long term stored crap from cholesterol free diets. Thank you school medicine doctors( still nobody’s sorry for Millennium mistake). And “slowly” way to take them out is with fibers. Vegetarians eat more fibers. Simple.
      Fiber is for repair and maintenance. Deeper, longer exercise will “woke up” toxins and bring them in circulation. It’s not Heart Attack, it’s toxic blood attacks.
      Heart can’t get cancer, but you can destroy fine muscles in high RPM with toxins. Throw two pounds of sugar in your car tank?
      I remember, that long time ago, when I tried something new fancy, with toxic petrochemical food colorings, my heart muscle will just start twitching.
      If you think that, what this unregulated country is doing, a little detox will be short and easy job….

      Reply
      • If you don’t like this “theory”, I can give you another angle. From different reasons, many people have leaky gut. You know, all diseases are starting in the gut. And conscious people are eating to much super foods. Foods witch contains to much Oxalate crystals. And you can find them everywhere in the body. Skin, eyes, brains. I don’t know exactly how they travel thru body. Because, doctors aren’t testing for them. Mind you, they have found them in 18th century, in corpses. Not only in kidneys. If you have very deeply heated body, doing hard exercise, take strong dose of Niacin ( flush type), you can push them thru skin…. Not good filling, I can tell you. I was overloaded with them. Maybe, heart is getting dose of them to? Doctors prefer to give you Stent instead. Lovely $$$$$. Cheaper is to take B2, B6 and L-Lusine.

        Reply
  4. Insulin resistance seems to be a key variable that affects vulnerability to heart disease. There are many factors which affect this in the modern world, from diet to EMFs to pollution to stress to sleep etc – all roads lead back to insulin resistance.

    Reply
    • A cardiologist could take an EKG, perhaps a stress test, a panel of blood tests looking at inflammatory markers, CRP, homecysteine, magnesium and others.

      They are the experts here for sure. They would know best.

      Be Well,
      LifeSpa Staff

      Reply
  5. No mention of caffeine in your article. I’m in my 70’s and just started enjoying lattes in my mid 60s. They are delicious! Several times walking to my favorite surf spot, after having a cold-brewed coffee drink, I experience a rapid heart beat. Definitely related to the coffee. There’s been a coffee explosion over the last 20 years…in every age group…mainly on a rajasic and/or tamasic level…to an addictive degree. I still like it, but have changed to a mushroom/coffee blend that is much more comfortable (sattvic?).

    Reply
  6. Thank you for your article Dr John! As a 66 year old rock climber (with Type 1 diabetes) I HOPE the problem isn’t too much exercise because for the first time in my life I love what I do. But Ive been warned that this much exercise is depleting and I do sometimes feel it.
    I continually leave my city home to head for the desert to climb where I always start to feel better. What I don’t know is WHY, but I do think it’s EMFs among other things. After a day climbing where there is no cell reception I just perk right up, then when I return home after some weeks away it only takes a day or two before I start struggling again with fatigue and depression.

    I do hope you’ll write about this since so many of us are coming to the same conclusions. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Discovered in my 20’s that I had high LDL cholesterol. Never worried me too much as my HDL was in the high range and Triglycerides were always low. My diet has been plant based for most of my life and I have always been very active (professional dancer for much of my career), yet heart disease is prevalent in my family. Recently I had x-rays reveal I have some arterial plaque. I am 55 yrs of age. Now being tested for FH (Familial Hypercholesterolemia). It’s not a dietary issue. Basically, it’s misshapen receptors of the liver. Liver producing too much LDL and not being able to remove it. Currently doing the Linus Pauling therapy. Hope soon to have the blood work to proves it is working. Had a supportive doctor (until he retired) who never wanted me to go the statin route. Thank God!

    Reply
    • Hi. Liver is producing LDL because of toxins. That type of cholesterol, body can’t use. Plant diet has more fiber, but you need more to bind toxins, so they aren’t reabsorbed. And you need more good fats to keep liver bile going. And Taurine. And Choline. And….
      This is just for maintenance. Prevention. But we in the modern world are past that. Some of us are even slower detoxers. Mthfr, folate, P5P(B6)..&c.
      By the way, heart disease is because of toxic blood. Toxic blood will clog capillaries. Heart is one of strongest and healthiest organs in human body.

      Reply
  8. With the “Shelter At Home” order due to Covid-19, my daughter and I have moved toward a much more vegetarian diet. While people were snapping up certain items, the veggie burgers and tofu were plentiful! I’m not going to say we’ve been eating only plants and whole foods, but I think we are managing this stressful time with pretty balanced and nutritious eating. I was vegetarian for a number of years and in recent years (since menopause) have been eating more meat. I have to say, I like the vegetarian way of eating better. Having removed the meat again, I find I’m not missing it. Ornish’s dietary requirements are pretty stringent (I would even say unpleasant) but I’m learning that I really don’t need much meat and am moving back toward a vegetarian diet. It’s good for the planet and I think good for me. My mom died of heart disease last year at age 77, so I have every reason to want to do my best to avoid the same fate.

    Reply

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