For ten years, I told Larry King that he was a walking time bomb and should change his lifestyle before it was too late. At that time he was a radio broadcaster who smoked to stay alert while he worked day and night, and of course he ate a tremendous amounts of junk food. His blood pressure was 150/100 and his total cholesterol was 280. He suffered chest pains that were severe enough to take him to a cardiologist, but since his electrocardiogram was normal, he didn’t see any reason to change his ways. When he had his heart attack, I was the first person to see him in the emergency room. Now he eats the way I do, exercises regularly, has normal cholesterol and blood pressure, and never felt better. His heart attack saved his life.
Some people are not as lucky as Larry and don’t get a second chance. A heart attack has two components. First you lay down fatty plaques in your arteries over the years and the flow of blood slows to a trickle. Eventually a piece of plaque breaks off, travels further down the artery and forms clots, which block the flow of blood. The clots (which might have passed through a wide-open artery) block the blood supply to a part of your heart muscle, depriving it of oxygen and causing it to die. The same mechanism causes strokes, with a plaque blocking blood flow to some part of your brain.
Taking in more calories than you burn leads to plaques in arteries in susceptible people. Fats are the most concentrated sources of calories, so a diet to lower LDL cholesterol limits fats, particularly saturated fats and partially hydrogenated oils. You need some fat, but for most people, it’s hard not to eat too much fat. Fatty foods are everywhere, because manufacturers know that fat makes food taste good. Too many calories in your diet translates into too much fat in your body and in your bloodstream.
Read more about how to change your diet for heart health in The Good Food Book and the Heart Health section of my web site; see the links below.