KRON 4 | How Plaque Attacks Your Body and Brain

If you’re at risk for cardiovascular disease or you just want to keep your heart healthy, you’ve probably been told to “watch your cholesterol”. The type of cholesterol that puts you at risk for plaque-lined arteries is LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and diet plays an important role. How are you keeping your plumbing clog-free?

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What is Plaque?

Plaque is a fatty, waxy substance made up of materials, such as fat, cholesterol, calcium, waste products from cells, and fibrin (a clotting agent). When plaque clogs your arteries, it can partially or totally block blood flow through ANY of your arteries, such as your pelvis, legs, arms, or kidneys — not just your heart and brain.

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Courtesy of Blausen.com staff (2014)

Atherosclerosis can precipitate various conditions, including:

  • Coronary heart disease (plaque in arteries in or leading to the heart)
  • Angina (chest pain from reduced blood flow to the heart muscle)
  • Carotid artery disease and stroke (plaque in neck arteries supplying blood to the brain)
  • Peripheral artery disease, or PAD (plaque in arteries of the extremities, especially the legs); hardening of arteries from excess LDL cholesterol can cause numbness in your legs or feet.
  • Chronic kidney disease

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol itself isn’t bad. Your body needs cholesterol — it’s a fatty, waxy substance that: 

  • Makes hormones (e.g., estrogen, progesterone, testosterone)
  • Makes vitamin D
  • Makes digestive fluids
  • Builds healthy cells
  • Protects nerve cells
  • Enables organs (such as your brain) to function properly 

Your liver makes the cholesterol your body needs and some comes from the foods you eat. Cholesterol can’t dissolve in blood, so it’s enveloped by proteins which enable them to travel in your blood. 

Cholesterol
LDL or “bad cholesterol” is a microscopic blob with a cholesterol center.

What is LDL?

The cholesterol that makes up plaque and builds up on the walls of your blood vessels is LDL or “low-density lipoprotein”. Too much LDL circulating in your blood increases your risk of a heart attack and stroke, so it’s known as the “bad cholesterol”.

Basically, LDL is a ‘microscopic blob’ with a cholesterol center packaged inside of protein. These protein packages are called “lipoproteins”. But LDL’s don’t just carry cholesterol, they also carry triglycerides, fat-soluble vitamins, and antioxidants.

Why You Need LDL   

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KRON 4 | Sugar and Diabetes; Now Potassium Too?

One out of three adults has pre-diabetes, that’s, over 84 million people — and nine out of ten don’t even know they have it. Diabetes increases your risk of death by fifty percent. Many are familiar with the link between diabetes and eating too much refined sugar, but did you know there’s a diabetes link to potassium too?

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The Battle with Blood Sugar

Your body processes the food you eat and turns it into a sugar called glucose. Diabetes is marked by high levels of glucose in your blood (hyperglycemia). This happens because glucose is ‘locked out’ from getting into your cells and starts to build up in your blood.

Blood sugar is a precious fuel for your body, but when it’s persistently high, glucose can damage nerves and vessels. Since glucose circulates throughout your entire body, high levels can cause damage anywhere.

Diabetes-related complications include:

  • Blood vessel damage that increases your risk of stroke and heart attack
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Nerve and vessel damage to your eyes (retinopathy), feet, and kidneys

What is Insulin?

Insulin (produced by the pancreas) is the hormone that’s needed for the glucose in your blood to enter your cells. Think of insulin as the ‘key’ that unlocks the cell door and lets glucose in. Without the ‘key’, your organs are starved of essential energy and can lead to cell death.

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Insulin is the “key” that unlocks the cell door and lets glucose in. 

Types of Diabetes

The two most common forms of diabetes, known as Type 1 and Type 2, are distinctly different:

1. Type 1 diabetes mellitus: You DO NOT PRODUCE INSULIN and are unable to control the sugar in your blood. This form of diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells of your pancreas.

2. Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM): With this type, you DO NOT USE INSULIN efficiently and are unable to control the sugar in your blood. 

  • 90% of diabetes cases are type 2.
  • In T2DM, your cells become resistant to insulin. Your pancreas goes into overdrive producing more and more insulin in a futile attempt to get the glucose into your cells. As a result, your pancreas can eventually wear out (become permanently damaged) and can no longer produce enough insulin. 
  • High blood sugar levels can erode your cells’ ability to make insulin. T2DM is preventable whereas Type 1 is not.

Waist Size and Diabetes

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A waist size that is over 40″ increases risk for type 2 diabetes 12X.

People who are overweight or obese, particularly with visceral fat (i.e., belly fat), are more likely to develop T2DM, but even normal weight individuals can develop diabetes.

  • If you’re a man and your waistline is over 40 inches, your risk for diabetes is 12 times higher than someone with a normal healthy size waist. 
  • Normal waist size is half your height in inches. Therefore, weight loss is the primary goal in treating this form of type 2 diabetes.

What is Potassium?

Potassium is an electrolyte and mineral that helps keep your bodily fluids at the proper level. If your fluids are at normal levels, you can:

  • Contract your muscles without pain
  • Keep your heart beating correctly
  • Keep your brain functioning at its highest capability

Muscle cramps to more serious conditions, such as seizures, are symptoms of potassium deficiency which also means fluid imbalance.  

Low Potassium Linked to Diabetes

  • One 2011 study found that people taking thiazides (diuretic, a.k.a. “water pill”) to treat high blood pressure experienced a loss of electrolytes, such as potassium. 
  • Researchers noted that potassium loss might increase a person’s risk for developing diabetes.
  • Researchers have also linked low potassium levels to high blood pressure.

NOTE: Even though low potassium may increase your risk of developing diabetes, taking potassium won’t cure your diabetes.

How Much Potassium Do You Need?

An adult needs 4,700 milligrams per day. Even if you’re getting the right amount potassium each day, levels may still be deficient or excessive due to fluctuating potassium levels.

Causes of Fluctuating Potassium Levels   

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Type 3 Diabetes: The New Term for Alzheimer’s

Memory Loss

Lifestyle Diseases that Affect Your Brain

Lifestyle diseases are diseases that occur primarily as a result of your daily habits. Some of the main contributing factors include: bad food habits, physical inactivity, stress, and an aging biological clock.

Diabetes (A Model of Accelerated Aging)  

The connection between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia are real and strong.

Experts are now referring to the progression from type 2 diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to type 3 diabetes or brain diabetes. It occurs when neurons in the brain become unable to respond to insulin which is essential for memory and learning.

There is considerable evidence that diabetes is related to brain diseases. Younger diabetics suffer a variety of degenerative diseases earlier and with greater severity than non-diabetics and seem to age more rapidly than normal.

People with type 2 diabetes are 50-65% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than people with normal blood sugars.

Coronary Artery Disease  

Research shows if you get cardiovascular disease, it is likely to affect your cognitive function. Plaque builds up in your brain as well as your heart. Unhealthy patterns of cholesterol disrupt communication between nerve cells in your brain and contribute to memory and mental destruction.

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Risk of memory loss increases as waistline increases

Obesity  

As the population ages, it is expected that dementia incidences will increase 400% in the next 20 years. A 27-year study found obese people were 74% more likely to have dementia, while overweight people were 35% more likely.

Possible speculation is that substances such as leptin, a hormone released by visceral or “belly” fat may have some adverse effects on the brain. Leptin plays a role in appetite regulation but also in learning and memory.

Protect your brain matter.

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KRON 4 | What Would Happen If You Ate 20 Servings of Fruit a Day for Several Weeks?

How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t eat fruit. It has too much sugar.” Are you worried about blood sugar spikes? If so, you might want to rethink your fructose fears.

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Table sugar and high fructose corn syrup are known to have adverse side effects, but what about the sugar found naturally in fruit and fruit juice? Can you eat too much fruit? Today I chatted with KRON 4 Morning News Weekend anchor, Marty Gonzalez, and broke down the facts on fruit.

Fruit, Table Sugar, and High Fructose Corn Syrup — What’s the difference?

  • Table sugar and its synthetic sister, high fructose corn syrup are made up of two molecules: glucose + fructose, a.k.a. “industrial fructose”. 
  • Fruits contain “naturally-occurring” fructose. (Fructose is one of the three building blocks of carbohydrates.)
  • Industrial fructose is linked to hypertension, belly fat, high triglycerides, and liver disease.

Is Eating Too Much Fruit (Fructose) Bad for You?

Per a University of Eastern Finland study, possible reasons that fruit and fruit juice did not spike blood sugar:

1. Fruit had a more solid consistency: Thickness in a fruit puree may slow digestion vs. gulping down pure sugar water (e.g., soda).

2. Fruit contains soluble fiber: Soluble fiber forms a thick gel in the intestines which slows the breakdown of sugars. Fructose is bound to the fiber, so it does not absorb as quickly.

3. Fruit contains phytonutrients, also called phytochemicals: “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant. These chemicals help protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats and thus, provide protection in humans. Phytonutrients slow sugars traveling from the intestines into the blood stream.

Eat Berries to Slow Blood Sugar Spikes

Low-fiber starches (e.g., white bread, white pasta, white flour pretzels, instant oatmeal, corn flakes, and soda crackers) will also spike your blood sugar.

Per another study with starches (white and rye bread) eaten with various berry combinations, the berries suppressed the blood sugar and insulin spikes. So if you eat a starchy, low fiber food on occasion, be sure to eat berries.

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What Would Happen if You Ate 20 Servings of Fruit a Day for Several Weeks?    

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KRON 4 | Lifestyle Linked to Dementia, Cancer and More

Lifestyle diseases characterize diseases that occur primarily as a result of a person’s daily habits. Some of the main contributing factors include bad food habits, physical inactivity, stress, and an aging biological clock — all of which contribute to visceral (intra-abdominal) fat.

When it comes to your health, where you store your fat makes a difference. Are you shaped like an apple or more like a pear? KRON 4 Morning News Weekend anchor, Marty Gonzalez, and I talk about the difference between the fat that has settled on your hips and thighs versus what you’re carrying upfront.

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All Fat is Not Equal

Fat accumulated in the lower body, such as the hips, thighs, and buttocks (the “pear shape”) is subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat lies under your skin and above your muscles — it’s the “pinchable stuff”. Subcutaneous fat is measured by pinching your skin in a several different locations.

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Your “love handles” are pinchable subcutaneous fat.

Visceral fat, a.k.a. intra-abdominal, belly, or deep fat, (the “pear shape”) lies out of reach and is tucked deep within your abdominal cavity where it pads the spaces between and around your VISCERA — your internal organs like your heart, lungs, liver, and other organs. Related image

It’s also stored in the “omentum” — an apron-like flap of tissue that sits underneath the abdominal muscles and blankets the intestines. As the omentum fills with fat, it gets harder and thicker.

Lifestyle Diseases Linked to Visceral Fat

Research shows that people with “apple-shaped” bodies face more health risks than those with “pear-shaped” bodies. You need some visceral fat to cushion your organs, but too much of it has been correlated with the following health conditions:

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  • Kaiser Permanente of Northern California studied of 6,500 members for an average of 36 years, from they were in their 40’s to 70’s. The study concluded subjects with higher visceral fat had a higher risk of dementia than those with less visceral fat. Possible speculation of the trial is that substances such as leptin, a hormone released by the belly fat, may have some adverse effects on the brain. Leptin plays a role in appetite regulation but also in learning and memory.
  • Researchers are not clear why visceral fat plays a larger role in insulin resistance — which raises risk for diabetes — than other fat.

Why Visceral Fat is a Health Risk

Visceral fat is most dangerous because it is biologically active — that is, it acts like an organ producing hormones and other substances that have harmful effects.

Cholesterol plaque in artery (atherosclerosis) illustrationExcess visceral fat is near the portal vein which carries blood from your intestines to your liver. Substances (e.g., free fatty acids) released by visceral fat enter the portal vein and travel to your liver where they can affect the production of fats in the blood. Visceral fat is directly linked to:

  • Higher total cholesterol
  • Higher LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Lower HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes

How Much Belly Fat is Too Much   

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