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How exercise improves Heart Disease risk

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The standard explanation of how Heart disease and stroke are caused is pretty well understood. In short the idea is that high levels of the wrong kind of cholesterol

I’m not covering the standard stuff we all know about. I’m looking at different angles. The stuff that rarely gets covered. I want to discuss the value of these insights.


I was fascinated to find out that the standard explanation for cholesterol causing heart attacks is not the only explanation. In fact there are some serious challenges to this explanation. The more you start challenging it the more you may find yourself doubting that it’s the only or main cause of heart disease at all

I really started to doubt the explanation when I discovered A different view on cholesterol:I found it a fascinating read and, in my view, really blows the traditional view out of the water. I still want to double check some of the claims made but I found it a very informative article. Not only does it explain clearly what chemicals and structures are like specific cholesterol and Ldls it explains exactly why they can’t be causing coronary heard disease (CHD) or heart attacks.

So should we ignore the cholesterol hypothesis completely? I don’t think so. There’s still plenty of evidence for it. It’s simply an area of health where we want fact but the explanations are not rock solid.

To take this analysis further let’s consider Saturated fat. Why all the fuss?: This analysis goes right to the heart of this topic. It’s a discussion of saturated fat and its impact on health but also the lack of quality in reporting science. I feel fats are vey much misunderstood and the whole topic is trivialised. I wish it were treated with more care and respect. Then we could all learn how to maximise our health

To that end I looked a little deeper at one of the supposedly man-made fats known as trans-fats. and asked the question why are trans fats so bad?. By only using wikipedia I accept I didn’t do a totally thorough analysis. For an initial investigation though it explains why trans fats could be dangerous.

Alternative explanations

In my view all these explanations assume that we are essentially weak. That nature has no answer to these problems and that humans must manufacture their own solution. This means medical or nutritional interventions which cost money.

I don’t accept this. On a daily basis the human body overcomes many difficulties. There’s plenty of evidence that a well maintained body doesn’t suffer from these maladies and doesn’t require interventions. So my question is:

what natural, possibly lifestyle, factors should we be considering that may be preventing our bodies from repairing this damage in the first place?

We saw that in the case of Diabetes our bodies forget how to handle sugars but we can remind them. So is there a similar story with heart attack and strokes and arterial disease that causes them?

You’ll find that I keep coming back to this topic. That our bodies are inherently strong and well designed to thrive. Yet without a manual to guide us, our lifestyles often cause as many problems as they solve. This isn’t a bad thing. Just something that we can address once we understand our bodies relationship to our lifestyle.

Lack of repair

There are a few explanations I have considered. My favourite is the idea that cholesterol is the good guy not the bad guy. It is part of the healing process and therefore turns up in numbers at any site of damage in the body.

The real cause is in effective healing. Healing needs rest and relaxation. Two things western lifestyles don’t encourage. Relaxation means low adrenalin. Your body won’t heal when adrenalin flows through your body because it is getting ready to run. Proper rest needs relaxation and healing needs deep sleep. Something you won’t get if you don’t relax properly.

So your body is continually in a state of repair. It never actually finishes the job. On top of that the healing processes themselves aren’t very efficient. They’re not the highly effective and quick processes they should be.

Phew. That’s actually quite a long summary isn’t it. It’s also a lot to expand on. So I’ve looked long and hard for evidence for and against this. Unfortunately studies just don’t generally track these kinds of factors. So it has to remain theory for now.

It is important to realise an often overlooked fact. Cholesterol is a building block of the body. Involved in both repair of cells and growth. From this angle it’s no surprise cholesterol is at the site of artery damage as part of the bodies recovery effort. Then consider that repair and growth require good sleep. Western lifestyles generally don’t value sleep. They value entertainment and pushing yourself to the limit.

So I began to ask the question could lack of sleep increase your risk of heart problems?. Frustratingly it’s very hard to find any evidence either way. Mainly because sleep just isn’t a factor monitored in most studies let alone heart disease and stroke.

Protecting our DNA

Heart disease is unlikely to have just one cause. It’s far more likely to have multiple causes. Each case will represent one or more of these causes collectively. This means it’s multi-factorial. So I also have another favourite theory of how heart disease could come about.
As silly as it sounds it’s possible that our immune system could be involved. We know our immune system is constantly protecting us from foreign invaders in the form of viruses and bacteria. What’s often not considered is the impact of an overworked or ineffective immune system against determined foreign invaders waiting for the chance to get a foot hold in our cells..

The logic here is that viruses work by infecting a cell and taking it over. This means they get a cell to do their bidding. So instead of working to help our body, they now help the virus. Yet they still generally look and act like normal cells within our body. So they’re kind of like a spy. What makes a cancer cell is that it will begin dividing to make more copies of itself. The problem for the body is that most cells die. It’s a natural protective mechanism. Cancer cells don’t

An ineffective immune system allows infection

But how could cancer cells and viruses cause heart disease, or in this case heart attacks? Well, my theory, and it is only a theory, is that an over worked, tired or ineffective immune system would allow viruses and bacteria to take hold in small amounts throughout our bodies. These would then multiply and grow.

Eventually causing problems, blockages, cell ruptures or other problems. Cholesterol is involved simply because it is part of the cell repair process. Just like construction workers end up at the scene after big earthquakes, floods and other types of damage. So cholesterol turns up when the body is damaged because it is needed to make repairs.

In short:

  • infection leads to damage throughout the body
  • body tries to repair using cholesterol
  • cholesterol build up occurs.

The question here is what causes an ineffective immune system?

Calcifying arteries

Heart disease has a lot do to with the body not working as it should leading to nutrients like calcium turning up in the wrong place. The following fascinating talk on heart disease and the build up of bone in arteries explains some of the detail around this phenomenon which reduces the elasticity of blood vessels, reducing their ability to adapt to demand and making them more brittle.


The point of this post was to explain other reasons that can explain the cause of heart disease. Not to replace existing wisdom but to complement it. Most illnesses this wide spread and complex have various causes. Each adding to the problem.

These explanations make it easier, not harder, for me to understand both where heart disease comes from and how to tackle it. Each explanation has a related solution or treatment which I will detail later. For now I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me. I see CHD differently after this. As something I can understand and prevent. That gives me a lot of hope.

Key General Articles: Activity and Health

Specific articles: Heart Disease and Activity

At this point I simply have a big long list of articles I have collected over the years. Each article has informed my view in some way. I’ve been on a path of discovery not just on how activity can help heart disease and how to actually make the activity easy to do.
I also want a more holistic approach. Understand more about food and drink so I can understand a fun lifestyle that works and also adapts to the person following it. That is why things have taken so long. This is a long quest full of confusing speculation and little fact. I’ve tried and explored so much that I’m now confident enough to share.

I apologise for the clutter. For now it’s just wonderful to finally have everything all in one place that is publicly accessible.

I can now begin to organise it properly and present it better.

[Learn more about]
  1. How white blood cells are transported could explain heart disease
  2. how white blood cells work Explained in a way that fits the injury hypothesis. Our bodies aren’t strong enough to handle the environment, particularly the attacks by sugar.
  3. why high carb foods can cause heart attacks
  4. Saturated fat: Why all the fuss?
  5. Why are trans-fats so bad?
  6. The French Paradox: Having your cake and eating it
  7. Insulin resistance affects two thirds of the human body. Is there a simple effective treatment?
  8. Relax your way to health
  9. A different view on cholesterol
  10. lymph cholesterol and heart disease: how they could be related.:incomplete but useful. Introduces possible immune system role. Leads to the idea that cholesterol is part of the bodies repair response. High cholesterol simply reflects a high demand for repair. Very different from being a cause. More a symptom of heart disease.
  11. Injury: Correcting impaired cells
  12. Could lack of sleep increase risk of heart problems?
  13. Are there 3 angles to being healthy and fighting the ageing process?
  14. Problems in recycling cellular waster linked to clogged arteries: links the immune system and cellular repair with atherosclerosis. The article doesn’t link this but I can. It does lay the evidence down. Also shows multiple reasons why activity can reverse the process. By creating a famine in cells and thus clearing digestive problems.
  15. Does regular exercise improve our bodies ability to heal and restore?
  16. Training is about fast recovery: fitter people heal faster. That’s the point. activity forces your body to work around challenges. Makes you strong enough to overcome challenges. Glut 4 adaptations, capillaries, sugar and water saving effects.
  17. Calorie and nutrient intake over time: pins actual calorie values over time to increasing weight. Doesn’t point out the lack of data on activity
  18. brief exercise reduces the impact of stress
  19. the thymus gland. Prevent disease increase longevity
  20. pushing ourselves too far, Do we do irreparable damage?
  21. stress/coping: Symptoms that mimic epilepsy linked to stress, poor coping skills. Learning to cope is key to avoiding illness.
  22. Horizon: The truth about exercise. Brilliant episode: In line with everything I believe. Much of his research is from Loughborough. Shows that 3 mins High intensity Training per week has major health benefits, and that just being active in general is most important. Common theory is being challenged. It’s easier than we thought to get fit. High intensity exercise and can 3 minutes of exercise a week help make you fit
  23. Excess sugar can triple risk of dying of heart disease: report people who get 25 per cent or more of their daily calories from added sugar almost triple their risk of dying of heart disease.
  24. Whole diet approach to lower cardiovascular risk has more evidence than low-fat diets
  25. Diets to Prevent Coronary Heart Disease 1957- 2013: What Have We Learned?  The Mediterranean-style diet, with a focus on vegetables, fruit, fish, whole grains and olive oil, has proven to reduce cardiovascular events to a degree greater than low fat diets, and equal to or greater than the benefit observed in statin trials.
  26. Nikolai N. Anitschkow and the lipid hypothesis of atherosclerosis One hundred years ago, Nikolai N. Anitschkow published his seminal observations that began the cholesterol debate. This article reviews the history so far
  27. Statins for millions more?
  28. Understanding heart failure at the cellular level
  29. Exercise targets cellular powerhouses to improve heart function
  30. Immune cells may heal an injured heart
  31. When is fat a heart risk? Scientists re-evaluate its role in your health
  32. Key heart failure culprit discovered in tiny piece of RNA miR-25 acts pathologically in patients suffering from heart failure, delaying proper calcium uptake in heart muscle cells
  33. Too much high intensity exercise could hurt heart health Notes two studies of older individuals where too much exercise was linked to more chance of heart problems
  34. Lab-grown human tissue flexes its muscles for the first time Cholesterol lowering statins have detrimental effects on muscle tissue, one statin was so harmful that it had to be withdrawn from the market.
  35. Researchers Uncover Why Adults’ Hearts Don’t Regenerate A new research study suggests that quieting communication between heart cells and their environment protects this organ from harmful signals related to stresses such as high blood pressure, but at the cost of preventing heart cells from receiving signals that promote regeneration.
  36. A Relationship Between NAD+ and Gradual Heart Failure An epigenetic regulator impacts how well mitochondria perform.
  37. Revealing the Secrets of Fat Storage – Cells Refine Palm Fat Into Olive Oil
  38. Can math and physics save the arrhythmic heart  A joy to listen to this episode where professor Flavio Fenton explains how he is suing maths and physics to understand and model human hearts.
  39. Alya Red: A computational heart: Alya red is a super computing simulated heart. I learnt about it reading origin by Dan brown and shows how much you learn by exploring and having fun  I now want to explore Barcelona even more. 
  40. Complex Relationship Between Cardiac Fibroblasts and Cardiomyocytes in Health and Disease

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