An unhealthy lifestyle, including excess caloric intake, lack of exercise, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption, increases one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
New research1 shows exactly how post-prandial hyperglycemia (an exaggerated rise in blood sugar following a meal) increases the risk for heart problems in overweight and obese nondiabetic volunteers.
The researchers found that foods with a high glycaemic index rapidly increase blood sugar and cause a sudden distension in the endothelial* walls of the brachial arteries (the major blood vessel of the upper arm) which can last for several hours.
Elasticity of arteries anywhere in the body can be a measure of heart health. But when aggravated over time, a sudden expansion of the artery wall can cause a number of negative health effects, including reduced elasticity, which can cause heart disease or sudden death.
Foods like cornflakes, white bread, french fries, and sweetened soda all put undue stress on our arteries.
Those who binge on high glycaemic foods have a greater chance of sudden death from heart attack says Dr. Michael Shechter.
The take-away message?
Dr. Shechter says to stick to foods like oatmeal, fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, which have a low glycaemic index. Exercising every day for at least 30 minutes, he adds, is an extra heart-smart action to take.
*All roads lead to the endothelium
Endothelial health can be traced back to almost every disorder and disease in the body. It is "the riskiest of the risk factors"1.
The endothelium is the thin layer of cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels forming an interface between circulating blood in the lumen and the rest of the vessel wall. Endothelial cells line the entire circulatory system, from the heart to the smallest capillary. These cells reduce turbulence of the flow of blood allowing the fluid to be pumped farther.
Endothelial dysfunction, or the loss of proper endothelial function, often leads to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up on the insides of your arteries. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. The flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body is reduced.
Endothelial dysfunction is associated with most forms of cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure, peripheral artery disease, diabetes, and chronic renal failure.
Talya Lavi, Avraham Karasik, Nira Koren-Morag, Hannah Kanety, Micha S. Feinberg, and Michael Shechter. The Acute Effect of Various Glycemic Index Dietary Carbohydrates on Endothelial Function in Nondiabetic Overweight and Obese Subjects. J Am Coll Cardiol, 2009; 53:2283-2287
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