To Change, You Need to Get Uncomfortable

Sitting on the couch is comfortable.  Going through the drive thru to pick up dinner is comfortable.  But when you notice that you’re out-of-shape, tired, sick and your clothes no longer fit, you realize that what makes you comfortable is not in align with what would make you happy.   

You want to see something different when you look in the mirror.  You want to fit into a certain size of jeans or just experience your day with more energy and excitement.  The current condition of your life causes you pain, be it physical, mental or emotional.  To escape the pain you are feeling, you know that you need to make changes to your habits that keep you stuck in your current state.  But why is it so hard to make the changes you know that will help you achieve what you want?  

I want to lose weight but….

I want a six pack but…

I want more energy but….

The statement that follows the “but” is often a situation or habit you are comfortable with.  You want to lose weight but don’t have time to cook healthy meals.  So it’s much more comfortable to go through the drive thru instead of trying some new recipes.   New habits often require a learning curve and a bit of extra time in the beginning.  It also takes courage and energy to establish new routines or seek out help.  

Setting out to achieve your goals requires change.  Making changes to establish new habits that support your goals and dreams can be uncomfortable.  Life, as you know it, will be different.  Knowing that fact can be scary, but so can staying in your current condition.  So I’m asking you to take a risk and get uncomfortable so that you can achieve your goals.  

Realize that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit.  I believe it takes triple that amount of time to really make a new habit stick for the long haul.  So for 21 days, you’ll experience some discomfort while you make changes to your old routine and habits.  Depending on what you are changing, discomfort could mean feeling tired, moody, or even withdrawal symptoms.  However, the longer you stick to your new habits the less uncomfortable you start to feel.  The first week is always the worst, but then it gets easier.

Making it through the uncomfortable times requires staying focused on your goals and not caving to your immediate feelings or desires.  I encourage clients to focus on why their goals important to them.  This reason or burning desire to change will help when old habits, cravings, or situations call you back to your old ways.
Use a tracking and a reward system to stay on track.  Grab a calendar, journal or index card to check off or note your daily successes.  Shoot for consistency and not perfection when trying to make changes.  I encourage my clients to use the 90/10 principle of change and apply that to their goal tracking system.  New clothes, a massage, or a day me-retreat are just a few examples of rewards you can use to sticking to your tracking system.  Pick something that really gets you excited.  

Getting support system in place can help you feel more comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Hiring a coach, joining an online support group, or recruiting family and friends can be very helpful when making big changes.  With a support system in place you are not alone in your discomfort.  You’re network is there for you to reach out for help, knowledge, accountability or camaraderie when you feel frustrated and isolated.  

I’ve helped hundreds of people change their bodies, health and lives of the eleven years I’ve worked as a trainer and coach.  I know it’s hard, but I also know that if they can do it, so can you.  You just need to step outside of your comfort zone and take a risk. Don’t let fear create uncomfortable feelings that keep you stuck in your old ways.  Take that first step and enjoy the journey of reaching your goals and dreams.  

Amber Budahn, B.S., CSCS, ACE PT, USATF 1, CHEK HLC 1, REIKI 1
Cureality Exercise Specialist

The 3 Best Grain Free Food Swaps to Boost Fat Burning

You can join others enjoying substantial improvements in their health, energy and pant size by making a few key, delicious substitutions to your eating habits.  This is possible with the Cureality nutrition approach, which rejects the idea that grains should form the cornerstone of the human diet.  

Grain products, which are seeds of grasses, are incompatible with human digestion.  Contrary to what we have been told for years, eating healthy whole grain is not the answer to whittle away our waists.  Consumption of all grain-based carbohydrates results in increased production of the fat storage hormone insulin.  Increased insulin levels create the perfect recipe for weight gain. By swapping out high carbohydrate grain foods that cause spikes in insulin with much lower carbohydrate foods, insulin release is subdued and allows the body to release fat.

1. Swap wheat-based flour with almond flour/meal

  • One of the most dubious grain offenders is modern wheat. Replace wheat flour with naturally wheat-free, lower carbohydrate almond flour.  
  • Almond flour contains a mere 12 net carbs per cup (carbohydrate minus the fiber) with 50% more filling protein than all-purpose flour.
  • Almond flour and almond meal also offer vitamin E, an important antioxidant to support immune function.

2. Swap potatoes and rice for cauliflower

  • Replace high carb potatoes and pasta with vitamin C packed cauliflower, which has an inconsequential 3 carbs per cup.  
  • Try this food swap: blend raw cauliflower in food processor to make “rice”. (A hand held grater can also be used).  Sautee the “riced” cauliflower in olive or coconut oil for 5 minutes with seasoning to taste.
  • Another food swap: enjoy mashed cauliflower in place of potatoes.  Cook cauliflower. Place in food processor with ½ a stick organic, grass-fed butter, ½ a package full-fat cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add optional minced garlic, chives or other herbs such as rosemary.
3. Swap pasta for shirataki noodles and zucchini

  • Swap out carb-rich white pasta containing 43 carbs per cup with Shirataki noodles that contain a few carbs per package. Shirataki noodles are made from konjac or yam root and are found in refrigerated section of supermarkets.
  • Another swap: zucchini contains about 4 carbs per cup. Make your own grain free, low-carb noodles from zucchini using a julienne peeler, mandolin or one of the various noodle tools on the market.  

Lisa Grudzielanek, MS,RDN,CD,CDE
Cureality Nutrition Specialist

3 Band Exercises for Great Glutes

Bands and buns are a great combination.  (When I talk about glutes or a butt, I use the word buns)  When it comes to sculpting better buns, grab a band.   Bands are great for home workouts, at gym or when you travel.  Check out these 3 amazing exercises that will have your buns burning. 

Band Step Out

Grab a band and place it under the arch of each foot.  Then cross the band and rest your hands in your hip sockets.  The exercise starts with your feet hip width apart and weight in the heels.  Slightly bend the knees and step your right foot out to the side.  Step back in so that your foot is back in the starting position.  With each step, make sure your toes point straight ahead.  The tighter you pull the band, the more resistance you will have.    You will feel this exercise on the outside of your hips. 

Start with one set of 15 repetitions with each foot.  Work on increasing to 25 repetitions on each side and doing two to three sets.



Band Kick Back

This exercise is performed in the quadruped position with your knees under hips and hands under your shoulders.    Take the loop end of the band and put it around your right foot and place the two handles or ends of the band under your hands.  Without moving your body, kick your right leg straight back.  Return to the starting quadruped position.  Adjust the tension of the band to increase or decrease the difficulty of this exercise. 

Start with one set of 10 repetitions with each foot.  Work on increasing to 20 repetitions on each side and doing two to three sets. 



Band Resisted Hip Bridge

Start lying on your back with feet hip distance apart and knees bent at about a 45-degree angle.  Adjust your hips to a neutral position to alleviate any arching in your lower back.  Place the band across your hipbones.  Hold the band down with hands along the sides of your body.  Contract your abs and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up off the ground.  Stop when your thighs, hips and stomach are in a straight line.  Lower you hips back down to the ground. 

Start with one set of 15 repetitions.  Work on increasing to 25 repetitions and doing two to three.  Another variation of this exercise is to hold the hip bridge position.  Start with a 30 second hold and work up to holding for 60 seconds.

Is shock therapy the answer to “cure” obesity?

The next obesity “fix” may be hitting the market known as "VBLOC therapy”.  This implanted device delivers intermittent electrical "blocking signals" to the intra-abdominal vagus nerve.  According to the manufacturer, the device "reduces sensations of hunger and produces satiety leading to weight loss.”

Seems to me like another classic case of conventional healthcare proposing surgery or medications to address the obesity epidemic. Pharmacologic treatment and bariatric surgery have been offered for years to win the battle of the bulge.  As a registered dietitian, who years ago begrudgingly counseled patients prior to undergoing bariatric surgery, I have seen countless people re-gaining all (if not more) of the weight lost after the first year of surgery. Same goes for pharmalogical interventions, such as Phentermine.  Sure it worked in the short-term.  But in every single case, when the medication was stopped, as it is not FDA approved for long-term use, the weight came creeping back.

My take on the releasing a significant amount of weight does not require going under the knife.  How about this instead? Address the cause of increase hunger and appetite.  This is a crucial missing link for many undergoing surgery or using medication(s) as a “solution”.  Not addressing the cause of increased hunger and ravenous eating behaviors precipitously results in rebound weight gain.  Rather than sending an electrical pulse to a nerve in the stomach, maybe the FDA should consider a Cureality-based nutrition program that is wildly successful stimulating a “side effect” of weight loss.  Wheat elimination offers a surgery-free option that reduces hunger and insistent drive to eat every few hours, thanks to freedom from gliadin driven appetite stimulation.  Weight loss is common experience due to reduced hunger and subsequent intake. Give it a try.  What else do you have to lose, but some love handles?

--Lisa Grudzielanek, MS,RDN,CD CDE
Cureality Nutrition & Health Coach

Are Your Beauty Products Toxic?

As a nutritionist and self-care advocate, I am very careful about what I put in my body.  Health benefits experienced through proper nutrition are well understood.  We avoid highly processed foods, wheat-based products, and sugary snacks because we know that are “unhealthy” for us.  But what about what we put on our skin?

An important piece of the health and wellness puzzle is not only what is on the end of our fork but on our toothbrush, slapped on our bodies and rubbed into our hair.  Skin is the largest organ and what we place on it on a daily basis penetrates the skin, enters the fat stores and contributes to the toxicity and adiposity of our bodies.  According to the Environmental Working Group, the average woman uses 12 beauty products per day, containing about 168 ingredients.  Yikes!

I’ve often held a high suspicious that endocrine disruptors such as parabens, triclosan, fragrance, and other punitive chemicals are a key suspect in the root cause of my endocrine disruption.  Interestingly, scientific evidence is now emerging to support this suspicion.

A few months back, I took a look at my hair, skin, and cosmetic products. I was shocked and horrified.  Parabens, an estrogen-mimicking preservative linked with endocrine disruption, was in dozens of products.  It reminded me of how I felt on that day years ago when I threw out all the products in my kitchen that contained wheat.  What are parabens not in?  Why was it in so many products?

In our next episode of Cureality Connections we will discuss key skin and beauty product chemicals to avoid along with other steps to take to attain beauty from within.

--Lisa Grudzielanek MS, RDN, CD, CDE

Top 3 Strength Training Exercises for Runners

First and foremost, if you’re a runner and you’re not strength training you need to start.  This in and of itself could be an entire blog article.  But here I go with the synopsis. 

Strength training will indirectly help you run longer and faster.  Strength training exercises can improve your running mechanics, so that you run more efficiently.  Efficient running mechanics will lead to less wasted energy with each step and less injuries. 

Think about it.  You will take 80 to 90 steps per foot each minute you run.  If you have muscular imbalances that lead to joint mobility or stability issues you will move through an improper range of motion with each step. 

When you run for 30 minutes you take 2700 steps with each foot for a combined 5400 steps.  That could be 5400 steps of feet rolling in, rounded shoulders, wasted side to side movement or just pure pain.  Needless to say, when you are an endurance athlete it’s important that each step and every workout is adding to improved performance not to injury or fatigue.

The key to becoming a better runner is consistency.  For most runners, injuries are the biggest disrupter of consistent training.  Runners get a few good weeks or months of training, and then they are injured.   That means time off, loss of motivation, and a decrease in fitness. 

Strength training with proper form 2 to 3 times a week will reduce the onset of injuries and improve your running form.  Here are my top 3 strength training exercises for runners. 

Bulgarian Split Squat

You will need a bench, chair or stepper to perform this exercise.  Start by doing this exercise with just body weight and then progress.  The progression could include holding dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell.  You can also make this exercise explosive. 




 
  • Place the to top of your back foot on.  If you are having a hard time with balance, flex your back toes and place them on the bench.   
  • Stand in a staggered stance about 2 to 3 feet wide.  This should allow your knee to bend while keeping your knees behind your front toes. 
  • Inhale as you begin to bend both knees. 
  • Focus on your back knee pointing straight down toward the ground and your body weight in your front heel.   
  • Keep your front kneecap inline with the 3rd toe of the front foot. 
  • Exhale as you straighten both knees to come back up to standing.  
Start with 10 repetitions on each leg and progress to 15. 

Calf Lowers

Use a stair or a stepper to perform this exercise.  Start by doing this exercise with just body weight.  The progression would include holding a dumbbell in one hand. 


 


  • Place the ball of your foot on the stair while holding on to the wall or railing.   
  • Rise up on the ball of your foot as high as your heel will go.  Make sure you have weight evenly distributed on all of your toes and that you are not rolling onto one side of your foot. 
  • Slowly, lower you heel back to the starting position.  Try counting 3 to 5 slow counts to ensure you really focus on lowering part of the movement.   
Do 10 reputations on each foot to start.  Work up to doing 20 reputations on each foot. 

Band or Cable Row

How many runners do you see hunched over logging long miles.  This exercise is for improved running posture, which can lead to improved respiration. 

To perform this exercise, use a band or a cable.  This exercise can be done with both arms or with just one arm. 





  • Stand in a staggered stance with relaxed knees.  Make sure your ribs on stacked on top of your hips to ensure good posture. 
  • Grab the handles of the band or the cable in the thumbs up position. 
  • Start the movement by protracting the shoulder blades.
  • Then bend the elbows straight back so that your biceps are close to your rib care.  Keep  your knuckles forward. 
  • To release, begin to straighten your elbows and bring your shoulders back to the starting position. 
Start with 10 repitions and work up to 20.  To increase difficulty, use a more difficult band or more weight on the cable system. 

Here’s to improving your running mechanics so that you can train more consistently.  Can’t wait to hear about the PR at your next race. 

How did Cureality get its start?




In the Cureality program, we embrace information and strategies that empower you in health without drugs, without hospitals, without procedures. We convert your doctor from director of healthcare to your assistant in health. He or she is there when you need help, but you largely direct your own health future.

How did we gain the know-how, information, tools, even chutzpah to take on such an ambitious project?


It started around 10 years ago with the awkwardly named Track Your Plaque program. In fact, some of the current followers of the Cureality program are former Track Your Plaque members, having learned of the wonderful list of strategies that can be adopted to gain better control over, even reverse, coronary atherosclerotic plaque and risk for heart attack. They also learned that something special happens when you engage with other people with similar interests, all sharing ideas, insights, and resources to get the self-directed health job done. Over time, what started out as simply a source of better information for coronary health evolved into a self-directed coronary disease management program. We never set out to create something as wildly ambitious as a do-it-yourself-at-home coronary disease risk management program, but that is how it inadvertently turned out.

How we went from Information Provider to Health Empowerment Program

So we never intended to take on something so seemingly impossible as managing coronary risk on your own. But, because we armed people with such empowering, profound insights into better ways to manage their heart disease risk beyond “don’t smoke, cut saturated fat, be active, and take a statin drug”—the typical advice offered by doctors—they returned after an interaction with their doctors disappointed: doctors often declared such strategies unnecessary, or the doctor didn’t understand them—even when there were clear-cut clinical data already available to support their use. In other words, the patients—everyday people, not experts—knew more than their doctors. 

This flip-flop in the balance of knowledge made for some very interesting stories, like “Harold” (not his real name) who, having survived a heart attack and received a stent, was told by his doctor to cut his fat intake, eat more whole grains, exercise, take aspirin and a beta blocker drug, and reduce his cholesterol values with a statin drug. Upon learning all the additional information from the Track Your Plaque program, Harold returned to his doctor and asked “I’m not so ready to just go along with this idea of ‘reducing cholesterol’ to address heart disease risk. Because my goal is to gain as much control over coronary disease as possible, maybe even reverse it, I’d like to address some additional issues that I believe may be important. I’d like to have my advanced lipoproteins drawn to measure the proportion of small LDL particles I have, whether I have lipoprotein(a), an omega-3 fatty acid index and 25-hydroxy vitamin D level, and a thyroid assessment. Oh, and I believe I should also have an assessment of my inflammation status, perhaps a c-reactive protein and phospholipase A2, and my blood sugar status measured with a fasting glucose, insulin, and hemoglobin A1c.” Harold’s doctor was dumbfounded and speechless. Rather than reveal his ignorance, his doctor advised Harold that none of that was necessary, sending him on his way and telling him that he was fine.

But this left Harold with a sour taste in his mouth, having engaged in many online discussions with people who had followed conventional advice that resulted in more heart attack, more heart procedures—the conventional answers simply did not work. He also discussed his situation with people who had successfully obtained the additional information he sought, added it to their program and enjoyed dramatically improved health, including freedom from more heart attacks, heart symptoms, and heart procedures, as well as improved overall health. So Harold found an easy way to obtain the testing on his own. Within a couple of weeks, he returned to his online community and shared all his information. Within moments, he was provided useful discussion to help him understand the values, all leading to changes in nutrition, nutritional supplement choices, how and where to get the simple tools necessary, such as iodine and vitamin D supplements. He even entered his data, choosing which values he was willing to share with others, which remained private, allowing him to compare his own follow-up values several months later. Engaged in this process, self-directed but collaborative, he witnessed marked transformations in his health. Not only did he never again—over several years—ever re-develop heart symptoms nor require any more trips back to the cath lab, he lost weight, reversed a pre-diabetic sugar profile, improved his cholesterol values without drugs, got rid of the acid reflux symptoms he endured for many years, dropped his blood pressure to normal, enjoyed better mood, energy, and sleep. Slender, healthier, all accomplished without his doctor. 

Harold returned to his doctor for a routine follow-up. Slender, energetic, without complaints, on no drugs except the aspirin for his stent, the basic laboratory assessment his doctor ordered in front of him, his doctor admitted,” Well, I don’t know how you’re doing it, but these values look like a 20-year old substituted his blood for yours. They’re unbelievable. What drugs are you taking to do this?” “No drugs,” Harold replied, “I’m following a program to reverse heart disease, but it means doing some things that are different from conventional solutions.” His doctor closed their meeting with the signature response of doctors nationwide: “Well, I don’t understand what you are doing, but just keep doing it.”

Yes, Harold knew more about how to control heart disease than his doctor, more than his cardiologist. The cardiologist knew how to insert a stent or defibrillator. But deliver information that empowered Harold in all aspects of health from head to toe, while also dramatically reducing, perhaps eliminating, his coronary disease risk? As you now know, that is not what conventional healthcare does, nor is it interested in doing so, as it would relinquish control and threaten to cut off this hugely profitable revenue stream that drives “healthcare.”

Having managed to inadvertently create a self-directed coronary risk management program with such spectacular results and in probably one of the most difficult areas of all—heart disease—it became clear that a similar approach could be even more easily applied to many other areas of health, such as weight loss, bone health, cholesterol and blood pressure issues, diabetes and pre-diabetes, hormonal health, autoimmune conditions, and others. You can do it when empowered by safe, effective information, and supported by a community of sharing and collaboration. We don’t fire our doctors; they are there when we need them when, for instance, we get injured or catch pneumonia, or as an occasional resource. But doctors should no longer be able to get away with neglect, misinformation, or blindly directing you to the next revenue-generating procedure because you are empowered by the information and support you receive in Cureality.

As we get more effective in delivering this information and new tools to you, just imagine what we can accomplish in this new age of information and self-empowerment. The future for us is bright with ambitions for better interactive tools with Cureality expert staff, better ways to crowd source health answers, provide more engaging community conversation, all while the health insights that help accomplish our self-directed health goals get better and better. Each person that joins Cureality helps make this service more effective because your wisdom, insights, and experience are added to the collective knowledge. We are more powerful together than we are as individuals.

If you are already a Cureality Member, please add your comments and questions to the growing conversation. If you are not a Member, consider joining our discussions, as each new voice gets us closer and closer to better answers to take back control over health.

Sit Less and Move More.



We sit way too much. Many of us have desk jobs where we sit for 8 to 9 hours a day. After we leave the office, we sit in our car to run errands. We follow that by sitting down to eat dinner. Our day ends by sitting on the couch to unwind by watching some television.

Many of us will be sitting a good 12 to 15 hours each and every day. Unfortunately the research shows that long hours of sitting can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even early death. Don’t be fooled that your workout is enough movement. You can still be active and sedentary.

How can you add more movement to your day? First, think about all the times you find yourself sitting during the day. Then come up with a creative way that you can get out of the seat and move your feet.

Here are a couple of examples:

Instead of driving everywhere, jump on your bike. The picture above is of the bike I use to go to work or run errands. Bike riding is great exercise, greener transportation and a great stress relief.

We spend a lot of time at work sitting in front of the computer or the phone. Prop your laptop on a bookshelf to create a standing workstation. You can also purchase a sit-stand workstation you can adjust throughout the day. Get a headset and stand during phone calls.

Walk during your lunch break. Walk to the coffee shop, the mailbox, and the dry cleaners. Get your errands done on foot or just enjoy a stroll outside.

Take a movement break every hour. Do some desk push-ups, squats or walk the stairs. Need to communicate with a coworker? Don't email, walk over and talk to them.

Human beings are meant to move, not sit in chairs all day. I want to challenge you to incorporate more movement into your day. I'd love to read your comments how you move more and sit less.

Have You Had Your Prebiotics Today?



Prebiotics and resistant starch may be the missing link to your digestive health. Indigestible fibers that allow healthy bowel flora to proliferate and thrive are often called prebiotics. They are also known as resistant starches, because they are resistant to human digestion. I recently had a client call the addition of resistance starch to her diet, “the missing link my body needed”.

A starch that resists digestion and reaches the large intestine becomes food for the healthy bacteria in the large intestine. These bacteria can break down and “feed on” the resistant starch thus providing the friendly bacteria with the fuel they need to survive.

Imbalance of the quantity and type of bacteria species present in the gut contributes to gastrointestinal illness, blood sugar imbalance, obesity, mood disorders, and immune system challenges.

Green unripe bananas and plantains are one of best sources for prebiotic fiber content with 27 to 30 grams of fiber in one medium banana. Green bananas are essentially inedible. They are most easily incorporated into diet by blending into a smoothie.

One mistake frequently made incorporating prebiotic fibers from bananas is consuming bananas that are too ripe. Once the banana ripens the resistant starch is degraded and become a digestible starch. Thus, no longer a good prebiotic fiber source. In fact, the riper the banana becomes the higher the glycemic (blood sugar) response.

It can be difficult to find bananas that are very green. I made several trips to my local grocery store to find these bowel flora champions. I find it helpful to ask the produce clerk to take a look at the shipment that just arrived, noting the day the shipment arrives, for the best chance to gobble up these green beauties.

In an effort to keep green bananas green I tried a few strategies. One that sounded promising was wrapping the end of the banana to prevent the ethylene gas, which ripens the fruit, from dissipating. You can see from the image this clearly did not work. After a mere two days the green bananas were no longer green. What I found works best is placing the green bananas in the fridge. This halts the ripening process. The skin of the banana will turn brown, which is normal, but the fruit inside is still good. I’ve kept bananas in my fridge for up to 8 days and they hold up well other than the brownish black discoloring that develops on the skin. The banana will be firm and require a knife to cut the skin off the banana.

If you’d like to learn more about prebiotics and strategies to support resolution of common gastrointestinal complaints read the recently release Cureality Guide to Healthy Bowel Flora by Dr. Davis. This guide is one of the many valuable resources available exclusively to Cureality.com members.
---Lisa Grudzielanek, MS, RDN,CD,CDE
Cureality Nutrition Specialist

Something is Better Than Nothing



This past weekend I attended a fitness conference with an amazing lineup of presenters. Even after 11 years in the fitness industry, I love attending these events. I’m a lifetime student always learning more and honing my craft.

I went to a presentation by Al Vermeil about joint mobility, not knowing anything about him. To my surprise, Al was the strength and conditioning coach for the Chicago Bulls and the San Francisco 49ers the years these teams won championships in their respective sports. That’s a pretty impressive resume.

Al was a great presenter, full of fun and practical advice. During his presentation, Al said the following statement:

“Every time you miss a workout, the next one is easier to miss.”

This statement really hit home because I’ve seen this time and time again working in the fitness industry and in my own life. One workout is missed, then an entire week of workouts are missed, then it’s been an entire month of never setting foot back into the gym.

It’s easy to get thrown off your workout routine when life gets busy and days get long. So what do you do? Do you just trash your workout plan?

The all or nothing attitude is common when it comes to making health changes. Either you’re following your plan 100% or you not. I’m here to tell you that doing something is better than nothing. Doing part of your workout or a mini workout is better than missing an entire workout.

The other day I had the choice to do something or nothing. I had a full day of work meetings, video, and family commitments. Here is what happened. I did shorter variation of my joint mobility routine. I followed that with a quick kettlebell circuit of 25 kettlebell swings, 12 kettlebell overhead presses, and 12 kettlebell goblet squats. I did three rounds of this circuit. That’s it! The following day, I got back to my regular exercise routine.

Be consistent with movement and you’ll always see improvements. That’s the magic of exercise. You'll get better if you just do it.

"It's genetic"

"It's genetic"

At 53, Sam had been through the wringer with heart disease. After his first heart attack at age 50, he'd undergone four heart catheterizations, 5 stents, and, most recently, a bypass operation. He came to us to see if there was a better solution.

After hearing Sam's story, I asked,"Did your doctors suggest to you why you had heart disease?"

"Well, they said it was genetic, since my father went through the same thing in his early 50s, though he died after his second heart attack at age 54. They said it was bad luck and nothing could be done about it."

Though Sam's case is more dramatic than most, I hear this argument every day: Risk for heart disease is genetic.

It's true: There are indeed multiple reasons for inheriting causes for coronary heart disease, genes that heighten inflammatory responses, oxidative responses, modify lipoprotein particles, increase blood pressure, etc. There has even been some excitement over developing chromosomal markers for heightened risk.

That's all well and fine, but what can we do about it today?

In practical life, many inherited genetic patterns can be expressed in ways that you and I can identify--and correct. They are not chromosomal markers, but end products of genetic patterns. (Although there are indeed identifiable chromosomal markers, they have not yet led to meaningful treatments to my knowledge.)

These readily identifiable patterns include:

--Lipoprotein(a)--Clearly genetically transmitted, passed from mother or father to each child with a 50% likelihood, then you onto your children if you have it.

--Small LDL--Although small LDL is amplified by high-carbohydrate diets and obesity, it can also occur in slender people who do not indulge in carbohydrates --i.e., a genetic tendency. Or, it can be a combination of poor lifestyle magnifying the genetic tendency for small LDL.

--Low HDL--Particularly the extremes of low HDL below 30 mg/dl. (Although, interestingly, I am seeing more of these people, though not all, respond to vitamin D replacement. Perhaps an important subgroup of low HDL people are really Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) variants.)

--ApoE--Two variants are relevant: ApoE2 and ApoE4. In my experience, it's the E2 that carries far greater significance, though the data are somewhat scanty. ApoE4 people are more sensitive to the fats in their diet (greater rises in LDL with fats; thus, some people advocate a tighter saturated fat restriction with this pattern, though I am not convinced that is the best solution), while ApoE2 people are exceptionally sensitive to carbohydrates, develop extravagant increases in triglycerides, and are very diabetes-prone with even the most minimal weight gain. If two "doses" of the E2 gene are present (homozygotic), then the tendencies are very exagerrated. E4 people are also subject to greater likelihood of Alzheimer's, though it is not a certain risk in a specific individual.

--Postprandial disorders--We use the fasting intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL) as an easy, obtainable index of the ability to clear after-eating byproducts of meals from the blood. Increased IDL has been related to increased coronary, carotid, and aortic aneurysmal disease.

--Hypertriglyceridemia-i.e., increases in triglycerides, While not all forms of high triglycerides confer risk for atherosclerosis, many do, particularly if associated with IDL, small LDL, increased LDL particle number and/or apoB.


There are more, but you get the point. There are clear-cut genetically-transmitted reasons for greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Some, like lipoprotein(a), yield very high risk. Others, like increased triglycerides, yield mixed levels of risk.

Importantly, all of these patterns--ALL--are identifiable and are treatable. Treatment may not always be the easiest thing, but they are treatable nonetheless. While lipoprotein(a), for instance, is the most difficult pattern to correct in the above list, I remind everyone that our current "record holder" for reversal of plaque and heart scan scores--63% reduction--has lipoprotein(a) that we corrected.

If you've been told that your risk for cardiovascular disease or coronary plaque is "genetic" and thereby uncorrectable and hopeless, run the other direction as fast as you can. Get another opinion from someone willing to take the modest effort to tell you precisely why.

Comments (17) -

  • steve

    11/18/2008 2:58:00 PM |

    all excellent points,but the question is: how do you find someone who will tell you why?  Most will look at advanced cholesterol testing and based on that prescribe a statin and a low fat diet.  Speaking of diet, it is unclear how much sat fat you think acceptable on a daily basis.  It is nice to say it is ok to have and we have gone overboard in its elimination, but unfair not to then say how much in your view is ok

  • Anonymous

    11/18/2008 4:25:00 PM |

    Thank you, thank you, thank you... I'm still trying to convince my dad that his lifestyle is still important after his idiot cardiologist told him it was all genetic and all he could do it take meds and hope for the best... I hate when docs downplay diet and exercise.  Ugh!

    On another note, I've been told that because I have ApoE 4 I should not consume alcohol or take fish oil.  What do you know about that?

  • vin

    11/18/2008 4:25:00 PM |

    My grandmother, who died 20 years ago at the age of 85, used to say "it is god's will" whenever someone died young (or old). It is what the modern day cardiologist now puts it down to genetics.

    That is progress over the last 100 years.

  • Jessica

    11/18/2008 7:14:00 PM |

    I think the potential that Vitamin D has relating to heart health is significant.

    Although I'm not the best at verbalizing why this is the case, when I learn a condition is "genetic" and it tends to strike later in life, I think, "but you've had that gene your entire life. Why is it that NOW it's expressing itself?"

    Genetic predispositions to conditions may explain why someone has a condition, but it doesn't explain why the condition occurs when it does.

    Could it be that identifying and correcting D deficiencies early in life will provide our cells (DNA) with the power to continue suppressing genes that should never be expressed?

  • Anonymous

    11/18/2008 7:59:00 PM |

    I think you missed one of the biggest "genetic" factors: crappy living habits: junk food, no exercise. These pass down from generation to generation too. But, like some of the others you mentioned, these conditions are treatable.

  • Anonymous

    11/19/2008 12:03:00 AM |

    www.amocare.com is a free service that has hospitals located in the U.S. that perform heart surgery for around 70% the cost of the price of the average cost. American Medical Outsourcing will help you with the entire process of the treatment. Heart bypass surgery usaly cost $45k-$55k. with AMO, the cost is around $10k-$13k. Go to www.amocare.com for more info.

  • Anonymous

    11/19/2008 4:01:00 PM |

    I'm curious as to why you approved the comment of the amocare spammer?

  • Katherine

    11/20/2011 6:08:47 PM |

    About six months ago I started eating a paleo lifestyle.  Since then I've had two cholestrol panels.  After two months, my LDL was 180.  Four months later, my LDL was 290.  HDL is 68 and Trigs are 41.  I've also lost about 10-14 pounds.  My dad has high cholesterol (LDL) and my grandmother on my mom's side had a heart attack at 66 and died.  I've recently had a FH test and I'm awaiting the results.  Now after reading this, having having a test run on the ApoE4 seems like a good idea as well.  Would the ApoE4 be appropriate?  Was the FH test a waste of time?

  • Dr. William Davis

    11/21/2011 1:38:03 PM |

    Both can be helpful, if only to confirm whether there is a genetic basis or not.

  • Katherine

    11/24/2011 2:16:31 PM |

    Dr. Davis,
    You've said "ApoE4 people are more sensitive to the fats in their diet (greater rises in LDL with fats; thus, some people advocate a tighter saturated fat restriction with this pattern, though I am not convinced that is the best solution),"  What do you think is the best solution?

  • Dr. William Davis

    11/25/2011 2:10:35 PM |

    Because the majority of apo E4 people have extravagant numbers of small LDL particles triggered by carbohydrate consumption, I still advise first eliminating wheat and slashing carbs.

  • Gene K

    11/25/2011 4:21:21 PM |

    I am apo E4/3, and I was able to bring down my small LDL particles to under 90. My daily carb consumption includes a small cup of dark berries, hummus, non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower, zucchini), and natto. I saw a big drop in small LDL particles after I greatly reduced consumption of oils (olive oil specifically), but I don't know whether this change alone had a role in causing the reduction of my smLDL.

  • Gene K

    11/25/2011 4:27:53 PM |

    (cont'd) As far as fats, I don't eat red meat, but plenty of fatty fish and lean poultry plus an egg every day. Tons of yellow mustard (turmeric), too.

  • Dr. William Davis

    11/27/2011 2:15:58 PM |

    HI, Gene--

    I believe the best way to view this is that oils/fats amplify LDL particles in all its forms. If in the presence of carbohydrates, oils/fats will increase small LDL because it is the dominant form.

  • Katherine

    11/28/2011 8:50:14 PM |

    I have eliminated wheat and eat about 30 total carbs a day while my LDL is 289.  I am actively losing weight which is sounds like may have influenced my numbers.  Is the Apo E4 associated only with increased LDL's or is it with elevated Trigs as well?  My Trigs are 37.

  • Ronnie

    12/13/2011 3:16:58 AM |

    My doctor tested me for ApoE without telling me and mailed me my results....I'm a 3/4.  My LDL-P was 1206, Triglycerides 115, HDL-C 72, sdLDL 37 mg/dl.  I'm 60, female, thin (5'2" 109 lbs), have exercised my entire life, non smoker, occasionally drink one glass of white wine.  Parents never had heart disease although I have a sister with CAD which I always chalked up to poor lifestyle habits (terrible diet, sedentary).  I never expected this and I'm not handling this news well at all.  While some people may want to know their ApoE genotype, I wasn't one of them.  I greatly resent my doctor doing this test without consulting me first and the way I received the results through the mail.   I have no idea what to do this information.  Do I consult with a geneticist, a cardiologist or a lipid specialist?

  • Robin Michael

    5/1/2013 5:50:50 PM |

    Dr. Davis,

    I joined TYP specifically because my Heart Diagnostics Lab results (taken before I started Wheat Belly plan) showed my to be APOE E4 3/4 genotype.  My other numbers: total cholesterol=154, LDL-C=85, HDL-C=56, Triglycerides=58. On Lipitor generic 10mg, Lisinopril 20mg and Amlodipine 5mg. I find the WB plan to be easy, but am moderately high fat diet including labne for breakfast, eggs for lunch with avocado, sour cream, and fish/chicken and salad/green vegetable for dinner. Carbs are limited to less than 50g per day. I generally cook with olive oil, and sometimes toasted sesame oil. I eat very little fruit, limited my intake to a few berries in the morning, a plum or half an apple at lunch.

    Do you recommend lowering my fat intake? Anything else?

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