Lifestyle Changes Overview

Optimizing your lifestyle is a cornerstone of preventing and stabilizing vascular plaque. To many, the phrase “lifestyle changes” is overwhelming and downright depressing because we all know it includes losing weight, exercising, and quitting smoking, all of which can be very difficult.

However, many changes are simple and every small improvement will help to put out the fire of inflammation, improve insulin resistance, and reduce vascular risk. We will prioritize the most critical changes, attempting to address only one at a time.

Weight loss

  • We will discuss options.
  • Even just 10% weight loss reduces your cardiovascular risk by at least 50%.
  • Don’t go in with the word “diet” in mind. Diets eventually end. Weight loss is just the first step towards optimal health. Habits of health must be permanent!
  • Don’t forget your children! A New England Journal of Medicine study reports that 39% of obese children (average age of 12) had insulin resistance.
  • Insulin resistance predates diabetes by 15-20 years.
  • It’s therefore not surprising that since the incidence of childhood obesity has increased 400% in the past 40 years, the incidence of type II diabetes in 30s-40s year olds has also increased 400%. This in turn will lead to earlier vascular disease.

Healthy food choices

  • The ideal nutritional intake blends the Mediterranean diet with a low glycemic index diet.
  • Artificial sweeteners- It appears that artificial sweeteners increase insulin release similar to regular sugar. It may not have the calories, but when it comes to producing insulin, our body cannot tell the difference.
  • Alcohol-   Moderate consumption reduces heart attack risk, raises HDL, and may lower LDL. A major exception is in those with the APO E4 genotype, in whom LDL increases and HDL decreases. Those with APO E4 genotype should minimize alcohol. Moderate consumption is defined as 1 drink per day for women and 1-2 drinks per day for men.
  • Hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure- Three 8 ounce servings daily
  • Fiber reduces inflammatory markers if your BMI is <30 and your blood pressure is normal.
  • Chocolate- 5 grams of dark chocolate daily reduces heart attacks and strokes.
  • Cranberry juice-   One if cup of 27% pure cranberry juice daily can increase HDL.


  • Omega 3 fish oil-   Fish is a much better source than plants. Humans have minimal ability to convert alpha linoleic acid in plants to active omega 3 fatty acids. There are many benefits to omega 3 fish oil:
    • It stabilizes electrical system of the heart to reduce the risk of sudden death and atrial fibrillation.
    • It reduces heart attack risk by 19-29 percent through reduced inflammation and improved plaque stability.
    • Reduces blood pressure
    • Reduces dementia-   Likely through lessening multi infarct dementia, a common form of dementia.
    • Large doses reduce inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis
    • May improve anxiety, macular degeneration, ADD, and other conditions
    • The optimal dose is debatable, typically 2-6 pills daily for cardiovascular protection.
  • Vitamin D-   For cardiovascular protection, the goal is a level of 50-70. It increases HDL and can reduce the incidence of muscle aches caused by statins. It may reduce the overall risk of heart disease and diabetes. We will measure levels. Most vitamin D is produced by sun exposure so often extra supplemention is needed during the winter months.
  • Coenzyme Q10-   It may reduce muscle aches cause by statins. Take 100-200 milligrams (Ubiquinol form) daily.
  • L-Carnitine- 2 grams per day may lower LP(a).
  • Magnesium-   Taking 300 mg per day improves insulin functioning and inflammatory markers. Many calcium supplements contain magnesium. Good food sources are halibut, almonds, raisins, spinach, bananas, avocados, black eyed peas, brown rice, kidney and pinto beans, and whole grain cereal.
  • Cinnamon- One gram daily may improve insulin resistance.
  • Chromium picolinate-   600 mcg daily can also improve insulin resistance.

Physical activity

  • A 2002 Stanford study showed that improving your fitness was the most effective way to reduce your mortality from all causes, not just vascular disease. It was more effective than weight loss, diabetes control, and smoking cessation. Participants who improved their maximum aerobic capacity by 5 METS decreased mortality by 45%.
  • For weight loss and insulin resistance, the recommendation is 60-90 minutes of any physical activity on most days. Simply find creative ways to increase your number of steps per day. A good goal is 10,000 steps per day, but start by increasing your baseline by 2000 steps per day.
  • More vigorous exercise will protect your arteries by reducing inflammation and improving endothelial function. The goal is to do moderate aerobic exercise for 30 minutes 5X weekly, or vigorous exercise for 20 minutes 3 times weekly. A minimum of 10 minute “bouts” is adequate. Exercising 10-15 minutes twice daily meets your goal.
  • Interval training is most effective at improving insulin sensitivity, increasing HDL cholesterol, and burning visceral fat.

Peace is good….. Stress is bad

  • Relaxing music, humorous videos, and relaxation tapes have all shown to improve blood flow through arteries. Anxiety provoking music reduces flow.
  • Watching a comedy movie improves arterial flow and watching a D-day movie worsens flow.
  • Having a religious affiliation (any religion) has a positive effect on an array of illnesses and may even increase overall longevity.


Working men who take at least three 30 minute naps weekly have significantly fewer cardiac deaths than men who don’t. No correlation was seen in non-working people.


  • Influenza is very pro-inflammatory. There is a 50% reduction in cardiovascular deaths in people who have received the flu vaccine.
  • Pneumonia vaccine does not produce the same results. It is only recommended for those > 65 years old, and anyone with a respiratory disease like asthma or COPD.

Oral health

Critically important. Click here for more information.