Inward Bound – How to get rid of cravings and addictions for good!

Inward Bound – How to get rid of cravings and addictions for good!

In Episode Three of Inward Bound, Dave Korsunsky speaks with Sopurkha Kaur, CEO of Awareness Generation, who offers simple tips that help us address and dismiss cravings—on the spot. For long term help, she shows Dave the step-by-step instructions for a meditation specifically designed to retrain the brain away from addictions and into lasting transformation.

In just 5-7 minutes a day, the meditation: Breaking Addiction by Rearranging your Subconscious Mind can help you conquer addictions and cravings whether they be to food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex or basically anything else that tries to control you.

These tools, while fairly simple to do are highly effective in assisting transformation—when done on a daily basis—consistency is key! Dave committed to doing this meditation for 40 consecutive days and he encourages you to commit and see what changes in your life!

Make sure to sync your data from your Oura ring or other tracking devices to see how things like HRV and sleep change as you get rid of addictions.

Sopurkha Kaur has earned the equivalency of a Master’s Degree from the Kundalini Research Institute. As a Certified Teacher for the past nine years, she has observed remarkable personal transformations in herself and thousands of other people after consistently incorporating techniques established over 5,000 years ago. Kundalini techniques are designed for the ‘modern-day householder,’ or busy people who have a desire to heal and evolve through mind-body practices but also need to focus on jobs and families.

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • What a food craving actually is
  • Where food cravings come from in the mind
  • Why breathing and meditation are such highly effective ways to eliminate cravings and that the techniques learned here can be applied to any addiction or craving in your life
  • The food industry uses fMRI to engineer their foods to light up certain areas of your brain when you eat their food, leading you into food addictions and cravings
  • When in the throes of a craving you can immediately engage Breath of Fire (Sopurhka Kaur demonstrated in Episode Two of Inward Bound) to get yourself out of the ‘thinking mind’ and overcome any craving
  • Kundalini techniques strengthen the nervous system and the glandular system—enabling you to harness the energy of your mind, allowing you to control your emotions and yourself—effectively taking back that control that food manufacturers are hijacking from us though chemical strategies
  • Learn a specific meditation for lasting change: Breaking Addiction by Rearranging Your Subconscious Mind
  • When dormant, the pineal gland makes mental and physical addictions seemingly impossible to kick—meditation activates the pineal gland.
  • This meditation also engages the pituitary gland which supports and balances the entire endocrine/hormone systems. 
  • Gain radiance and vitality to set yourself free from demoting patterns

Join us on Facebook Live for new episodes of Inward Bound, where Dave Korsunsky interviews experts in the areas of mindfulness, meditation, and other body awareness techniques and explains how you can track them through Heads Up Health to learn more about how to support your unique health and body.

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About Heads Up Health

Heads Up Health is an app designed to empower individuals who want to take a self-directed approach to managing their health. Instantly centralize your medical records, connect your favorite devices and apps (e.g., Oura, MyFitnessPal, Keto-Mojo, FitBit, Apple Health, MyMacros+, Withings and many more) and use data to optimize your health.

About Awareness Generation

Awareness Generation elevates workplace productivity, engagement, teamwork, and health by teaching people how to transform stress into vitality. Our unconventional programs are taught on or offsite in varying length workshops—customized to the business goals. Programs are people-centric, can be infused into any industry, are offered across the globe, and are focused on Igniting Human Brilliance in the Workplace.

Inward Bound – Facebook Live with Dave Korsunsky and Sopurkha Kaur – How to Wake Up

Inward Bound – Facebook Live with Dave Korsunsky and Sopurkha Kaur – How to Wake Up

Inward Bound – Episode Two – How to Wake Up

In Episode Two of Inward Bound, Dave Korsunsky speaks with Sopurkha Kaur, CEO of Awareness Generation, about how to wake up with several important things to do immediately upon waking up from sleep. She shares quick-hit, actionable techniques that properly prepare the body to start the day, both for better health and to fire up a feeling of empowerment. These are little-known tips to improve your day and your overall health with just a few simple practices.

Sopurkha Kaur has earned the equivalency of a Master’s Degree from the Kundalini Research Institute. As a Certified Teacher for the past nine years, she has observed remarkable personal transformations in herself and thousands of other people after consistently incorporating techniques established over 5,000 years ago. Kundalini techniques are designed for the ‘modern-day householder,’ or busy people who have a desire to heal and evolve through mind-body practices but also need to focus on jobs and families.

David discusses how we can employ these promoting habits in our daily life and quantify them with the latest digital health technology.

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • Review key sleep practices from Inward Bound – Episode One
  • Best practices on how to wake up to start the day
  • How to take your vitality back by empowering yourself with the things you can control in life
  • Five things to do as you’re waking up —before you even open your eyes
  • Five things to do immediately after you get out of bed
  • Awakening the nervous system in the morning, and slowing it down for sleep in the evening can be measured through a heart rate monitor and your phone HRV
  • Breath of Fire (BOF)—major benefits include:
    • Releases toxins and the deposits of mucus in our lung linings, in our blood vessels and all of our cells
    • Expands lung capacity and increases vitality and vital strength
    • Strengthens the nervous system to be able to resist stress
    • Reduces addictive impulses from drugs, smoking, and bad foods
    • Increases oxygen delivery to the brain, which facilitates a focused and intelligent and neutral state of mind so we can make better decisions throughout the day
    • Boosts the immune system and it may prevent diseases
    • Promotes synchronization of the biorhythms of the body’s systems
    • Repairs and balances both the sympathetic and parasympathetic system
    • Energizes the body while it calms the mind
  • One step you’re already doing—using the toilet to eliminate waste—here we remind you to look at your waste, notice the color of the urine and notice what your stool can tell you about your health based on the Bristol Stool Chart
  • Another step you are likely already doing is brushing your teeth—however, there is an additional aspect to that step which is very beneficial and hardly anyone has ever heard about—gaging the monkey glands. Do this by brushing the way back area of the tongue (the monkey glands) and get yourself to gag several times. This releases the pool of toxic bacteria that the glands catch and store throughout the night. Release those toxins BEFORE swallowing any saliva (an unconscious, natural thing we do upon waking) or drinking anything. Added bonus, the eyes will water when you gag, which makes an excellent daily lubricant
  • How (a specific walkthrough with Sopurkha Kaur) to take a proper Cold Shower. Major benefits include:
    • Open up capillaries and circulation
    • Flush the organs with clean purified blood
    • Keep blood chemistry young, virile, and healthy
    • Stimulate healthy secretion of the glandular system
    • Keeps skin radiant
    • PRECAUTIONS – DO NOT DO A COLD SHOWER WHEN:
      • You have a fever
      • When menstruating or pregnant
      • If you have rheumatism, heart disease or circulatory issues (like Raynoid’s disease)
      • Go slow with cold showers if you have issues with sciatica or high blood pressure
      • Protect the genitals
  • Cryotherapy is another biohacking option for cold exposure (see Dave Korsunsky and Dr. John Limansky take a cold plunge into Lake Tahoe)
  • The final Good Morning step is to allow quiet time to listen to inner messages, to consciously breath, to intentionally meditate, or simply to set your intentions for the day. Open your brain and body to receive guidance from your soul—your true, unconditional, best friend. This is a key step for success in any area of your life and health. Some of the most successful people in the world will start the day with an extensive (2-3 hours) early morning practice. If it’s new to you, simply start with a few minutes and you will still begin to experience positive results in your day. Again, do this daily—consistency is key!

Join us every Friday on Facebook Live for a new episode of Inward Bound, where Dave Korsunsky interviews experts in the areas of mindfulness, meditation, and other body awareness techniques and explains how you can track them through Heads Up Health to learn more about how to support your unique health and body.

About Heads Up Health

Heads Up Health is an app designed to empower individuals who want to take a self-directed approach to managing their health. Instantly centralize your medical records, connect your favorite devices and apps (e.g., Oura, MyFitnessPal, Keto-Mojo, FitBit, Apple Health, MyMacros+, Withings and many more) and use data to optimize your health.

About Awareness Generation

Awareness Generation elevates workplace productivity, engagement, teamwork, and health by teaching people how to transform stress into vitality. Our unconventional programs are taught on or offsite in varying length workshops—customized to the business goals. Programs are people-centric, can be infused into any industry, are offered across the globe, and are focused on Igniting Human Brilliance in the Workplace.

Inward Bound – Facebook Live with Dave Korsunsky and Sopurkha Kaur – Habits for Better Sleep

Inward Bound – Facebook Live with Dave Korsunsky and Sopurkha Kaur – Habits for Better Sleep

Inward Bound – Episode Two – Habits for Better Sleep

In this Inward Bound episode, Dave Korsunsky speaks with Sopurkha Kaur, CEO of Awareness Generation, to share ‘promoting habits for better sleep’. Learn actionable tools that are sure to improve your sleep with a few adjustments—from the orientation of your bed to quick hit breathing exercises for optimal relaxation. 

Sopurkha Kaur has earned the equivalency of a Master’s Degree from the Kundalini Research Institute. As a Certified Teacher for the past nine years, she has observed remarkable personal transformations in herself and thousands of other people after consistently incorporating teachings established over 5,000 years ago. Kundalini techniques 
are designed for the ‘modern-day householder,’ or busy people who have a desire to heal and evolve through mind-body practices but also need to focus on jobs and families.

David discusses how we can employ these promoting habits in our daily life and quantify them with the latest digital health technology.

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • How the position of your bed affects your sleep based on its relation to the earth’s gravitational pull on your body
  • How Left Nostril Breathing affects energy flow and produces calming for sleep(guided Left Nostril Breathing is practiced at the end of the show)
  • How the firmness of your bed affects your sleep. Make sure your spine is supported by a firm bed
  • The importance of strenuous exercise every day. Getting at least 30 min sets the body up for great sleep
  • Be mindful of when you stop eating before you go to bed, as digestion can delay deep sleep
  • Hydration is key in allowing the brain to rest and rejuvenate
  • Lower lights, switch to candles before bed, unplug and avoid blue light devices for a couple of hours before bed
  • There are approximately 72,000 nerves that end in the feet, soaking your feet in icy cold water for 3-4 minutes before bed will instantly calm your entire nervous system and your organs throughout your body
  • Using acupressure/foot massage on your feet before sleep to support your organs can be really helpful too. Here’s a foot map to show the exact areas on the feet correlate to specific body parts/organs
  • Track your heart rate, HRV and sleep with a tracking device so you can start doing your own n=1 experiments to find out what is most affecting your sleep
  • How to practice Three Part Breathing (click for instructions). The mind follows the breath, so when we consciously control our breath, the mind has no choice but to listen to the cues the breath is giving it.
  • Try Left Nostril Breathing (click for instructions) for optimal relaxation before sleep, or if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep. The left nostril is connected to the moon’s energy which is cleansing, calming, and cooling energy.

Join us every Friday on Facebook Live for a new episode of Inward Bound, where Dave Korsunsky interviews experts in the areas of mindfulness, meditation, and other body awareness techniques and how you can track them through Heads Up Health to learn more about how to support your unique health and body.

About Heads Up Health

Heads Up Health is an app designed to empower individuals who want to take a self-directed approach to managing their health. Instantly centralize your medical records, connect your favorite devices and apps (e.g., Oura, MyFitnessPal, Keto-Mojo, FitBit, Apple Health, MyMacros+, Withings and many more) and use data to optimize your health.

About Awareness Generation

Awareness Generation elevates workplace productivity, engagement, teamwork, and health by teaching people how to transform stress into vitality. Enjoy unconventional training taught on or offsite through varying length workshops—customized to the business goals. Programs are people-centric, fuses perfectly into any industry, offered across the globe, and focused on Igniting Human Brilliance in the Workplace.

Five Steps to Jump Start the Keto Diet

Five Steps to Jump Start the Keto Diet

In this post we will take a look at how Heads Up Health can help you successfully navigate the challenges of implementing and maintaining a ketogenic diet. In particular, we will introduce tools that can help you track your progress, fine tune your approach and find exactly what works for your own body as you adopt a low-carb ketogenic lifestyle.
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Ketogenic Ratio Tracking

Ketogenic Ratio Tracking

While a ketogenic diet may have gained a lot of popularity recently, it’s origin dates back to 1923, when Dr. Russell Wilder started using it at the Mayo Clinic for the treatment of pediatric epilepsy. At the time, pharmaceuticals were not available to treat epilepsy, and it quickly became the go-to treatment due to its efficacy.

Though we now have drugs to support the suppression of seizures in those with epilepsy, not all medications work for everyone, and some individuals have found they have even better control when they eat a ketogenic diet. And not to be exclusive, one therapy can exist with the other, meaning you can combine a ketogenic diet with the therapies you’re already on and may even find that over time you’ll be able to reduce those medications, though you should always communicate with your provider of significant dietary changes so they can monitor your medications. *never go off medication without your doctor’s support and guidance.  Sudden withdrawal of anti-seizure medications can cause seizures.

What is the ketogenic ratio?  

Simply put, the ketogenic ratio is the ratio of fats to carbs + protein in grams measurements in the diet. While most ketogenic diet followers won’t go quite this far with their tracking, it can be critically important for those following a ketogenic diet for therapeutic reasons, like epilepsy.

As you can imagine, calculating this out for every meal can be very time consuming if done manually, which is why automating these calculations whenever possible can decrease the frustration that parents or individuals sometimes feel when using a ketogenic diet for therapeutic reasons.

What is The Classic Ketogenic Diet?

A classic ketogenic diet requires a high level of fat with a very low level of combined carbs and proteins, usually 4:1 or 3:1 (fats to carbs+protein)

For example, on a 2000 calorie diet with a 4:1 ratio, you would have 200g of fat, and a combined total of 50g carbs + protein.

As you can see below, the carbs and the protein are further broken down based on the individual’s protein need to roughly 6% protein and 4% carbohydrates.  Your doctor or nutritionist may modify this depending on your body weight, activity level, and seizure control.

Keto_RatioNote* This is an example only. Your calculations will be custom to you and your dietary needs.

Which ratio is better?

That really depends on your goals. While a 4:1 ratio may be how the diet originated, most adults use more of a 3:1 ratio due to their increased need for protein based on weight, but this all depends on your level of seizure control and should be determined by your doctor. You can read more about the different ratios on the Charlie Foundation’s website here.

Isn’t a ketogenic diet hard?

When the ketogenic diet comes up in regards to a child’s therapeutic diet, it is often met with resistance because it seems difficult or hard to comply with.  However with the recent interest in the ketogenic diet for many applications-from diabetes, to cancer, to weight training, it has become much more common, with food bloggers making it a common household word.  Add in all of the apps available for calculating macronutrients, and pair it with your Heads Up Health profile removing all the calculating and it becomes much easier!

How can I do a ketogenic diet without calculating everything?!

Though macronutrient ratios need to be more specific and consistent with a therapeutic ketogenic diet, it no longer has to be complicated to track.  Heads Up Health has integrated another new feature to let you track your ketogenic ratio when linked to your food tracking app like Cronometer, My Fitness Pal, MyMacros+ or FitBit nutrition trackers.

Just enter all of your foods eaten into your food tracker, which will link with your Heads Up Health account, and the calculations for your ketogenic ratio are done for you, letting you know at a glance if you’re on track or not.  With the new mobile app (coming soon), you’ll have this info easily at your fingertips at all times.

How to set up your Heads Up Health profile for ketogenic ratio tracking

To get your ketogenic ratio widget, click on the “+” button at the bottom of your widgets, click on “data source,” and select keto ratio from the drop-down menu. From there you will enter your goal.  If you are aiming for a 3:1 ratio, enter 3 in this field.

Keto_Ratio_Add_Widget

Once you have your widget, you can drag it to the top of the screen, so it’s easily viewed.  Next, click on your username in the top righthand corner of the page, click on Settings and select either total or net carbs under the ketogenic ratio section.

Keto_Ratio_Total_vs_Net_Carbs

Total Carbs include the total amount of carbohydrates in your food.

Net Carbs is total carbs minus fiber in that food.  

If you select total carbs, you’ll be complying more strictly; however, you will be allowed much fewer carbs than if you choose net carbs and account for the fiber that slows the carbohydrate’s glucose response in your body.

Make sure your food tracker like Cronometer, My Fitness Pal, MyMacros+ or FitBit nutrition tracker is linked to your Heads Up Health account.

To connect your food tracker to Heads Up Health

Click on “Connect Data” in the upper right corner of the page near your name.

Connecting_Other_Data_To_HUH

Once you’ve gotten your food tracker connected and your keto ratio widget on your dashboard, rearrange them in a way that makes sense for you at a glance.  Here is an example of how yours could look.

Keto_Ratio_Dashboard

References:

For more detailed information on the therapeutic use of the ketogenic ratio and how it’s used in epilepsy treatment visit the Charlie Foundation.

 

Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.

Low-carb Lab Testing — Part 8: The Coronary Artery Calcium Test – A Better Way to Evaluate Cardiovascular Health

Low-carb Lab Testing — Part 8: The Coronary Artery Calcium Test – A Better Way to Evaluate Cardiovascular Health

What is the CAC test and why should you care?

If you’ve been following a low-carb or ketogenic diet for a while, there’s a chance your cholesterol has gone up.  And not just your HDL, but also your LDL—the so-called “bad cholesterol” (even though that’s a total misnomer).  Maybe your cholesterol has actually gone sky-high, and your doctor not only wants you to start taking medication immediately, but she’s also ordered you to quit your “crazy” high fat diet.  Even if you follow some other kind of diet—Paleo, vegetarian, low fat, or no special plan at all—maybe your cholesterol is high, and you’ve been told you need medication, or that you should exercise more.

Your doctor is only looking out for your best interest, but if they’re not up on the latest research, they might not know that your cholesterol level tells you very little about your risk for cardiovascular disease or a heart attack:

There’s “a growing volume of knowledge that challenges the validity of the cholesterol hypothesis and the utility of cholesterol as a surrogate end point.” (DuBroff, 2017)

It’s possible to have low cholesterol but massive heart disease, or to have very high cholesterol but be in great cardiovascular shape.

If you don’t want to start a war with your doctor, but you also don’t want to abandon a way of eating that’s helped you lose weight, have more energy, and maybe even reduce or eliminate diabetes medications, you can experiment with lowering your cholesterol by using the Feldman Protocol, which we featured here at Heads Up Health.  But there’s a much better way to evaluate your cardiovascular health than just looking at cholesterol.  It’s called the coronary artery calcium test (CAC).  We’ll explore it in detail in a bit.  First, let’s look a little closer at the problems with using cholesterol as an indicator of heart health.

Cholesterol is Protective

Evidence continues to build that cholesterol levels—including LDL—are not accurate indicators of cardiovascular disease risk, and that the medical community as a whole may have gotten “the cholesterol story” very wrong.  For starters, there’s the inconvenient truth that many people who have heart disease or experience a heart attack have “normal” or even low cholesterol.  Low cholesterol is no guarantee against a heart attack, nor is high cholesterol a one-way ticket to heart disease and sudden death.

In fact, evidence suggests that higher cholesterol—again, including LDL—may actually be beneficial, especially in your golden years.  A growing body of research indicates that high LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) is inversely associated with mortality in most people over sixty years of age.  Inversely associated means, the higher the LDL, the lower the risk for mortality.  To be fair, everyone’s risk for mortality is 100%, at least so far as we know.  So when we say there’s a lower risk for mortality, it means that someone has a smaller chance of dying from anything other than a nice old age.  This finding—that high LDL seems protective in some ways—has given researchers “reason to question the validity of the cholesterol hypothesis.”

This is especially true for older people.  Epidemiological and observational studies show that, for most people over 60 years of age, high LDL-C is inversely associated with mortality.  Researchers have also noted a “reverse epidemiology” among the elderly wherein slightly higher blood pressure, BMI, and cholesterol seem to be protective for health.

High Cholesterol Is Not a Disease

Cholesterol is a surrogate indicator.  It’s a measurement, not an illness.  Neither high total cholesterol nor high LDL-C, in particular, is a disease, in and of itself.  They have long been considered markers for cardiovascular disease or risk of heart attack, but this ignores the crucial fact that neither the number of LDL particles in your blood nor the amount of cholesterol carried in them indicates anything about the degree of atherosclerotic plaque built up in your major arteries.

Measuring the amount of cholesterol in your blood provides no information whatsoever about the accumulation of calcified plaques in coronary arteries—that is, how “clogged” your arteries are—or are not.  With this in mind, the obsessive focus on lowering cholesterol by any means necessary may have actually worsenedthe very epidemic of heart disease these treatments were intended to stop.  The authors of one paper made a powerful case that “the epidemic of heart failure and atherosclerosis that plagues the modern world may paradoxically be aggravated by the pervasive use of statin drugs,” and proposed “that current statin treatment guidelines be critically reevaluated.”

Bottom line: statin drugs do lower cholesterol, but having lower cholesterol doesn’t guarantee protection against heart attack or heart disease.  Plus, statins don’t just lower cholesterol.  The biochemical mechanism by which they do so comes along with a host of other effects, some of which have drastic implications for cardiovascular health.  To name just two, statins interfere with healthy mitochondrial function and also impair the synthesis of crucial vitamin K2.  Vitamin K2 is a “traffic cop” for calcium: it helps deposit it where it belongs, like in your bones and teeth, and helps steer it away from places you don’t want it, like your artery walls, your joints, and your kidneys.  So you can see how a deficiency in this critical vitamin could lead to arterial calcification, and it has nothing to do with the amount of cholesterol in your blood.  (You can learn more about this fascinating but underappreciated vitamin in the book, Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox.)

Enter the CAC Test

Since people who have heart disease or suffer heart attacks run the gamut from low cholesterol to high cholesterol and everything in between, using total cholesterol or even LDL as the determinant of whether someone’s at risk for a cardiovascular event is as misguided as gauging metabolic health and carbohydrate tolerance solely through measurements of blood glucose, while ignoring the crucial role of insulin.

With all this in mind, more physicians are taking advantage of the coronary artery calcium scan.  Unlike serum cholesterol measurements, which, again, are only surrogates, the CAC provides direct observation of arterial calcification that has already occurred.  Not atherosclerosis an individual might or might not be at risk for based on their cholesterol, but the actual disease in progress.  Why rely solely on surrogates when you can have a picture of the actual state of your arteries?

Data is accumulating that confirms what many doctors already know, even if they’re hesitant to admit it: cholesterol levels often don’t correlate with atherosclerosis.  Data show that “significant ASCVD [atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease] risk heterogeneity exists among those eligible for statins according to the new guidelines. The absence of CAC reclassifies approximately one-half of candidates as not eligible for statin therapy.”  In plain English: half the people who would be put on statins based on cholesterol measurements were not candidates for these potentially dangerous drugs when their actual coronary artery calcification was measured.

Other studies bear similar findings.  According to a study in Korean adults, over 50% of individuals for whom statin therapy was recommended had a CAC score of zero – no calcification.  Based on actual arterial calcification—or, rather, the lack thereof—these individuals were at low risk for cardiovascular events, but without having gotten the CAC test, they might have been treated with statins based solely on the surrogate measurement of LDL.

What about the other side of this?  What about people with normal or even “low” cholesterol?  Does that go hand-in-hand with low risk for a cardiovascular event?

Not quite.  Just as people with high cholesterol might have little to no arterial calcification, people with normal or low cholesterol could have high CAC scores and be at greater risk for heart disease, heart attack, or sudden death.  This exact scenario played out in a study of CAC in low-risk women—low-risk, meaning they had cholesterol in the conventionally “normal” range: “Among women at low ASCVD risk, CAC was present in approximately one-third and was associated with an increased risk of ASCVD and modest improvement in prognostic accuracy compared with traditional risk factors.”  Plain English translation again: one third of women assessed to be at low risk for atherosclerosis already had measurable arterial calcification.  Say it with me for emphasis, folks: the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream tells you nothing about the amount of atherosclerotic plaque in your arteries.

What is Coronary Artery Calcium and Why Test It?

Unlike your cholesterol, your CAC score gives you visual proof of arterial plaque.  The reason to measure calcium, specifically, is, “Coronary artery calcification is part of the development of atherosclerosis; it occurs exclusively in atherosclerotic arteries and is absent in the normal vessel wall.”  In other words, whether your cholesterol is low, high, or somewhere in the middle, if you have detectable coronary artery calcium, you have atherosclerosis.

And the reason to measure the extent of calcified plaque is that these plaques can rupture, break away from the artery wall, and block the artery, cutting off blood flow to the heart—which is one way heart attacks happen.

If you’re wondering why calcium might end up in your arteries, the main reason is that it’s one of the ways your body repairs damaged blood vessels.  According to Ivor Cummins and Jeffry Gerber, MD, in their book, Eat Rich, Live Long:

“The body’s response to damaged coronary arteries is always the same, and that response is what the CAC scan directly observes and quantifies.  Your body tries to repair itself by depositing calcium in the damaged areas of the arterial wall.  As the damage continues, these repair processes quicken.  They desperately attempt to shore up the arterial walls before a rupture occurs.  This growing calcium becomes the telltale sign of imminent danger—the ultimate canary in the coal mine.”

What is the CAC Test?

The CAC test, also called a “heart scan,” is a non-invasive, special x-ray of the heart and coronary arteries, performed via CT scan (computerized tomography).  The scan itself takes only 20-30 seconds, but the whole procedure, from start to finish, takes about 10-15 minutes.  Fasting is not required, but you may be asked to refrain from smoking or consuming caffeine for four hours before the scan, since an elevated heart rate can reduce the image quality.  Many insurance companies cover this test, but if yours doesn’t, or your doctor won’t order one for you, you can pay for it out of pocket, for about $150 in the U.S.

Test results are usually given as a number called an Agatston score.  This number reflects a composite measurement of the total area of calcium deposits, and the density of the calcium.  According to the Mayo Clinic, a score of zero means no calcium is present, and risk of heart attack is low.  When calcium is present, the higher the score, the higher the risk for heart attack in the long term.  A score of 100 to 300, considered “moderate plaque deposition,” is associated with a high risk of heart disease or heart attack over the next three to five years, and a score over 300 indicates very high to severe risk.

The key thing to know here is, many people (especially low-carbers) have very high cholesterol, but CAC scores of zero.  Even if your score isn’t zero, if it’s very low, that might put your doctor’s fears to rest even if you have high cholesterol.  Keeping the peace with your doctor isn’t a bad reason to have a CAC test, but an even better one is to put your own mind at ease.  

The exact meaning of different coronary calcium scores differ depending on the source cited, but here’s a general guide, according to Axel Sigurdsson, MD:

Coronary calcium score 0: No identifiable plaque. Risk of coronary artery disease very low (<5%)

Coronary calcium score 1-10: Mild identifiable plaque. Risk of coronary artery disease low (<10%)

Coronary calcium score 11-100: Definite, at least mild atherosclerotic plaque. Mild or minimal coronary narrowings likely.

Coronary calcium score 101-400: Definite, at least moderate atherosclerotic plaque. Mild coronary artery disease highly likely. Significant narrowings possible

Coronary calcium score > 400: Extensive atherosclerotic plaque. High likelihood of at least one significant coronary narrowing.

Here’s another look at CAC scores, from Eat Rich, Live Long:

Data adapted from Cardiac CT Imaging: Diagnosis of Cardiovascular Disease

 

However, a high CAC score doesn’t mean you’re automatically in imminent danger.  If your plaques are stable—that is, they don’t keep increasing over time—your risk for a cardiovascular event remains pretty low.  On the other hand, even if you start out with a relatively low score, if that score increases substantially over time, your risk is much higher.  Remember, as arterial damage worsens, calcium deposition increases, so if your CAC score is going up, your arteries are in worse shape.

From Eat Rich, Live Long:

Track Your Progress

The Heads Up Health app is the perfect place to track your Coronary Artery Calcium scores. See the video below for more information:

Not a Perfect Test

Although a low CAC score generally indicates low risk for cardiovascular events or disease, it’s not a full guarantee.  Unstable coronary plaques vulnerable to rupture may be present in the absence of calcium deposition.  And a high CAC score increases the chances that you have vulnerable plaques, but it doesn’t identify specific places where a rupture or blockage might occur.  Dr. Sigurdsson wrote:

“The presence and extent of coronary calcium are first and foremost markers of the extent of atherosclerosis within the coronary arteries. Nonetheless, it is important to understand that the coronary calcium score does not necessarily reflect the severity of narrowing (the degree of stenosis). Still, a patient with a high calcium score is more likely to have a significant narrowing of a coronary artery than a patient with a low calcium score.  An individual without coronary artery calcification is very unlikely to have a severe narrowing of a coronary artery.  Although cardiovascular events can occur in patients with very low calcium scores, the incidence is very low.”

Take Action

If your CAC score is zero or very low, keep doing what you’re doing!  But if you have a high score, don’t let fear overtake you.  Instead, use that knowledge to spur you to action.  Specifically, consider adopting a

low-carb, higher-fat diet.  Nothing’s more damaging to your blood vessels than chronically high blood sugar or insulin.  Low carb and ketogenic diets have been shown time and again to reduce inflammation, reverse metabolic syndrome, and be beneficial for cardiovascular health.

Not only can you slow the progression of arterial calcification, but you can actually reverse it.  This was virtually unheard of in the past, but that’s because the only things recommended to people with high CAC scores was a low-fat diet and cholesterol-lowering medications.  Since coronary artery calcium has virtually nothing to do with your cholesterol and a lot more to do with repairing damage to blood vessels injured by chronically high glucose and insulin, it’s no wonder a high-carb diet and cholesterol medications made no impact.

On the other hand, a ketogenic or low-carb, high-fat diet might be just the thing to help those blood vessels heal and restore your cardiovascular system to its best functioning.  Use the tracking system here at Heads Up Health to record your CAC score and keep track of all your other health data in one convenient place.