Your Healthy HeartBenjamin Franklin said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and Heart disease is no exception. According to the INTERHEART study, which examined cardiovascular risk factors in 51 countries, 9 out of the 10 strongest risk factors for heart disease are modifiable by changes in diet and lifestyle. Of course taking action now does not guarantee that you’ll never get heart disease (as age is perhaps the strongest risk factor), but it does vastly improve your chances of avoiding or delaying it. Here are some simple but highly effective steps to achieving a healthy heart that your doctor probably won’t tell you about.
Live a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
Boost your activity, not just your exerciseExercise has been shown to reduce your LDL cholesterol even independently of diet. The benefits of exercise are related to maintenance of body weight or weight loss, blood pressure control, return of insulin sensitivity, and beneficial changes in fats, all of which in turn promote a healthy cardiovascular system. In addition to distinct periods of exercise, it’s also important that you sit less and stand and walk more. In fact, some research suggests that this “non-exercise” physical activity may have a greater impact on our cardiovascular health than exercise.
SleepSleep duration and quality are inversely associated with blood pressure in scientific studies, and high blood pressure is one of the strongest risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). A study found that those who reported fewer than 5 hours of sleep at night had a 38% greater risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) than those reporting 8 hours of sleep.
Stress managementStress increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in numerous ways including leaky gut, erratic blood sugar levels and impaired immunity. But by far the most significant contribution stress makes to CVD is that it promotes inflammation. Stress has been shown to increase circulating inflammatory markers that are associated with heart disease. Stress management however can have a profound impact on your heart disease risk. One recent randomised trial showed that regular meditation decreased the risk of death from heart attack, stroke and all causes by 48% — more successful than statin medication.
Boost Your Heart-Healthy NutrientsThere are several specific foods/nutrients that have been shown to improve cardiovascular health.
Coenzyme Q10 Coenzyme Q10 is beneficial for heart health in many ways. It assists in maintaining LDL cholesterol, helps circulatory health, and supports optimal functioning of the heart muscle.
Monounsaturated fat Monounsaturated fats have been shown to reduce LDL and triglycerides and increase HDL. They also reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, lower blood pressure, decrease thrombosis, and they may reduce the incidence of heart disease. The best sources of monounsaturated fat are olives, olive oil, macadamia nuts, and avocados.
Magnesium Low magnesium levels have been found to be the best predictor of heart disease, contrary to the traditional belief that cholesterol or saturated fat play the biggest roles. Previous research has revealed low magnesium to be linked with cardiovascular risk factors such as:
- high blood pressure
- arterial plaque build-up
- calcification of soft tissues
- hardening of the arteries
This implies that the real culprit of cardiovascular disease has been low magnesium levels.
Polyphenol-rich foods Some of the best studied polyphenol-rich foods are:
- tea, especially green tea
- extra-virgin olive oil
- red wine
- citrus fruits
- dark chocolate
Polyphenol-rich foods have been shown to have a number of beneficial health effects. For example, dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity, red wine has been shown to prevent the increase in oxidised fats that occur after consuming a meal high in oxidised and potentially oxidisable fats and blueberries have been shown to lower blood pressure.
Garlic Garlic is widely used for cardiovascular health, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high cholesterol, heart attack, coronary heart disease and hypertension. The benefits have been proven scientifically and make Garlic is an excellent addition to your diet.