The subject of heart health has hit closer to my own heart than I had ever thought it would. On September.13th I delivered 3 months early to my little guy Ryland due to a condition called HELLP syndrome which is a cousin of preeclampsia (hypertension during pregnancy). Because of this, I have been told me that due to conditions and specific parameters that resulted in my son's early birth I have a 6-8 times higher risk of heart disease than someone my age; quite a substantial figure!
Though this should be scary, it's really quite a motivating factor that contributes to my daily decisions. And, for anyone else at high risk for cardiovascular disease, for whatever reason, there are things you can be doing to keep your heart healthy as well! This may also interest you to know that a heart healthy regime also protects connective tissue and keeps inflammation low thereby protecting the joints and skin; and great circulation can keep your brain healthy too!
One of the most protective things you can do for your heart is physical activity (unless otherwise directed by your doctor). I was advised half an hour, five days a week, but to get back on track after the whole ordeal, and I have started slow and made my goal a half hour of walking/jogging per week and yoga two times per week.
2) Eat a Balanced Diet
Easier said than done! If you need some help with your diet you can contact Hilary with Lettuce Eat and Nourish and she can help you with the specifics. But baseline:
- Plenty of vegetables and fruit to obtain fiber, and heart-protective antioxidants such as proanthocyanidins from berries, ellagic acid from pomegranate
- Limit sugar intake and processed foods and instead opt for high fiber carbohydrate sources
- Monitor caffeine intake & drink lots of water
- 4) Eat small, frequent meals and consume a protein with each meal
- 5) Monitor sodium intake (but don't go extremely overboard because we do need sodium-just not triple the recommended amount!)
- 6) Get healthy fats. Avocados and olive oil are extremely heart protective, and the American Heart Association recommends at least one serving of oily fish per week.
- * Get some garlic:)
It is important to eat whole foods, and keep your blood sugars stable. When sugars in your blood get to high, your body has no choice but to convert that to triglycerides. Triglycerides are stored fat and are a huge contributing factor to the development of cardiovascular disease...arguably more dangerous than cholesterol levels.
3) Take supplements geared towards heart health such as:
- Omega-3's to regulate inflammation, and lower blood pressure and triglycerides. If you've ever heard your doctor talk about CRP, that refers to C-reactive protein and it is a marker for inflammation that can have a role in your development of metabolic disease marked by a number of conditions: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess fat around the waist and elevated blood sugar.
Coenzyme Q10 is found throughout the body, but is most prevalent in cardiac tissue. It has been shown to strengthen the heart and lower blood pressure. It has a role in the delivery of oxygen to the body's cells and it is an antioxidant, thereby reducing damage from free radicals.
If you are on any form of statin drug such as Lipitor or Crestor you should consider taking CoQ10 to hopefully offset some of the side effects of statin drugs.
Magnesium deficiency is considered quite rare by the medical community, but in natural health it is estimated that between 75% and 90% have a deficiency. This is because things like sugar and caffeine deplete magnesium. If you read the symptoms of deficiency of magnesium, many of us have multiples out of that list. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that dietary and supplemental magnesium may prevent cardiovascular calcification which contributes to hardening of the arteries.
Probiotics are really quite intriguing and the more I read about them the more fascinated I am by their roles in our body. I've even read somewhere (though I can't tell you where right now), that the bacteria we have in our body may have more of an influence on our health then our genetics. Crazy!
Probiotics may help to lower excess bad cholesterol by acting in a number of ways, including possibly "eating cholesterol", and interfering in the mechanisms that may cause an overproduction. In addition, probiotics may even help to lower blood pressure; a big job for such little bacteria!
Probiotics and Cholesterol:
Probiotics and Blood Pressure:
If you already have markers for heart disease consider all of the above and:
B) Healthy Heart by CanPrev
One more thing I should bring up: if you smoke that really increases your risk of heart disease. I'm not going to tell you to quit because I live with a smoker and I know that has to be on your own terms. Train your brain to feel intense chest pain every time you inhale..maybe that will help. You can quit, I believe that, but if you aren't ready it makes it all the more important to take other precautions to protect your heart health.