Do you practice heart healthy habits in your lifestyle? Many Americans don’t as evidenced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics that around 600,000 people die of heart disease every year in the United States. The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease which is responsible for 385,000 deaths a year. This type of heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis, is the leading cause of heart attacks. Men typically get this disease earlier than women by about 10 years. It is thought that women receive some protection by having elevated levels of estrogen in their systems during their childbearing years.
Factors of Heart Disease
Factors that can contribute to heart disease include high cholesterol, nicotine from smoking, and high levels of glucose. As a result of these irritants, plaque builds up in the arteries in response to the lining of the arteries becoming inflamed. When the plaque becomes inflamed so much that it ruptures, a clot forms which blocks the artery and cuts off the flow of blood to the heart. This is known as a heart attack.
In the past there have been preventative measures suggested to reduce the risk of heart disease such as hormone therapy, low carbohydrate diet, high protein diet, Vitamin B supplements, and Vitamin E supplements. These are being found now to have no significant impact on reducing heart disease and in some cases can lead to other health concerns.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The best prevention for heart disease is eating a diet high in Omega 3, low in trans fats and saturated fats, low in cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables and fiber. Stay away from fried and greasy foods, limit salt and alcohol consumption, exercise regularly and lower stress. Foods that have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease include fish such as herring, sardines, tuna, salmon and mackerel, and soy protein because it contains fiber, vitamins and minerals and has low levels of saturated fat. Also be aware of chemicals in your food like caffeine, MSG, and other food additives and avoid these. According to studies reported in the Doctors Health Press, when the body stops producing as much CoQ10 later in life, the results can lead to aging, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Supplementing your diet with coenzyme Q10 provides a natural form of support for the heart.
Stress is recognized as a contributor to heart disease as it creates a rise in blood pressure, increases the heart rate and causes a release of stress hormones. Learning to cope with stress is an important skill to develop to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started on a stress reduction program:
- Eat foods that contain magnesium
- Get enough B vitamins, especially B-1
- Chlorophyll can help you feel more vital and less stressed, which equals less emotional eating. Chlorophyll is found in highest concentrations in green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, as well as wheat grass and blue-green algae.
- Learn to recognize situations and events that stress you out and avoid them if possible or come up with a plan of how to cope with them if you can’t avoid them.
- Schedule times during the day to escape from the stress of everyday living. This might be times to meditate, read, or take a walk. Don’t just say you’ll do them, actually schedule them into your day like an appointment otherwise it is to easy to put off.
- Engage in physical activity. Bicycling, walking, a fun exercise dance class or any activity you find enjoyment doing. You may need to schedule these into your day or week too.
- Set boundaries. Be realistic about how much time you can devote to community organizations or family. Learn what your limits are before you become stressed and know when to stop committing to do things or when to ask for help.
- Get plenty of sleep. Lack of adequate sleep can increase the likelihood of being stressed.
The earlier you get started on these heart healthy habits, the better your chances are of beating the statistics of developing heart disease. It’s never too late and your heart will thank you for it.