Heart health is important. Like, quality of life important. Living a long, healthy life requires treating your ticker right! But don't worry, your heart is a tough organ. Every day, your heart beats over 100,000 times, pumping blood through more than 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Even if you've suffered cardiovascular health-related issues in the past, there are many things you can still do to achieve and maintain heart health.
Addressing Risks to Cardiovascular Health
Most types of heart disease share common causes. About 47% of all Americans have one of the three leading risk factors for heart disease — smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But there are other factors that can increase your risk for developing heart disease.
Factors that increase heart disease risk:
High blood pressure
Being overweight or obese
Eating an unhealthy diet
Excessive alcohol use
Smoking is bad for your heart
If you're a smoker, odds are you've been hearing this one for a while. People who smoke has more than twice the risk of a heart attack compared to non-smokers. Quitting isn’t easy, but there's no better one-step way to improve your heart health than to quit smoking.
Few people know exactly why quitting is good for your heart: it has to do with what smoking does to your vascular system. Smoking can cause your blood vessels to narrow and thicken. It also reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, which means, your heart must work that much harder to get enough oxygen to your body and brain.
Steps to Protect Cardio Health
Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise routine are among the most important steps to prevent heart disease. Keeping conditions like diabetes and cholesterol under control can also reduce cardiovascular health risks.
A heart-healthy diet includes:
Limiting highly processed foods
Drinking alcohol in moderation – no more than two drinks per day for men, 1 drink per day for women.
Eat plenty of heart-healthy fruits & veggies
The multimedia world has expanded our palates and given our tastebuds oh-so-many to-do delicacies that we would never even know existed without our favorite food channels or cooking shows. There are plenty of delicious ways to eat right and still be cardiovascular-health conscious.
Vegetables and fruits — Or as most of us know them, plants! Eat them daily. Leafy greens like spinach are packed with heart-healthy vitamin k and other good stuff, like antioxidants. Fruits and veggies deliver flavonoids, blood pressure-friendly potassium and magnesium and vitamin C.
Lean meat, poultry and fish, dairy products, and eggs. Pollock and halibut are very, very low-fat sources of protein. But even the oily fish like tuna and salmon are good for your heart—because of the type of fat they contain. Polyunsaturated fats in oily fish are considered "healthy fats". They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to improve heart health and help maintain already healthy triglyceride levels.
Olive oil is a source of monounsaturated fat, which is the other "healthy fat." Olive oil also contains compounds called polyphenols that help maintain your vascular endothelium—the delicate inner lining of your blood vessels that plays a huge role in blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.
Supplements that support healthy hearts
There are supplements that can boost the effects of a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise to protect your heart. Supplements can’t make up for unhealthy habits or diets but can help fill in the gaps when used carefully.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
A natural substance like a vitamin, this antioxidant is produced naturally inside your body. Your cells use CoQ10 to help them produce cellular energy: it helps the mitochondria within your cells turn macronutrients from the foods you eat into ATP, which is the fuel your cells use to operate. As an antioxidant, it helps your body’s enzymes protect heart, brain, kidneys, and other important organs from damage. As a supplement, CoQ10 may help lower blood pressure, either on its own or along with medications.
Vitamin K is crucial for calcium balance (how much calcium is in your arteries as opposed to your bones). Vitamin K is also necessary for normal clotting of the blood. A few studies have researched the role of vitamin K for heart health. Vitamin K is involved with the production of matrix Gla proteins (MGP), which help to prevent calcification or hardening of heart arteries, a contributor to heart disease. Vitamin K1 is found in leafy green vegetables, which many of us don't get enough of in our diets. Vitamin K2 is found in animal-based and fermented foods such as fermented soybeans, cheese, eggs, and meat. Caution is advised when taking vitamin K, since it has the potential to counteract the effects of blood thinning medications such as warfarin.
B vitamin family
Folate (vitamin B-9) works with vitamins B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 ((cobalamin) to control high levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risks of heart and blood vessel disorders. Niacin (vitamin B3) has been studied for its ability to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels since the 1950's. It's also essential for the healthy metabolism of sugar, fat, and alcohol.
Drinking green tea has been enjoyed for thousands of years. Besides the stress-relieving effects of having a daily tea ritual, it is known to be rich in antioxidants that are shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL levels. It is best to drink as a liquid beverage rather than an extract.
Ground flaxseed is high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid, and cancer-fighting lignans. Omega-3 fatty acids are proven to help lower total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
The Italians know a few things about cooking. The Mediterranean diet has been proven to be one of the healthiest and most flavorful diets on the planet, recognized for reducing the risk of heart disease, depression and dementia. Garlic is one of the stars – it’s flavorful, nutrition-dense, and has shown to exert potent anti-inflammatory effects, reducing cholesterol and LDL levels. Garlic can affect blood-clotting and may increase your risk of bleeding. If you need surgery, dental work, or a medical procedure, stop taking garlic at least two weeks ahead of time.
β-caryophyllene(BCP) is found in many vegetables and fruits and offers many health benefits augmenting the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. Therapeutic Potential of β- Caryophyllene: A Dietary Cannabinoid in Diabetes and Associated Complications. doi:10.3390/nu12102963
β-caryophyllene possesses antioxidant properties, preventing oxidative damage to fat molecules and maintaining high levels of glutathione, a key molecule that neutralizes reactive oxygen species (ROS) that stimulates excessive cholesterol synthesis. ROS are very toxic to mitochondria causing a breakdown in membrane and energy transfer.
β-caryophyllene inhibited cardiac hypertrophy, tachycardia, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and endothelial dysfunction and protected the heart in experimental MI. In this study BCP counteracted all the derogatory effects of high doses of an adrenaline like drug that causes heart attacks in many people because of multiple derangement of heart tissue particularly in blood.
It is widely thought that cholesterol is an important factor in cardiovascular disease. Dietary or lifestyle indiscretions may lead to distortions in the body's production of cholesterol containing lipid particles. These particles are at risk for oxidation reactions from ROS. And these oxidized particles have been implicated in atherosclerosis. β- Caryophyllene reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (low density lipoprotein).
Take the first steps to support your heart health
It takes time and commitment to build healthy diet and exercise habits that are good for your heart, especially if you are inactive and/or overweight to begin with. However, the rewards for your hard work and dedication are priceless. Your heart will be healthier, and you are highly likely to gain energy, stamina, and confidence as you progress towards your goals.
Controlling your weight is especially important for preventing cardiovascular disease. Extra weight puts extra stress on your heart and blood vessels. But diet alone will not control your weight. You need to get your body moving on a regular basis. The U.S Surgeon General recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensitymoderate intensity exercise every week. These activities include bicycling, jogging or brisk walking.
When you're ready to begin exercising, start slowly. You might walk five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. The key is to do enough and to do it often enough, according to the CDC. It could be 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Or smaller chunks of time spread out over the week. It’s whatever works for you — any physical activity is better than none at all. The goal is to move more, sit less. Other options for aerobic exercise could include cross-country skiing, aerobic dancing, swimming, stair climbing, bicycling, jogging, elliptical training, or rowing. Even house-cleaning or yard chores can count towards your weekly exercise goals.
Time to move it, move it, move it! Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on the 10 top reasons to get physically active!
Cleveland Clinic - “Heart Disease: Prevention and Reversal”