February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women (1 in every 4 deaths). Every year, it’s important to take this opportunity to raise awareness and spread the word about strategies for prevention of heart disease and to encourage people to live heart healthy lives.
Here are ten of our heart healthy tips:
1. Eat a healthy diet consisting mostly of plant-based whole foods, high in antioxidants, incorporating fresh fruit, vegetables, healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados) and lean protein. Organic, non-GMO and local is the way to go. Consuming processed foods, which are typically loaded with preservatives and chemicals, can actually cause damage to your body’s cells, including your digestive system.
2. Eat grass-fed meats. Compared with commercial products, they offer you more “good” fats, and fewer “bad” fats. They are richer in antioxidants; including vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Furthermore, they do not contain traces of added hormones, antibiotics or other drugs.
3. Eat foods high in fiber. Fiber helps to decrease LDL (“bad” cholesterol) in your body and properly regulate bowel movements.
4. Include some form of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Eat fish or take fish or krill oil. If you eat fish, be sure it’s wild-caught as opposed to farm-raised.
5. Use natural sea salt or Himalayan salt. Sea salt contains essential minerals and nutrients that are removed from table salt during the refining process. Minerals contained in sea salt are in their natural ratios, and this helps keep the body’s electrolytes in balance.
6. Avoid sugar, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, which is actually worse than table sugar. Sugar causes inflammation and weakens your immune system. A recent study featured on CNN from JAMA Medical Journal actually labeled sugar as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Added sugars are far more harmful to our bodies than naturally-occurring sugars. We’re talking about the sugars used in processed or prepared foods like sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, candy, ready-to-eat cereal and yeast breads. Fruits in moderation may be good for a certain segment of the population. However, anyone suffering from diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, and other chronic degenerative diseases, should limit their fruit intake.
7. Exercise regularly – exercise moves your blood and lymph and provides oxygen to your cells. Not only does it keep your heart healthy, but it also puts you in a better mood because of endorphin release!
8. Stress management – practice some form of stress management daily. Yoga, meditation, meditative prayer, tai chi, or diaphragmatic breathing, just to name a few. Enjoy the outdoors – take a walk!
9. Maintain a healthy blood pressure. Diet, exercise, smoking cessation and avoidance of second-hand smoke, and stress management are all helpful for disease prevention. Laughter is also great for lowering blood pressure!
10. Get regular and proper diagnostic testing. A regular lipid test usually isn’t enough to tell your doc what is going on (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides). At Rejuvena, we recommend checking hs-CRP levels (inflammation marker), fibrinogen (when elevated translates to high risk of developing a blood clot), myeloperoxidase (marker for CAD, heart failure, MI, and stroke), ApoA (clear cholesterol in arteries), and ApoB (increased means more inflammation and cholesterol). NMR lipoprofile is another detailed test for cholesterol. The 9p21 gene can be turned off by unprocessed raw foods (as per a Canadian study). Carriers of the 9p21 Genotype have been shown to have an increased risk of early onset myocardial infarction, abdominal aortic aneurysm, and myocardial infarction/coronary heart disease.