Happy Valentine’s Day!! Love yourself today and everyday, it is when we love ourselves and feel amazing that we are able to be better partners, parents and friends. Seeing as today is National Day of Hearts, I thought I should blog about how to keep your heart healthy!
Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes and Choices:
A bad diet and an inactive lifestyle are the biggest risk factors for heart disease. Making changes to improve your lifestyle can make a big difference.
Food is medicine: Food comes first, there are reams of research showing that the Mediterranean diet: high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, wine, and fatty fish, help decrease blood pressure and stroke. It’s possible to reduce heart-related events (like heart attack) by 50% to 60% by following this type of diet.
One long-term study of 15,700 adults found these four factors were the most important:
• Eating at least five fruits and vegetables daily
• Walking or getting other exercise for at least 2.5 hours weekly
• Keeping BMI (body mass index) out of the obese range
• Don’t smoke
Salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and other omega-3 fatty fish should be staples of any diet.
Daily exercise is a must:
The Clinical Council on Cardiology advises 40 minutes to one hour of aerobic activity every day and strength training three days a week.
A 2002 study showed that more intense exercise works better than moderate exercise in reducing cholesterol. The study involved sedentary, overweight men and women, all with mild-to-moderately high cholesterol, who did not change their diet. Researchers found that those who got moderate exercise (12 miles of walking or jogging a week) lowered their LDL levels, but those who did more vigorous exercise jogging 20 miles a week, got even better LDL results. I do Zumba, run/walk and weight train almost daily. It is hard to get started, but once you do you will crave exercise!
Stress reduction is key:
With a company, a toddler and a life stress is an ongoing struggle for me. What exactly is stress? Stress increases cortisol (a hormone), which puts fat on your waiste, which increases heart risks. Stress also produces inflammation that leads to increased plaque in blood vessels. Two stress hormones, adrenaline and norepinephrine, raise cholesterol, blood pressure, and cause heart rhythm problems. They also constrict coronary arteries, cause blood pressure to go up. When we’re under stress, our ability to fight infection is reduced. The GOOD news is that exercise greatly reduces stress levels and releases all kinds of good endorphins! Getting a good nights sleep will reduce your stress levels too. LAUGH, watch funny movies and turn off the news! Play with your kids and just don’t sweat the small stuff. I make lists of things I can control and can actually do something about and let the rest go. Sounds silly, but it works! Take bubble baths or long showers, hop in a Jacuzzi or sauna/steam room and let yourself have time for yourself.
Supplements Specifically for Heart Health: (remember to ALWAYS check with your physician BEFORE you start taking ANY supplements)
Potassium is an essential dietary mineral, which means that you need to consume it in your diet in order for your body to function properly. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, potassium is crucial to every cell, tissue and organ in your body. It is especially important to the muscle that’s thumping in your chest right now — your heart depends on potassium. Dietary potassium derived from food sources is safe, but you need to consult your doctor before taking potassium supplements, as there are possible health risks involved.
Potassium is an element, which means that it is a substance composed of just one type of atom. It is also an electrolyte, meaning that it dissolves into charged particles called ions in solution. These ions are capable of conducting electricity. There is about 30 times more potassium in the fluid that surrounds your cells than inside your cells. This difference creates a gradient of electricity across the cell membrane that separates the inside of cells from the outside. This gradient, called the membrane potential, is a vital element in controlling nerve impulses, muscle contraction and heart function, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
Your heart contains a type of involuntary muscle tissue called cardiac muscle, while your blood vessels are lined with a different type of involuntary muscle called smooth muscle. When the membrane potential of these types of muscle is disturbed by imbalances in potassium, weakness, paralysis and functional disturbances can ensue, according to the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Pycnogenol and Coenzyme Q10:
Combination therapy with Pycnogenol and coenzyme Q10 improved heart strength and physical endurance in heart failure patients, in a study published in the June 2010 “Panminerva Medica” journal. Participants, average age 61 years, took the combination supplement for 12 weeks. At the end of the study period, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate were significantly lower in the Pycnogenol and coenzyme Q10 group compared with a control group that did not receive the supplement. Also, a 22 percent improvement occurred in heart strength in the supplement group compared with a 4 percent improvement in the control group. The researchers concluded that Pycnogenol and coenzyme Q10 provide a viable option, with few side effects, for the treatment of heart failure.
A study published in the October 2010 issue of the journal “Lipids in Health and Disease” found that garlic supplementation decreased cardiovascular risk by 1.5 times in men and 1.3 times in women. Study participants took time-released garlic powder tablets for 12 months. The researchers note that the primary benefit from the garlic supplement was a reduction in LDL cholesterol by 33 mg/dL in men and 27 mg/dL in women. The difference in results between men and women in the study sample group may have been due to a small number of participants in the study, say the researchers. The authors note that the high safety profile of garlic allows it to be used safely long term, which may be a particular advantage for coronary heart disease management
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil, Flaxseed Oil) for Heart Health:
Omega-3 fatty acids — found in fish oil, flaxseed oil, and algae oil — provide significant reductions in triglyceride levels and increases in good HDL cholesterol. Omega-3 doesn’t affect “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
Omega-3s have consistently been shown to improve heart health, Omega-3s are one of the most important supplements for the heart because of its anti-inflammatory agents. We know that inflammation is a common pathway for many diseases, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Several studies report that in people with a history of heart attack, regularly eating oily fish (like salmon) or taking fish oil supplements reduces the risk of heart rhythm problems, heart attack, and sudden death. There may also be reductions in angina (chest pain).
Also known as vitamin B-3 or nicotinic acid, niacin is a well-accepted treatment for high cholesterol. .
Numerous studies have shown that niacin can significantly improve HDL cholesterol with better results than with statin drugs. Niacin can also improve LDL levels, but less dramatically.
A very small percentage of patients who take niacin have heart rhythm problems. Some people do get hot flushes from niacin, so it’s important to start with small doses and increase slowly, under a doctor’s supervision. Pre-treating the niacin dose with aspirin (that many heart patients are taking anyway), can help to prevent the discomfort associated with the flushing.
Green Tea Extract:
Green tea extract is made from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis, a perennial evergreen shrub. Green tea is a staple in Chinese traditional medicine.
Vitamin B-6 and B-12:
B-complex vitamins, including folic acid, help keep nerves and red blood cells healthy. They may also lower blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that’s possibly linked to heart disease, blood clots, heart attack, and strokes.
However, in May 2008, a study of more than 5,000 women at high risk of heart disease showed that daily folic acid, vitamin B-6, and B-12 supplementation did not reduce the rate of heart attacks, despite lowering levels of the amino acid homocysteine. The study appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association.