Unfortunately, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States (US). Statistics dictate that roughly 600,000 individuals die from heart disease in the US every year. This means that about 1 in every 4 deaths can be directly linked to heart disease. The good news is that heart disease is also one of the most preventable causes of death. Fortunately, there are many lifestyle changes one can make to help form a stronger and healthier heart. Check out the list below to learn a few easy ways to lower your risk of heart disease.
Nutrition and Diet Modification
Diet and nutrition is the main factor that influences cardiovascular and heart health. One of the first things to consider is saturated fats levels. Saturated fats tend to come from animal products and examples include cheese, cream, butter and fatty meats as well as prepared foods such as pizza, bacon and sausage. However, vegetable products can also be high in saturated fats, some examples include cooking oils such as coconut oil as well as chocolate. While trying to decrease saturated fats, you will also be decreasing cholesterol intake as well. Foods such as egg yolk, cheese, poultry and shrimp can be high in cholesterol and are often also high in saturated fats depending on the method of preparation. Removing or reducing saturated fats from ones diet is a great first step to overall heart health.
The next thing to consider is decreasing harmful trans fat intake. This is not only one of the best things you can do to improve heart heath, it will also reduce cancer risk as well. Trans fats are created artificially and are found in many processed foods such as fast foods, baked goods and fried food.
Eliminating harmful foods from you diet is a good way to start, however, you should also be thinking about incorporating heart healthy foods into your diet as well. One way to do this is by increase soluble fibre intake to 10-15g/day. Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and slows the movement of food throughout the digestive tract. Examples of food containing soluble fiber include: ground flaxseeds (try to consume 15-30ml/day), apples, pears, oatmeal, oat bran, broccoli, collard greens, carrots, sweat potatoes, cooked beans, barley and split peas.
Next, work to increase plant sterols to 2g/day. Plant sterols are helpful because they are digested in a similar way to cholesterol, therefore, they work to get in the way of cholesterol absorption, allowing more cholesterol to be excreted. Examples of plant sterols include: margarines, fortified orange juice, special cocoa/chocolate bars. However be careful with these product as they can be high in calories and sugar.
In addition to the above changes try to increase soy protein to 25g/day. Incorporating more nuts is a great way to add unsaturated fatty acids into your diet. Walnuts and almonds are some of the best options, however, almost any nut you choose is full of heart healthy nutrients. Make sure to supplement with omega 3 fatty acids (2-4g/day) and antioxidants such as vitamin C and E. Adding garlic to meals can be good because it helps to inhibit cardiovascular disease, however, be careful adding too much garlic if you have a sensitive stomach. In general try to limit intake of red meats and dairy products, increase lean protein and fruits and vegetables.
Exercise has too many positive effects to list in this short article and is comparable to first line medications for many common conditions such as diabetes, depression and anxiety. Aerobic exercise 5-7days/week, 30-60 minutes at 65-80% of max heart rate is ideal.
Incorporate relaxation activities into daily routine to help reduce stress. This can include mediation exercises, yoga, or simply some quiet time reading a book. Anything that can decrease your blood pressure and help reduce stress. Another helpful tip is to consume 4-5 small meals per day instead of 3 large meals. This will help decrease the risk of binge eating and keep your metabolism humming.
Excessive alcohol consumption can be hard on the heart. Men should try not to exceed one to two drinks and women should try not to exceed one drink per day. One drink can be equated to one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits. Stop cigarette smoking and decrease carbohydrate consumption. Carbohydrates should be less than 60% of overall diet. Finally, as stated above, avoid inactivity.
Know Your Numbers
Blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar are important numbers to know. These are silent factors that can lead to heart disease and numerous other devastating health conditions. Consult your medical doctor, chiropractor, pharmacologist or other alternative health care providers. A multidisciplinary approach has been proven to have significant positive effects on heart health and quality of life.
Heart disease is a preventable disease that claims many lives every year. Even changing a few things listed above will have significant health benefits and can contribute greatly to your overall heart health.