By: Dr. Joey Shulman DC, RNCP
Although heart disease is the #1 killer in both men and women, there are several natural steps that can be implemented to decrease your risk. Here are five things you and your loved ones can do right now to be heart smart:
1) Eat a heart-friendly diet. This includes daily intake of soluble fiber, omega-3 and monounsaturated fats and antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits.
Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the gut and removes it from the system. Aim to get at least three grams per day from oats, flax, apples and beans. (Three grams looks like 1 ½ cups of oatmeal or barley, ¾ cup black beans or ½ cup kidney beans.) Omega-3 fats are great for your blood vessels, keeping blood cells from sticking together and forming blockages.
A daily dose of at least 1 gram of EPA plus DHA omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and supplements is recommended. (A 3-ounce serving of fresh salmon or trout generally covers it, or you can have ½ can of salmon and an omega-3 enriched egg.)
Monounsaturated fats, in place of saturated fats, help to reduce dangerous belly fat, the kind that is a risk factor and part of the metabolic syndrome that often precludes heart disease. Olive oil, nuts and avocado are well known sources of this heart-healthy fat.
Get your 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits every day – and put the emphasis on dark green vegetables and bright red, orange and purple fruits and vegetables. These vibrant plants not only liven up your plate, they also contain the highest concentration of antioxidants that combat oxidation of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
2) Move more – It’s not enough to have sporadic sessions at the gym, even if they are long and arduous. Recent studies show that even “regular” exercisers can have heart disease risk factors if they spend more than four hours at time sitting at desk, in the car or on the couch each day. Simply getting up now and then to run up a flight of stairs, do some stretches or walk around the block reduces this risk. That doesn’t mean you should stop your regular workouts, but also make a point of keeping your body active throughout the day. As the famous Nike ad states, “Just do it!”
3) More hugs, less grudges – Let go of small annoyances and take note of the simple and beautiful things in your life. When you’re feeling down or frustrated, smile or hug someone you love and feel your blood pressure go down. Along with practicing the “art of serenity” (accepting the things you can not change), incorporate meditation, yoga or other relaxation techniques such as deep breathing into your daily life. Studies show that even the simple yogic posture of shavasana (corpse pose) can significantly reduce blood pressure if practiced on a regular basis.
4) Supplement your drugs -If you’re on statins to reduce high cholesterol, talk to your doctor or another qualified health professional about supplementing with coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant that your body naturally makes. Statins reduce the activity of this enzyme which is one of the heart’s natural defenses against heart disease. For heart disease prevention, look into supplementing your diet with additional amounts of omega-3, vitamin D and antioxidants like vitamin C. Vitamin D, in particular, is very hard to get from diet alone and should be supplemented as low levels are associated with high risk of heart disease.
5) Opt for red – A glass of red wine at dinner is full on anti-oxidants that are heart healthy. Of all the red wines, pinot noir is highest in resveratrol – the anti-oxidant that offers heart healthy benefits. Red wine also contains melatonin, another antioxidant which regulates sleep, appetite and thus, body weight. Of course, if you are a teetotaler, you can get resveratrol from purple grape juice, blueberries, cranberries, boiled peanuts, and of course, red and purple grapes.