Let's talk about Heart Health! The human cardiovascular system has three main components: the heart, blood vessels and the blood itself. Its main function is to pump blood throughout the body delivering oxygen and nutrients while removing metabolic wastes. The Cardiovascular system plays such a pivotal role in keeping our bodies alive and functioning that it needs to be handled with utmost care.
Did you know it is estimated that about 70,000 heart attacks happen each year in Canada and that Heart Disease is the leading killer for both men and women in the United States? The first step in the prevention of heart disease is to assess risk. Use this tool to assess your 10-year heart disease risk.
Some of the risk factors for developing heart disease include:
- being overweight
- poor dietary habits
- physical inactivity
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- excessive alcohol intake
Simple, steady changes rooted at prevention can change these aforementioned risk factors while positively impacting how well the cardiovascular system functions. Here are 5 ways in which heart health can be optimized.
EAT MORE PLANTS
Plants are nutritional powerhouses that are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre that can positively influence heart health! The best dietary change for supporting a healthy heart is The Mediterranean diet. It emphasizes eating primarily plant-based whole foods, like fruits, legumes, whole grains and nuts; swapping butter for healthy fats; eating less meat and cooking with more herbs and spices. The Mediterranean diet was found to improve inflammation in the body while reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Try these 3 simple steps to help get you started with the Mediterranean diet:
INCREASE OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are essential because our bodies are unable to make them and they must be obtained through the diet. EPA and DHA are known to support heart health through decreasing inflammation, decreasing LDL (“bad cholesterol”), maintaining healthy blood pressure and increasing HDL (“good cholesterol”). Aim for 2 or more servings of fish per week. If fish is not something you enjoy, incorporating more flax seeds and/or consuming an Omega-3 supplement are great alternatives!
OPTIMIZE GUT HEALTH
Imbalances in gut flora can be a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. Gut flora consists of living microorganisms that provide a level of protection between the digestive tract and the bloodstream. Inflammation in the gut can lead to increased intestinal permeability, which decreases that protective layer and may contribute to cardiovascular issues. Probiotics are a great way to repair the gut lining and optimize gut health to keep the barrier between the digestive tract and bloodstream strong.
TAKE A CoQ10 SUPPLEMENT
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that the body produces naturally to help generate energy in the cells. CoQ10 has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve overall heart function. Unfortunately, levels of CoQ10 decrease with age. As well, CoQ10 is known to be lower in individuals with heart disease and individuals who are taking statins. To optimize heart health increase foods that are high in CoQ10 like, meat, fish and whole grains or a CoQ10 supplement!
Aerobic exercise is the best thing you can do for improving heart health. It is one of the most effective tools for strengthening the heart muscle, keeping weight stable, lowering blood pressure and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Exercising does not have to be long and strenuous. It is about finding simple ways to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine. Try the following tips:
- Taking the stairs vs. taking the elevator
- Walking or biking to work vs. driving
- When spending time with friends, go for walks vs. that weekly coffee date
Overall, diet and lifestyle modifications are the building blocks to keeping your heart healthy. Stay active and consume as many of the heart-healthy foods as possible!
For more health tips read more from our blog! Leave us a comment below letting us know which tip you are going to try!
The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.
Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam | 2017