Risk and Control
Heart disease is serious, and as the number one cause of death in America it can be frightening to have this condition or to be at high risk for heart disease. While some factors are uncontrollable, there are many powerful steps that you can take to improve your heart health, reduce your risk and control heart disease. The major controllable risk factors are:
- Cigarette smoking
- Being overweight
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Lack of physical activity
Consider these fifteen steps to control heart disease and take control of your life.
1. Stop Smoking
Quitting smoking is the most important step towards improving heart health and preventing premature death. This lifestyle habit greatly increases your risk of heart disease as well as cancer. It decreases HDL (good) cholesterol levels, increases blood pressure and increases the tendency of clots to form. When combined with other factors such as being overweight, the use of birth control pills and genetics, smoking is extremely hazardous to your health.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
People who are overweight by 30 percent are more likely to have problems with heart disease. Make shedding those extra pounds a priority. Fortunately, through taking other measures to improve heart health, such as eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet and exercising, you will lose weight.
3. Daily Exercise
If you do not exercise regularly it is time to start making it a part of your life. A great way to do this and to combine exercise with stress relief is to go for a twenty to thirty minute walk everyday. Breath in the fresh air, swing your arms, burn calories and strengthen your heart.
4. Morning Meditation
A stressful lifestyle is something that you need to let go of if you suffer from heart disease. Changing your outlook on life can be a daunting task, but starting with fifteen to twenty minutes of meditation every morning you will naturally be in touch with a calm, relaxed and peaceful energy. Find a comfortable place where you will not be disturbed. Focus on your breathing, inhaling, holding and then exhaling slowly. With each exhale let go of all the emotions, worries and anxieties that you may have.
5. Dark Fruits and Vegetables
High in valuable antioxidants for heart health, dark fruits and vegetables should be a regular part of your diet. Think blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, dark cherries, plums, pomegranates and purple cabbage. Research has shown that pomegranate juice reduces blood vessel damage and may even reverse the progression of plaque build-up.
6. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
High in valuable nutrients for heart health, including magnesium, vitamin C and carotenes, dark green leafy vegetables should also be consumed daily. Try to eat a green salad every day, eat broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard and kale.
7. Switch from White to Brown Grains
Whole grains are important for antioxidants, minerals and fiber. Switch from white bread and rice to brown, try new, high-nutrient grains such as quinoa and amaranth and eat oatmeal regularly to help lower cholesterol levels and support a healthy heart.
8. Switch from Coffee to Green Tea
has enough caffeine to pleasantly wake you up in the morning and it is packed with antioxidants to protect your heart. Drinking green or black tea after eating a high-fat meal may reduce the constriction of blood vessels, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
9. Switch from Red Meat to Pink Fish
Animal products such as red meat and cheese are not a good idea for someone with heart disease because they are high in saturated fat and put a lot of strain on the body simply to be digested. Fatty fish on the other hand, such as salmon and mackerel, are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and can improve heart health.
10. Supplement with Flax Seed Oil
Another great source of omega-3 fatty acids is flax seed oil. These fatty acids decrease the risk of arrhythmias, lower blood pressure, slow the development of plaque build-up and decrease triglyceride levels. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
11. Supplement with Coenzyme Q10
This antioxidant increases oxygenation of the heart and has been shown to prevent recurring heart attacks. Talk to your doctor about taking this nutritional supplement.
12. Garlic, Ginger and Cayenne
Cook with these three herbs, drink ginger tea and/or take supplements of one or all three. They are all high in antioxidants as well as other beneficial phytochemicals and are excellent for improving circulation.
13. Snack on Nuts
Nuts are high in fat, but they are high in unsaturated fatty acids (and even some omega-3 fatty acids) which help to lower cholesterol and improve heart health. Healthy nuts are also good sources of important nutrients such as magnesium and vitamin E as well as fiber.
14. Cut Back on Alcohol Consumption
One glass of wine a day is fine, but drinking in excess can actually raise your blood pressure. Drink less alcohol and more water to help control heart disease.
15. See Your Doctor Regularly
Be sure to see your doctor regularly if you have heart disease or are at high risk. They can monitor your health, keep track of your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and advise you on any medications that you may require. Be sure to also talk to your doctor about taking any supplements such as flax seed oil or coenzyme Q10.
By using these fifteen steps to control heart disease you are doing what is in your power to take care of your cardiovascular health. This in itself is reason enough to relax a bit and feel more secure in your well-being. Through diet, exercise, stress management and healthy lifestyle choices you can support your heart.
University of Maryland Medical Center, https://www.umm.edu/features/tips_prev.htm#2
Balch, Phyllis A. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
American Heart Association, https://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4545
American Heart Association, https://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4632
photo by Jose Fernandes Jr./flickr
photo by Kanko/flickr