Have More Heart – Heart Health
A strong, healthy heart is vital for longevity. Heart health problems include coronary heart disease, an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), heart valve disease, as well as cardiomyopathy and aorta problems, such as aortic aneurysm, and aortic valve problems. This year it is estimated that more than 1 million Americans will have a heart attack or stroke, making coronary heart disease the leading cause of death in men and women in this country.
Healthy Heart and Exercise
If you’re trying to lower your cholesterol to avoid developing a heart condition or are trying to recover after having a heart attack, exercise should be an essential part of your strategy. Aerobic activities and strength training are equally important, so make time for both in your regimen. New recommendations are to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes daily. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and keeps your heart strong and disease free.
Eating for a Healthy Heart
1. When it comes to heart disease, you should know your cholesterol numbers. Get your blood tested for total, LDL and HDL cholesterol. Having a low LDL is the primary goal for reducing heart disease. If your LDL is >160 mg/dL, the sooner you lower it to <130, the better off you’ll be.
2. Foods that actively lower LDL include oats, barley, soy, beans, almonds/nuts and plant sterols. Although each single food might have only a small cholesterol-lowering effect—for example, consuming three glasses of soy milk a day might lower LDL by only five percent, combining several of these foods becomes very powerful. With minimal effort, you can consume LDL-lowering foods on a daily basis and achieve long-term benefits. Plus, by filling up on oats, nuts and beans, you are not chewing on bacon, cookies and steak—and gain the added benefit of displacing those sources of artery-clogging saturated fats.
3. Inflammation, caused by cholesterol-filled plaques in blood vessels, plays a role in heart disease. Foods that reduce inflammation include salmon and other oily fish, walnuts, fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, vegetables and even dark chocolate. Among fruits and veggies, the Big Six are apricots, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli and spinach. Eat them often!
4. Foods rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, fish and seafood is also protective and offers a seven percent reduction in mortality from heart disease.
5. Eating eight ounces of fish per week, especially cold water fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring) rich in omega-3 fats, can reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 36 percent (and from other diseases by 17 percent).
6. Humans cannot make omega-3s, that ‘s why we need to eat them. A healthy person can get the recommended intake from fish. Just eight ounces salmon (the richest source) provides a week’s worth of omega-3’s. (Cardiac patients need more, necessitating fish oil pills.) Salmon is also a rich source of vitamin D. Three ounces canned pink salmon provides the daily requirement for D, which protects against high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and many other health issues. (For a recipe with canned salmon, try Simple Salmon Patties. See Recipes for a Healthy Heart on page two.)
7. What’s good for the heart is good for the mind (and the rest of the body, for that matter, because all bodily systems are interconnected). Eating fish twice a week is associated with a 13 percent slower decline in mental performance.
8. Some athletes believe farmed fish have higher levels of PCBs and other toxins. According to Dr. Charles Santerre of Purdue the risk is tiny compared to the strong heart-health benefits. PCBs are stored in the fat. To reduce intake of PCBs, don’t eat the fish skin nor the fat drippings.
9. The risk of heart disease increases with age, particularly as women enter menopause. Menopause increases fat deposition in the trunk/waist area, more so than on the legs and arms. This abdominal fat is linked with heart disease.