Love Your Heart
By Sarah Axtell, ND • July 24, 2014
February is National Heart Month so it’s time to take steps to prevent disease and nurture your heart. It’s not just frank heart conditions (like arrythmias, high blood pressure, and peripheral artery disease) that increase your risk of heart disease. Obesity, diabetes, smoking history, physical inactivity, and SAD diet (standard american diet) all increase your risk of heart disease.
Actions to take to Love your Heart:
Diet- Eat REAL food. This is the single best thing you can do for your heart. Here are some basic steps to making heart healthy decisions in the kitchen.
- Eat plenty of unsaturated fat. All fat is not created equal. Poly and monounsaturated fat raises your “good cholesterol,” or your HDL. This type of cholesterol helps eliminate the “bad cholesterol,” or LDL, in your body. Nuts, olive oil, seeds, avocados, and fish (salmon) are great sources of the mono and polyunsaturated fat.
- Cook with organic butter and coconut oil. Saturated fat (animal products, coconut) has gotten a bad rap all together. Moderate amounts of grass-fed meat (beef, chicken, lamb) and organic butter and eggs are good choices. In fact, its preferable to cook with butter and coconut oil because they are heat stable, thus minimizing the production of potentially hazardous free radicals. If you eat meat, grass fed meat is higher in nutrients and has a better fatty acid ratio as compared to its corn-fed counterparts. For more information on the health benefits of fat, see the Weston A. Price foundation site.
- Do not fear cholesterol-containing foods. If you have high cholesterol or are worried about your cholesterol, you may want to re-think skimping on dietary sources of cholesterol, such as eggs. Dietary sources of cholesterol found in animal products have a negligible effect on blood cholesterol levels. In fact, blood levels of cholesterol rise when there is inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. You can think of cholesterol as a patch or a band-aid to your blood vessel walls. A more effective approach to lowering one’s cholesterol if it is too high is to address the underlying inflammation that is driving cholesterol up in the first place. If a person has too low blood cholesterol levels, they are unable to synthesize sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone). Low levels of cholesterol also result in mood disorders and behavioral problems, such as ADHD. No reason to fear egg yolks any longer- embrace them and enjoy an omelet or veggie frittata for breakfast!
- Avoid smoking or grilling your meat. Cooking meat at high temperatures creates oxidation in your body, translating to increased free radicals in your body. This can lead to inflammation and chronic disease. See previous post on AGEs will age you.
- Minimize carbohydrates. A diet high in carbs (sugar, bread, pasta, rice, crackers) translates to a higher propensity to being overweight and obese. When carbs are not utilized by the body, they are stored as fat. This translates to high triglycerides. High triglycerides (more specifically a poor triglyceride to HDL ratio) means an increased risk of heart disease.
- Eat an abundance of colorful fruits and vegetables. You can’t go wrong with fruits and vegetables. They are rich in anti-oxidants, which are cardio-protective. Aim for 8-10 servings of deeply pigmented fruits (berries, pomegranite) and vegetables (kale, collards, broccoli, eggplant) per day.
- Incorporate movement in your lifestyle everyday. Even if you don’t have the time to go to the gym for an hour, a brisk 20 minute walk will do. Mild to moderate movement EVERYDAY is better than an intense workout once a week.
- Take the stairs.
- Park far away from the store.
Other Lifestyle Choices-
- If you drink, do so in moderation. Red wine is going to be the best option if you already drink. But if you don’t drink, that doesn’t mean it’s time to start drinking wine.
- Quit smoking. Now is the time to do it. Seek help- acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, hypnosis are all great options.
- Keep an eye on your portion sizes.
- Get regular check-ups with your doctor. This entails regular physical exams, screening exams, and screening lab work. Some appropriate lab work that can tell you if you are at risk for heart disease is a Comprehensive metabolic panel, lipids, CRP, fibrinogen and Homocysteine.
- Love yourself and the ones close to you. Remind yourself why you are awesome everyday!
This is a great time to make some basic lifestyle changes to prolong your life and prevent chronic disease.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.