February is Health Health Month. This Valentines Day really tell someone you love them by taking care of yourself. Through diet, exercise and supplementation many risk factors for heart disease and stroke can be minimized or even eliminated.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the second leading cause of death in Canada, second only to cancer. Statistics Canada reported in 2009 that heart disease accounted for 20.7 percent of all deaths, that works out to be just over 71,000 Canadians. Men account for a slight majority of heart disease deaths at 21.6 percent and women are just below at 19.7 percent. These numbers should hopefully dispel the commonly held belief that men are at much greater risk than women. On a positive note heart disease and stroke related deaths have declined 33 percent since 20003 but with 71, 000 annual deaths far too many Canadians are still dying unnecessarily.
Fortunately heart disease can be readily prevented through strategic dietary, lifestyle and supplement choices. A heart healthy diet has been shown to lower the risk of dying from a heart-related reason by an incredible 35 percent! When you break down some of the figures by the type of cardiovascular event they’re equally impressive: a 14 percent risk reduction of having a heart attack, a 28 percent reduction of congestive heart failure and a 19 percent drop in stroke.
There are some basic dietary principles that are proven to be effective at reducing the risk of CVD. One commonsensical and well researched dietary strategy is to simply consume more fruits and vegetables. Researchers have shown that for every 1 serving of a day increase of fruits or vegetables there’s a subsequent 4 percent drop in coronary heart disease. Combine the two together and increase servings by more than one a day and one can expect even more dramatic results. Researchers at Oxford University published a study showing that consuming at least 8 portions of fruits and vegetables a day had a 22 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease. Remember to vary your fruit choices and choose fruits and vegetables that reflect a rainbow of colours. These colourful foods are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals all of which are heart friendly.
Once upon a time fats were viewed by many as enemy number one when it came to heart health. This was especially true in allopathic circles were part of a heart healthy program was the avoidance of fats with little regard for differentiating the good from the bad. Fortunately the bad practice of clumping all fats into one category has passed. We now have evidence that healthy fats in fact support a healthy heart. Of particular importance are the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. These include fish, flax, chia, hemp, walnuts and dark leafy greens. Fish are an especially important source because they not only have the omega-3 fats alpha linolenic acid but they also posses the all important EPA and DHA fats needed for optimal health in general and heart health in specific. Polar opposite to healthy fats are trans fats. These have been shown to dramatically raise the risk of heart disease. Avoid foods that say trans or hydrogenated fats and don’t just read the “nutrition facts table” which often state zero trans fats but also read the ingredient list. Health Canada allows food manufacturers to state the food is free of trans fats when it has less than 0.2 grams per serving. The problem with this arises when someone has several servings of a so called trans-fat free food. Sugar has not only been shown to impact your waistline and type II diabetes but it has an impact on the heart as well. Sugar intake has been shown to increase several markers of heart disease. This may be in part due to the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which have been increasingly implicated in heart health especially for diabetics. Especially noteworthy is the fact that high fructose corn syrup is especially problematic in that it seems to have greater impact than does glucose.
Like diet exercise has also been shown to play an important role in heart disease prevention. Exercise was shown to lower levels of a blood marker known as C-reactive protein that have been linked to an elevated risk of heart disease. Exercise benefits the heart in numerous ways: strengthens heart and cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, lowers bad LDL and raises good HDL cholesterol and helps with weight management. That being said you can have too much of a good thing. Research suggests that excess exercise, as in the case of marathon running, can cause permanent heart damage.
Exercise alone shouldn’t be the only lifestyle choice on makes. Reducing stress should be another. Chronic stress may in fact predict the occurrence of heart disease. It’s not entirely clear what mechanism or mechanisms are invoiced in this association but nonetheless it is worth noting. Theresore it is prudent to mange stress and engage in stress reducing activities like yoga and Thai Chi. In fact both have been shown in research to benefit the heart.
Although nothing is more important than diet and lifestyle, supplementation can play a very important supportive role. Hundreds of studies have shown the heart health benefits of supplementation. These include
Multivitamins (Progressive Multivitamins)
men and women that use a multi have fewer heart attacks than those that don’t
Antioxidants like vitamin A, C, E and beta carotene (Progressive Vitamin C Complex)
prevention of atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries.
protects vascular endothelium – cells that line interior surface of blood vessels
Fish Oils (Progressive OmegaEssentials)
lower high blood pressure
improve blood vessel elasticity
Vitamin D (Progressive Sunshine Burst)
low vitamin D levels were associated with increased rush of “heart failure, sudden
cardiac death, stroke, overall cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular death
Vegetables and Fruits
Average daily intakes are well below recommended levels making supplementation
with Progressive Vegegreens and Phytoberry prudent. These products are also rich
May lower blood pressure reduce cholesterol and elevate glutathione
levels all of which are important to heart health, Harmonized Protein provides
not only whey but co-factors that support its adsorption and utilization
Chronic stress is a well-known predictor of CVD24. Aside from adopting techniques
that can help manage stress (yoga, Qigong, tai chi, meditation) using a
comprehensive stress management product like veeva that has clinically proven
stress modulating ingredients is a wise idea.
Following a program that incorporates a healthy diet, balanced lifestyle and supportive supplementation one should dramatically lower the risk of developing heart disease and for those with it reverse it .
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