The heart is the body's strongest muscle which is not bigger than its owner's clenched fist. It sits in the middle of the chest cavity, between two lungs, well protected behind the breast bone.
A healthy heart contracts and relaxes something between 70 and 80 times per minute. Each heartbeat delivers fresh blood to the four chambers of the heart.
This small organ works without respite, beating approximately 100,000 times a day or about 40 million times a year. It supplies the body with oxygen and nutrients, clearing away, at the same time, all harmful waste.
A strong and healthy heart is absolutely vital for our well being and longevity. Unfortunately, modern lifestyles often have detrimental effects on this organ. Stress, smoking, alcohol abuse, lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet, high blood pressure, and obesity are the major factors contributing to heart disease.
Statistics show that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the industrialized world. Heart disease is also on the rise in the third world countries.
Heart disease includes various conditions affecting the heart, such as the coronary heart disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure, rheumatic heart disease, and congenital heart disease.
People who were diagnosed with heart disease or who have multiple risk factors for developing it, should have their blood tested at least twice a year to monitor their condition. A comprehensive blood test should measure levels of blood lipids, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, fibrinogen, and other important blood markers. Regular blood pressure monitoring is also important.
Like many other diseases, heart disease is preventable. Interestingly enough, even the smallest changes in lifestyle reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. While it is not always easy to change long established eating habits, paying attention to what we eat may be life saving. It is a well established fact that foods high in saturated fat and sodium, contribute to heart disease. Replacing such foods with healthier options and adding fresh fruit and vegetable, whole grains, legumes, fish and poultry, will help reduce the risk of developing hart disease.
Among others, heart health protocol should address factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood clothing, high blood levels of homocysteine, and vascular inflammation.
Heart healthy diet should include:
- Salmon - excellent source of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and the abnormal blood clotting
- Oats - good source of cholesterol lowering beta-glucans
- Olive oil - well known for its ability to reduce low density lipoprotein or the "bad cholesterol"
- Pomegranate - known to protect the arteries
- Dark leafy green vegetables - excellent source of vitamin K and folic acid. Vitamin K helps decrease calcification of the arteries, while folic acid helps reduce blood levels of the toxic amino acid homocysteine
- Tomatoes - rich in lycopene which is well known for its antioxidant properties
- Garlic - rich in allicin, a compound known for its blood thinning properties
- Whole grains - rich in dietary fiber known for its ability to lower the bad cholesterol
- Apples - rich in flavonoid quercetin which helps reduce inflammation and prevents blood from clothing
- Red wine - source of powerful antioxidant resveratrol
- Almonds - good source of magnesium which regulates the heart rhythm
- Green tea - helps lower the bad cholesterol and relaxes the arteries
Cardiovascular protocol should also include nutritional supplements that are known for their heart protecting properties:
- Coenzyme Q10 - helps deliver fatty acids into the heart cells thus ensuring proper cell function
- L-carnitine - an amino acid which helps deliver energy sources into the heart cells for proper functioning of the heart muscle
- L-arginine - an amino acid which facilitates the production of nitric acid in the body. Nitric acid enables the muscles in the arterial walls to relax
- L-taurine - an amino acid which helps fortify the contraction of the heart thus enhancing the blood flow from the heart
- Lecithin - helps reduce arterial plaque and lower blood pressure
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids - necessary to reduce the inflammation in blood vessels
- Magnesium - helps relax heart muscle and regulate heart rhythm, prevents angina and controls blood pressure
- Vitamin B6 - necessary for the reduction of the toxic, heart- and blood vessels damaging amino acid homocysteine
- Hawthorn - a clinically tested herb that has the capacity to increase blood flow to the heart and calm the nervous system
Adding the above mentioned foods and supplements to one's diet and increasing overall physical activity are the first steps to a better cardiovascular health. Overweight people will notice some initial weight reduction and should consider further steps to bring their weight to an optimum. People who smoke should seriously consider quitting the heart damaging habit. Those who drink alcohol should reduce their alcohol consumption and consider drinking small amounts of red wine. The pinot noir variety is especially rich in life prolonging and heart saving compound resveratrol. In addition, stress reduction is absolutely necessary if one wants to avoid heart disease.
By Dominique Allmon
*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.
Nutrition for a Healthy Heart by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.