health as it happens

5 ways to keep your heart healthy - YourStory

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death among men and women globally. A major cause of heart disease is silent systemic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is associated with cardiovascular disease more than anything else.

Some of the root causes of heart disease and inflammation are a high sugar diet, a diet low in fibre and healthy fats, poor balance between omega 3 and omega 6, oxidative stress, nutrient deficiencies, high stress, poor sleep, poor exercise, and chronic liver congestion.

Let’s take a look at some of these roots before considering what you might do to support a healthy heart!

Inflammation and suboptimal system function

It’s common to get your labs back showing high cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL. The common approach is to be put on statins, but this should never be the first step. Having elevated markers of LDL, triglycerides, and cholesterol indicates systemic inflammation.

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Most often, those who have these markers elevated can also have suboptimal liver function due to a high sugar diet. Often times, when they change their diet and lifestyle and support improving liver health, cholesterol markers start to shift positively. This is why you need to look at a full lab assessment and understand the picture as a whole, and not get instantly stressed over cholesterol markers alone.

What can you do you keep your heart healthy?

Poor diets that are high in sugars, low in micronutrients, protein, fats, and fibre, and excess unhealthy fats from processed foods need to be changed. You might not see the impact of high sugar and poor fats when you are young. The body will start to lose optimal function slowly, and in later years, that rate of deterioration can speed up. No matter how old or young you are, begin today.

1. Right fats and optimal fat digestion

Very often, you will find articles scaring you about eating healthy fats like coconut oil and ghee. You do not need to fear healthy fats. Trans fats, processed oils, and processed foods are what put you at risk for heart disease.

Include plenty of healthy fats in your diet every single day. Get them from avocados, nuts, seeds, ghee, coconut oil, coconut milk, olive oil, coconut, and sesame oil. At the same time, remove the poor-quality fats from anything that comes in a box.

Ensure that your liver is working optimally to help you digest, metabolise, and utilise these fats. Keep an eye on your liver health and include plenty of fibre to help the liver run smoothly.

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2. Plant sterols and stanols

Plant sterols and stanols help reduce cholesterol and these can be found in a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables. It is common to see people eating small amounts of fruits and vegetables. Increasing your fruits and vegetables help you to boost antioxidant activity combating oxidative stress to fight inflammation, increase fibre to help metabolise cholesterol, get a higher intake of potassium to lower excess sodium and help the liver. So many benefits rolled into one! Reducing sodium helps to lower blood pressure as well.

3. Physical activity

Last week, I had a client come to me who was now weighing over a 100 kg. Looking at his labs, I found all the markers related to heart health completely off range. These included lipids, liver, and several inflammatory markers. He had the classic lifestyle of someone with a high risk for heart disease including no physical activity, high stress, and a high sugar diet.

Exercise reduces all risk for cardiovascular disease by reducing increasing vascular health, and modifying other factors such as improving glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and reducing blood pressure.

Even if it means starting with just walking to work, begin there. Remember to slowly add different forms of exercise into your week, which include walking, stretching, strength training, and some form of cardio.

4. Reduce alcohol

Recently, I found someone who said he was on a low sugar diet. When I asked him a little more, he did not think that alcohol came under sugar! All alcohol is metabolised in the body as sugar. Alcohol does affect triglycerides. The higher your triglycerides are, the more sensitive you will be to the damaging effects of alcohol. This connection has a lot to do with the health of your liver.

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When the liver is stressed, then you will show higher triglycerides. When your liver is suboptimal, naturally you will struggle to mitigate the damaging effects of alcohol. Wine contains resveratrol which is an antioxidant. Switching to small amounts of red wine can be a starting point towards reducing all alcohol.

5. Be cautious of calcium

A common supplement that is usually self-prescribed is calcium. Calcium supplements are a concern if you have other predisposing factors that point towards developing heart disease. They can lead to plaque formation and increase atherosclerosis. As far as possible, get this nutrient from food sources. These are not restricted to dairy.

In fact, dairy can be more a problem as it can be highly inflammatory.

Get your calcium from dark leafy greens, bok choy, spinach, collards, broccoli, garbanzo, okra, shellfish, salmon, sardines, molasses, and almonds.

If you are a woman who needs some supplements, always work with your nutritionist to find the right dosage for you over and above your food.  

There is so much you can do to ensure a healthy heart. I had a client come to me with high lipid markers, fatty liver, insulin resistance, and prediabetes. He was a classic candidate for heart disease. He gradually implemented all what I mentioned above, and improved his diet and exercise, month to month. All these aspects started to shift, and he is in a much better place today.

Wherever you can begin, know that you have set in motion a positive ripple effect that will only make things better and better!

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)