Cardiovascular diseases are the main cause of death in the United States, Europe and Asia. Unfortunately, more and more countries are adopting a Western lifestyle instead of a traditional diet, so the incidence of heart disease will continue to rise.
In the United States, preventable cardiovascular mortality alone takes almost 1 million lives a year. Hypertension is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease – more than 1 billion of the 7.6 billion people living on the planet have high blood pressure.
Chest pain is a major reason to seek emergency care. After graduating from medical school, I was often asked why I wanted to do primary care, or rather family medicine.
The main reason was my interest in preventive medicine. I always say, “I would rather help patients prevent a heart attack than try to treat it after it happened. I’m sure I’m on the right track.
A healthy diet that includes heart health products, cessation of smoking and regular exercise are the three most important things you can do to prevent heart disease. These three things are more important than medications prescribed by a doctor.
Risk factors for cardiovascular diseases
High blood pressure – complicates normal heart function
- Smoking – causes damage to blood vessels and contributes to arterial blockages
- Diabetes mellitus – causes oxidative damage to blood vessels
- Obesity – creates additional stress on the heart
- Elevated homocysteine – causes oxidative damage to blood vessels
- Elevated levels of C-reactive protein, inflammation marker (learn more about inflammation)
- Heart disease in the family history – a healthy lifestyle can reduce this risk
- High cholesterol – causes arterial occlusion
- Increased LDL (“bad” cholesterol) – aggravates arterial blockage
- Increase in triglyceride levels – aggravates arterial blockages
- Elevated blood lipoprotein is a genetic risk factor
- Low-fruit diet – a person lacks the antioxidants needed for protection
- Diet with high content of animal products – hormones and chemicals contained in such products increase the risk
- Sleep apnea / lack of sleep – puts strain on the heart
- Chronic stress – increases the level of cortisol, which contributes to the development of heart disease and leads to loss of elasticity of the artery walls
- Depression/alarm – increases cortisol levels that cause heart and vascular disease
- Unresolved conflicts – increase the level of cortisol that causes heart and vascular disease
- Guilt – increases the level of cortisol that causes heart and vascular disease
- The diagonal fold on the earlobe is a genetic risk factor
- Alopecia by male type is a genetic risk factor
The more risk factors a person has, the higher their risk of becoming ill. The presence of several risk factors does not necessarily mean that the person will have a heart attack or stroke.
Thus, it is important to minimize the number of risk factors to reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and ultimately death.
Drugs can help reduce risk factors
Modern medicine has several tools in the “doctor’s suitcase” that can be useful in reducing risk factors. For people at risk, medicine can play a very important role, especially when diet, lifestyle and nutritional supplements are not sufficient.
Unfortunately, daily medication is often the only measure that many people are willing to take. This is a dangerous strategy. In an attempt to reduce the risk of disease, doctors use medications that reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but a healthy lifestyle should also be part of a wellness programme.
Healthy Heart Products
The right choice of food is one of the most important ways to prevent heart disease and reduce inflammation in the arteries and heart. Several studies on heart health have confirmed the usefulness of the Mediterranean diet for the heart.
For example, a 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that “in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease, the Mediterranean diet, supplemented by cold-pressed olive oil or nuts, has reduced the incidence of severe cardiovascular events.
The key is a diet in which there are many fruits, vegetables and legumes, but there are a number of other products that can also help reduce the risk of heart disease:
- Nuts – unsalted Brazilian nuts, pine nuts, almonds, cashews and walnuts. Nuts are rich in linoleic acid – a unique and healthy fatty acid omega-6 with anti-inflammatory properties
- Seeds – unsalted pumpkin seeds, chia and sunflower seeds
- Fruits are organic fresh fruits. Try to eat at least 4 servings a day.
- Food lignans – contained in flaxseed, green tea and strawberries
- Leaf greens, such as cabbage, spinach and cabbage. 6 servings a day
- Soybean products – organic tofu, edamame, miso, tempo
- Fish – eat commercial (not farm-grown) fish, but no more than once a week because of possible mercury pollution (low mercury fish: trout, whitefish, salmon, anchovies and many other species).
- Red meat and poultry – eat only hormone-free, hormone-free, pasture-free meats and poultry
- Enriched olive oil – contains a lot of oleic acid, omega-9 fatty acids. Cook only with olive oil at low and medium temperatures
- Coconut oil is ideal for cooking at high temperatures and is more useful than rapeseed oil
- Light sesame oil can also be used in high-temperature food processing. This oil has many useful properties.
- Green tea is good for the heart.
Food additives for a healthy heart
The intake of nutritional supplements is part of a diet that many people adhere to in order to promote the health of the cardiovascular system.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is an essential vitamin and plays a significant role in the synthesis of collagen, the main component of arteries.
According to a 2009 study of U.S. residents published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, more than 7% of the population aged six and over had a vitamin C deficiency, according to blood tests. More than half of those surveyed had insufficient vitamin C in their diets.
Vitamin C levels are also lower among tobacco smokers. Studies show that a diet rich in food containing vitamin C has a beneficial effect on the heart. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry showed that vitamin C-rich rosehip fruits help prevent atherosclerosis, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
According to a 2013 study published by Nutrients, vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
A study by Harvard University showed that people with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood had an 80% lower risk of heart attacks than people with a minimum level of vitamin D in their blood.
According to a study conducted in Germany, people with lower vitamin D levels in their blood are five times more likely to die suddenly from a heart attack than those with higher levels of vitamin D in their blood.