Did you know February is Heart Health Month? With January quickly coming to an end, I want to share my 3 Keys to a Healthy Heart.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the number one killer in America. In fact, more women die from heart disease than all forms of cancer combined! And men are 2 to 5 times more likely to have coronary heart disease than premenopausal women. But once women reach menopause, their risk is similar to a man’s.
But now for the good news. Heart disease is nearly 95% preventable! YES, PREVENTABLE!
There are three keys to a healthy heart: Nutrition, Blood sugar level, and Exercise. When these areas are monitored and kept in check, you can drastically reduce your chances of ever having heart disease.
What you eat (or do not eat) directly impacts your cardiovascular health.
Your blood vessels and your heart have a cell lining called the endothelium. These endothelial cells play a critical role in the tone and health of your blood vessels because they produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes your blood vessels to enlarge, which increases the flow of blood through those vessels. Nitric oxide also helps the blood to flow as though the walls of the vessels were slippery like a non-stick skillet. This prevents the walls and blood cells themselves from becoming sticky and forming plaques which lead to hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. In fact, nitric oxide may even cause existing plaques to shrink!
So the main goal of heart-healthy nutrition is to keep the endothelial cells healthy and prolific. This is done in a couple of ways:
- Eating plenty of leafy greens. Leafy greens contain a rich supply of the amino acid L-arginine, the building block of nitric oxide.
- Supplementation. You may also consider supplementing your diet with high-quality L-arginine rich formula like Eniva’s Vascular Advantage.
Blood Sugar Level
Your blood sugar level is a measure of how much glucose is circulating in your bloodstream and is directly related to the number of simple carbohydrates that you consume. Certain foods such as sugar, white flour and white rice cause spikes in blood sugar. Over time, chronic high levels of blood sugar increase your risk of heart disease in different ways:
- Damage and inflammation of the heart. The higher your average blood sugar, the thicker the walls of your heart become. When these walls become thick, your heart is unable to fill with blood properly and this is called diastolic heart failure.
- Hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure. High blood sugar levels cause plaque to build up inside your arteries. Not only does this increase your risk of a heart attack, but the plaque causes your arteries to be stiff and unable to dilate properly. The result is that your heart has to work much harder to push blood through your stiff and narrowed arteries—this is called high blood pressure.
Keeping your blood glucose levels in check is not as difficult as you think! Here are a few things that can help:
- Eat a diet that focuses on lean proteins, plenty of vegetables, some fruit, and nuts. Limit sugar, white rice, and refined flours.
- Exercise several times a week; intense exercise helps to drive glucose out of your blood and into your muscles where it can be used for energy.
Finally, exercise is a critical part of having a healthy heart. The benefits of a well-designed cardiovascular training routine are pretty obvious, but what many don’t realize is how important strength training is for heart health.
Exercise such as strength training not only builds muscle and helps keep your weight down, but it also makes your heart stronger so it does not have to work as hard to supply your body with life-giving oxygen. Here’s a breakdown:
- Weight control. Being overweight puts you at high risk for heart disease. When you are carrying around excess fat, your heart has to work harder. It enlarges as it works harder, and as it enlarges, it becomes less efficient. Eventually, this reduction in efficiency culminates in heart disease. As you strength train, however, you increase the muscle mass in your body which helps to burn off extra fat, easing the burden on your heart.
- Strong heart. Proper exercise pushes your heart to become more efficient and causes you to grow more capillaries. The end result is a heart that is so strong and efficient that it has to do less work to supply your body with oxygen. You will have lower blood pressure as well because your arteries will be supple and smooth—blood will flow through them easily. And the extra capillaries in your body will make it easy for oxygen and nutrients to be transported throughout your entire body, giving you more energy and better health.
Which will you choose?
The health of your heart is largely up to you and the choices that you make in regards to nutrition, blood sugar, and exercise. Make the decision to take care of your heart!
Have Faith & Take Action!