According to the National Center for Health Statistics, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. The good news is that this potentially deadly disease can often be prevented by making smart lifestyle choices and by managing any pre-existing health conditions.
Since February is American Heart Month, what better time to learn more about your heart and ways to keep the beat for a lifetime?
Why does a healthy heart matter? The heart is at the very center of your circulatory system, which is made up of a network of blood vessels that deliver vital blood to every part of your body. It’s virtually responsible for nearly everything that gives your body life, ranging from the transportation of oxygen to the success of your immune system.
Let’s take a look at our top five pieces of heart health advice:
#1. Eat healthy fats and avoid trans fats. You need fat in your diet, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. One fat you don’t need though is trans fat, which is known to increase your lifetime risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack or stroke. This is because trans fats clog your arteries by raising bad cholesterol levels and lowering good cholesterol levels. Cutting them from your diet can improve the blood flow throughout your body. As a refresher, trans fats are industry-produced fats often used in packaged baked goods, snack foods, margarines, and fried fast foods to add flavor and extend shelf life.
#2. Prioritize sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, no matter your age or other health habits.2 For the majority of adults, getting between seven and nine hours of quality sleep each night is optimal. But that number can be difficult for some to reach. We recommend shutting down all screens such as phones, tablets, and laptops at least an hour before turning in. Use that time for reflection and meditation, do some gentle stretching, and let your body slowly wind down for the night. It’s also important to avoid caffeinated drinks at least six hours before bedtime.
#3. Exercise. Engaging in regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. Exercise helps your heart pump more blood with each heartbeat, which delivers more oxygen throughout your body. With more oxygen, your body functions more efficiently. Exercise can also help to lower blood pressure and reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. This is important because, over time, oxidized LDL cholesterol can damage arteries and contribute to a condition called atherosclerosis. At the same time, exercise can raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. HDL helps protect against a heart attack by carrying fatty deposits out of the arteries. Studies have found that aerobic exercise is best for heart health because it makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Some examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, Zumba, biking, and swimming.
#4. Avoid secondhand smoke. Studies show that the risk of developing heart disease is 25 to 30 percent higher for people who are exposed to secondhand smoke. According to the American Heart Association, exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to about 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year. And nonsmokers who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol have an even greater risk of developing heart disease when they’re exposed to secondhand smoke. This is because the chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke promote the development of plaque buildup in the arteries.
#5. Try a natural heart health supplement. Your heart is only as healthy as the as the arteries
that carry your blood throughout the body. Healthy arteries are flexible with a smooth, undamaged endothelium (the single layer of cells that line the inner surface of your arteries). Over time, the effects of unhealthy habits, genetics, and age can cause the buildup of artery-damaging plaque and calcium deposits that can lead to atherosclerosis. What can you do to protect and support the health of your arteries? We recommend trying a supplement containing Aged Garlic Extract (AGE). Clinical studies show that AGE can reverse plaque buildup in the arteries.3 It’s also been clinically shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and help reverse coronary artery calcification, ultimately helping to minimize the progression of atherosclerosis.4
Follow these five tips and you’ll be doing your heart a favor. You’ll not only feel better, you’ll be able to stay active with a heart-healthy lifestyle!
- Ahmad F, Anderson R. The leading causes of death in the US for 2020. JAMA Network. 2021; 325(18):1829-1830.
- Short sleep duration among US adults. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017; https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html
- Matsumo S, Nakanishi R, Dong L, et al. Aged garlic extract reduces low attenuation plaque in coronary arteries of patients with metabolic syndrome in a prospective randomized double blind study. Journal of Nutrition. 2016; 146(2):427S-432S.
- Wlosinska M, Lilsson A, Lindstedt J, et al. The effect of aged garlic extract on the atherosclerosis process – a randomized, double blend placebo-controlled trial. Complement Medicine Therapy. 2020; 20: 132.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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