February is American Heart Month, so we thought we’d kick things off a few days early. Did you know that 1 in 4 Americans die from heart disease1? Don’t be that “1”. It’s never too soon to start thinking about taking care of your heart…or too late, for that matter. The good news is that living a healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward reducing risk of heart disease. In fact, some research suggests that healthy aging of blood vessels may be possible even in people 70 years and older. Unfortunately, that is not very common with today’s Western diet and lifestyle.
In 1948, an extensive heart study called the Framington Heart Study was launched, and its goal was to identify common factors or characteristics that contribute to cardiovascular disease over a number of years and across three generations. When scientists followed 3,196 adults from the Framington Heart Study starting in their 20s, they found that by age 50, only 30 percent of the people had healthy arteries. By age 70, only 1% had healthy arteries2. An unhealthy lifestyle can catch up with you sooner or later.
If heart disease runs in your family, you may blame your genes but, although genetics do play a role, research confirms that a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in offsetting this risk.
Top Tips to Take Care of Your Heart
So whether or not heart disease runs in your family, don’t wait to protect your heart. The American Heart Association has developed a list called “Life’s Simple 7,”3 that sets simple lifestyle guidelines for optimal heart health. This consists of:
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Being at a good weight for your height is key to healthy blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
- Managing your blood pressure: A healthy blood pressure level is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). High blood pressure is when it’s 130/80 mmHg or higher.
- Controlling your cholesterol: If your cholesterol levels (particularly LDL and total cholesterol) are too high, you’re at greater risk of atherosclerosis, which makes arteries narrower and stiff.
- Controlling your blood sugar: Keep fasting blood sugar levels below 100 mg/dL. If blood sugar is too high, it can damage your blood vessels over time.
- Eating healthy: A Mediterranean-style diet is generally advised for heart health.
- Getting regular physical activity: Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity (or a combination) each week.
- Avoiding smoking: Risk of a heart attack increases by more than five percent for every cigarette smoked daily, compared to non-smokers. Regular exposure to second-hand smoke also increases heart disease risk.
Heart Smart Supplements
As an added level of defense, it is also smart to consider adding a few supplements to your daily regimen that are healthy for your heart. Here are some of our top picks:
- Aged Garlic Extract (AGE): AGE may have the single biggest impact on heart health of any known dietary supplement. Research suggests that it supports healthy blood pressure and reduces oxidized LDL cholesterol levels, lowers homocysteine levels, and improves the elasticity of blood vessel walls. AGE can help to reduce your major risk factors for cardiovascular issues and promote overall heart health4.
- Coenzyme Q10: Is a cofactor for producing energy to all the cells in the body. It also supports healthy circulation by inhibiting the formation of blood clots, and also acts as an antioxidant5.
- Nattokinase: Nattokinase is a powerful enzyme that can enhance circulation by thinning the blood and preventing blood clots6.
- L-theanine: L-Theanine is best known for its ability to calm the mind. But this amino acid, which is found in green tea, can also help maintain blood pressure7.
If you don’t want to depend on heart medications and procedures later on down the line, seek an integrative approach to heart health today that not only includes a healthy diet and exercise, but also natural supplements as well, if appropriate. For more information on how to stay “heart smart,” check out this guide.