Protecting Your Heart

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According to the American Heart Association, each year over 1.2 million Americans suffer a heart attack. A heart attack happens when the blood supply to a portion of the heart is suddenly cut off. This usually occurs from atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), where blood flow to the heart is blocked by cholesterol and calcium-based plaques. High blood pressure and inactivity can also increase your risk of a heart attack.

Qualified health care practitioners can help you set and achieve health goals, to reduce your risk. Here are some tips to start protecting your heart.

Eat Right: Research shows that making the right diet choices can make a big difference. Include soluble whole fibers such as oats and barley. Soluble fiber helps keep cholesterol in check. Magnesium-filled leafy greens, beans and nuts can lower blood pressure and most importantly, reducing sodium in all forms (especially processed foods) helps some people lower blood pressure.

A diet packed with colorful fruits and veggies provides heart-helping antioxidants and essential nutrients. Both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) offer guidelines to heart-healthy eating, encouraging whole foods and fiber and limiting saturated and trans fats. However, goods fats such as olive oil and fish oil can help with blood pressure and may reduce the damage cholesterol can do to arteries.

Get Moving: Exercise is just as important as a good diet. Daily exercise has many benefits for your heart. Weight loss, healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and stress reduction all have direct, positive effects on heart health. These can all be achieved through exercise. If you haven’t exercised in a while, consult with your health care practitioner first about what you can do.

Extra Help: In addition to a healthy diet and exercise, supplements can offer further support for a healthy heart and circulatory system. Again, consult with a knowledgeable health care practitioner about these supplements before taking them.

  • Coenzyme Q10: Improves energy delivery to the heart by appearing to reduce the formation of artery-blocking plaques. CoQ10 may have blood thinning properties, so consult with your doctor if you are on blood thinning medications.
  • Niacin: Also known as Vitamin B3, it reduces LDL (lousy cholesterol) and triglycerides, while increasing HDL (healthy cholesterol). Niacin can cause flushing in some people.
  • Fish Oil: Reduces inflammation and improves cholesterol levels.
  • Hawthorn: In a recent study, people who had congestive heart failure were able to exercise with less shortness of breath while taking hawthorn.

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November 2010
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