Have a Healthy Heart

February is American Heart Month.  Heart disease is the biggest killer of men and women in the United States.  Heart disease is the #1 killer of women and kills more women than ALL cancers combined.  It’s safe to say everyone probably knows someone who has suffered a heart attack or has some type of heart disease.  Something not everyone realizes is heart disease is almost entirely preventable.  Taking care of yourself by eating the right foods and being active can prevent heart disease and even reverse the build up of plaque.

To achieve an ideal heart healthy lifestyle:

  • Your blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mmHg without medication
  • Your total cholesterol should be less than 200mg/dl without medication
  • Your fasting blood sugar should be less than 100mg/dl without medication
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Do not smoke
  • Perform 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes vigorous exercise a week
  • Eat a diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, high fiber foods, and fish 2x a week
  • Limited saturated fat, cholesterol, alcohol, sodium, sugar and avoid trans fats

For more specific information for your age you can go to the Red for Women website.

Certain foods are especially good for a healthy heart.

 Oranges reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart failure.  Potassium helps control blood pressure.  The soluble fiber in oranges absorbs cholesterol from food and blocks it from being absorbed.

Kale is a super food filled with antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, folate, potassium and vitamin E.  Kale also has lutein a compound that helps protect against atherosclerosis.

Garlic reduces blood pressure by suppressing the enzyme angiotensin, which constricts blood vessels.  Garlic also reduces plaque build up.

Red Wine (and dark beers like stouts) has polyphenols that keep blood vessels flexible and prevent clotting.  Any alcohol increases HDL, the “good” cholesterol.  Remember, more than one glass a day increases breast cancer risk for women and heavy drinking does more damage to the heart than good.

Dark Chocolate contains flavanol compounds that reduce blood pressure by increases blood vessel flexibility.

Lentils are legumes full of fiber, folate, magnesium, and potassium and reduce blood pressure.

Almonds contain plant sterols that reduce absorption of cholesterol, and unsaturated oils that help the liver to make less LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and more HDL.

Pomegranates reduce atherosclerosis by activating an enzyme that breaks down oxidized cholesterol that causes plaque.