You feel like you eat right and exercise a few times a week, but are you really living a heart healthy life? During American Heart Month, it is important to recognize two things: 1) that heart disease is the #1 cause of death for both men and women in the United States — taking approximately 1 million lives each year — and 2) that death from heart disease can often be prevented.
Considering that 85.7 million of us (34% of U.S. adults) are estimated to have hypertension and 2,200 of us die of cardiovascular disease each day (according to the American Heart Association), the question is valid. Each of us should question our lifestyle and answer with serious regard.
It is almost never too late to pause, take a step back, and make your health the most important investment you can make. Do it now!
STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TOWARD LIVING A HEART HEALTHY LIFE
Sadly, many Americans don’t realize that years of bad lifestyle choices have taken a toll on their heart health. If you haven’t already, start now and work on these areas of your life:
- Eat healthier, real (minimally processed) foods
- Get off of tobacco; no smoking or chewing, and limit your exposure to second-hand smoke
- Actively manage your stress
- Move your body every chance you get
- Learn what you can do to help limit occasional inflammation in your body
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Shoot for cholesterol ratio, blood sugar and blood pressure levels within normal ranges
- Use alcoholic beverages in moderation
- Practice good sleep habits so you get enough sleep
- Take quality supplements that may play a major role in heart health
SUPPLEMENTS FOR HEART HEALTH
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish oil is a source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Your body needs these essential fatty acids to function properly. “Research shows that eating dietary sources of fish oil, particularly tuna and salmon, twice a week is associated with a reduced risk of developing heart disease. Taking fish oil supplements for at least six months has been shown to reduce the risk of heart-related events (such as heart attack) and death in people who are at high risk of heart disease,” according to Mayo Clinic.
The organization also points to research that suggests the risk of congestive heart failure is lower in older adults who have higher levels of EPA fatty acids. In addition, the clinic suggests positive effects in supporting healthy blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol, and in supporting occasional inflammation due to over-use. Essential fatty acid supplementation may be the easiest, most effective thing you do toward living a heart healthy life.
Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA)
If you’re looking for a natural way to help maintain a normal inflammatory response, or to deal with occasional inflammation after intense exercise, GLA may be right for you. It’s an omega-6 fatty acid that the body needs (it is essential) but is unable to produce, which means we must consume it in the foods we eat.
GLA is primarily found in plant seed oils, and GLA supplements are typically made from evening primrose oil, black currant seed and borage seed oil. It can also be found in breast milk, which is the primary source of this fatty acid for infants. GLA can help improve the symptoms of a variety of conditions and support heart health. If you’re looking for natural ways to combat occasional inflammation in your body, consider a GLA supplement. Learn more about other GLA benefits in this article.
CoQ10 is an antioxidant substance produced in the body and is present in every cell. As we age, the body’s production of coenzyme Q10 slows. We are also less efficient at converting what we do make into ubiquinol, the reduced form of CoQ10 that our bodies use. For these reasons, many middle-aged people supplement with CoQ10 as part of their daily regime. Need more convincing? Check into the research below on how CoQ10 may help you and your family in living heart healthy lives.
Researchers point to several supplementation benefits for people with cardiovascular disease. Using CoQ10 to potentially reduce the risk for repeat heart attacks and improve outcomes in patients with heart failure is common. Secondly, the use of CoQ10 to lower blood pressure and help combat side effects of cholesterol-lowering statins is becoming more mainstream than not.
Oregon State University reports that two placebo-controlled trials found that, “Coenzyme Q10 supplementation resulted in moderate blood pressure decreases in hypertensive individuals. The addition of 120 mg/day of coenzyme Q10 to conventional medical therapy for eight weeks in patients with hypertension and coronary artery disease decreased systolic blood pressure by an average of 12 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 6 mm Hg.”
A recent study published in Cardiovascular Pharmacology: Open Access found evidence that CoQ10 may have “significant cardiovascular protective effects” that could help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Phytosterols are plant compounds similar to cholesterol. They are believed to block the absorption of cholesterol in our diets. We take in plant sterols when we eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, grains and legumes. Many studies have examined the role plant sterols play in lowering serum cholesterol levels and preventing cardiovascular disease, according to the Neurohealth Sciences Center.
Hence, plant sterols have been recommended by both the American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program as a way to lower elevated LDL cholesterol levels, help to manage coronary heart disease and, generally, help with living a heart healthy life.
There are several other types of supplements to consider for supporting your heart health, such as red yeast rice, grape seed extract, garlic, hawthorn, and more. I encourage you to learn more about them!
It’s never too late to put the focus on your heart, and encourage your family and friends to do the same! Together, you can work to make the best choices in living a heart healthy life, and to educate each other about family health history, the risk factors for heart disease, and the importance of regular checkups and working with your physician to manage your health.