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Foods and Lifestyle Changes That Prevent Heart Disease

September 2, 2010
(Article first published as Top Foods and Lifestyle Changes Promote Heart Health on Technorati.)
Heart disease is the number one killer in the US, and results from decades of dietary and lifestyle abuse leading to damage of the delicate arteries that supply blood to the heart. The condition is called coronary artery disease (CAD) and is the primary type of heart condition which leads to sudden death from a heart attack, as foamy plaque builds up in the lining of the vessels and increases the risk of a clot blocking blood flow to this critical muscle. Fortunately you can lower your risk of disease by taking charge of the factors which precipitate CAD.

Create a Plan to Reverse Heart Disease

Medical research continues to provide important information which reveals that the negative effects of poor diet and lifestyle can be reversed by implementing a structured plan to correct poor habits. The results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrates that making the correct food choices is more heart protective than taking statins.

The study highlights a small group of super foods which affect heart function and have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease development, and can actually work to reverse the buildup of coronary plaque. In addition to adding these foods to your diet, there are essential lifestyle modifications you can incorporate which can significantly reduce your risk of a heart attack.

Super Foods for the Heart

Every bite of food we eat has a direct and calculable effect on our genes, and specifically our heart. Eliminating sugar, refined carbohydrates and hydrogenated trans fats from the diet is an important first step toward regaining control over heart health. As you slowly cut damaging foods from your diet, substitute these super foods to improve your heart healthy menu.

Salmon and Omega-3 Fat Sources: Salmon and most fish are excellent sources of the Omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA which have been shown to lower the risk of sudden death from a heart attack by one-third. Omega-3 fats reduce dangerous blood fats known as triglycerides, and help to prevent the formation of blood clots. Eat salmon or fatty fish twice a week, or supplement with fish oil for maximum benefit.

Blueberries: Blueberries are packed with powerful antioxidants which have been shown to alter the plaque forming characteristics of oxidized LDL cholesterol. This means that this damaging form of cholesterol is less likely to become incorporated into plaque which narrows the arteries supplying the heart. Blueberries also taste great and play an important role in brain health as well.

Make the Right Lifestyle Changes

Once you’ve made the appropriate changes to your diet, researchers have identified specific lifestyle alterations which provide protection against heart disease. Plan to make changes slowly and you’ll be more likely to maintain them for life.

Physical Activity: Next to diet, incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine will have the most impact on heart health. You benefit by strengthening this critical muscle and the supporting vascular system, lowering blood pressure and stabilizing blood sugar and insulin response. Plan at least 20 to 30 minutes each day.

Lose Weight: Excess weight forces the heart to work much harder than necessary, and eventually the heart enlarges in an attempt to keep pace with the increased load. Studies show that losing as little as 5 to 7% of your body weight can have a dramatic effect on heart health.

No Smoking: Smoking is the leading preventable cause of heart disease, as it negatively affects every organ in the body, especially the heart. Smoking causes dangerous constriction of the blood vessels which forces the heart to work much harder. Get professional help to drop the habit, as studies show positive heart health benefits after just 6 months.

Reduce Stress: The effects of stress can be as devastating as smoking. Often referred to as a silent killer, continual stress causes the release of hormones such as cortisol which increase blood pressure and systemic inflammation. Stress reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation are helpful in negating the damaging effects of stress.

Heart disease is preventable and reversible with a solid plan to improve diet and lifestyle. Substituting heart healthy super foods such as blueberries and salmon can have an immediate impact on your heart. Make time for daily exercise, lose weight and eliminate the cause of stress which is harming your health. You can minimize or even eliminate the risk from heart disease by taking charge of your total lifestyle.

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