Paper heart on a stick held by a hand

How To Help Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease

The heart is the symbol of life. The heart is the body's engine, keeping it running by supplying blood and oxygen to the brain and other vital organs. 

The bad news is that heart disease is in fact the leading cause of death in the United States. (1)

The good news is that there is much that you can do to help improve your cardiovascular health.

First lets look at the factors that can contribute to poor cardiovascular health.

Predisposing Factors

Age: As we get older the risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases. For men the risk of heart disease increases after they reach the age of 45. For women the risk heart disease increases after they reach the age of 55.

Family History: If you have a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or heart disease, then your own risk increases.

Diabetes: People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

Risk Factors You CAN Change

Golden hearts holding a heart.

Here are the risk factors you can do something about to help improve your cardiovascular health.

Smoking: Smokers increase their risk of heart attack by more than two times when compared to nonsmokers.

Being Overweight:People who carry extra weight, especially in the waistline, have a greater likelihood of stroke and heart disease. 

Cholesterol:  Having high levels of LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and/or low levels of HDL ("good" cholesterol) increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Even though your age, gender and heredity are factors that contribute to your cholesterol levels, you can also help to control it through diet.

High blood pressure: High blood pressure is a big contributing factor in the majority of all strokes and heart attacks.

Lack of Exercise: If you do not exercise regularly you greatly increase your risk of heart disease.

High Triglycerides: May contribute to arteriosclerosis (hardening or thickening of the artery walls) which increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. You can improve your triglyceride levels by limiting the saturated fats in your diet.

Stress: Some evidence suggests that high stress can make heart disease more likely.

Effects of Exercise on the Heart

A man running on a dirt trail.

Like any muscle, the heart will become stronger as a result of exercise so that it can pump more blood throughout the body with each beat and can sustain its maximum output with less strain. The resting heart rate of people who do cardiovascular exercise regularly is slower because the heart requires less effort to pump the blood.

People who exercise vigorously and regularly have a lower risk for heart disease, any exercise can be beneficial.

Heart Healthy Exercises

Maintaining a regular exercise program is very helpful to your cardiovascular health. 

Before starting any exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor. Listed below are several moderate recommended exercises. Take a change of pace from time to time to keep it exciting and enjoyable! If the pace feels right to you, it probably is right.

Walking

Start slowly at a comfortable pace. Maintain good posture. Pace yourself. Don't forget to swing your arms.

Bicycling

Using a stationary bike at home, or a gym, is very joint and back friendly. Try a recumbent stationary bicycle. You sit down in a seat and lean against a back rest. The high foot position also keeps the blood pressure lower than using an upright bike.

Swimming

Some say there is no better all around exercise than swimming. Many local community centers have large pools that have dedicated times each day, or sections all day, for lap swimmers.

Gardening

Pulling weeds, raking leaves, mowing the grass, and planting flowers is not only a good way to exercise, but also a way to set the mind at ease and reduce stress.

Climbing Stairs

When you have the option to take an elevator, or take the stairs, choose the latter. If your home has stairs, walk up and down them and around the house. Keep track of how many flights you take. You'll be surprised how your endurance increases with time.

Golf

Forget the motorized cart. Enjoy a round with a pull cart. Start out playing only nine holes this way. Work up the endurance to play the eighteen holes on foot. Who knows, your concentration might improve some to help lower your score!

Dancing

What is more fun than cutting the rug with your sweetheart? Find a place that plays the music you enjoy. Nothing wrong with turning up the radio, dropping the drapes, and swinging the night away at home either.

Heart Healthy Diet

Bowl of rice and roasted veggies

The American Heart Association recommends that your diet should primarily be made up of  "nutrient dense foods". (2)

Nutrient dense foods would include practically any food that is not processed, does not contain added sugars or fats and is relatively low calorie when compared to the nutrients it contains, that is vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.

All fresh fruits and vegetables are included as nutrient dense foods.

Many foods that are dried, such as beans, oats, rice and pasta are also included as nutrient dense foods. The real problem is the sauces, sugars and other ingredients that we add to these foods that increase the caloric content, without increasing the nutrition value.

In order for any dairy products to be included as nutrient dense foods, they should be low fat or fat free. No more than 30% of the calories should come from fats. For example; fat-free cottage cheese would be good, but cheddar cheese would not.

When you buy any kind of packaged or processed food, it is important to carefully read the nutrient facts. The product may have less fat than their regular product, but it still may not be a good choice for your diet.

Breads can be another source of confusion. Both the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society recommend that we choose “whole grains”, thus we see numerous food manufacturers proudly displaying the “whole grain bread” label. If you read the ingredients, you will find that they all contain “enriched wheat flour”, as their primary ingredient. The dollar store brand white sandwich bread contains exactly the same ingredients, compare the labels. The best advice is to skip the bread whenever possible. 

Whole grains such as oatmeal, barley, rice, etc. These can be included in your nutrient dense diet, but choose the low-fat, low-sodium varieties if you are buying a processed, pre-packaged version. The first ingredient on the package label should be a recognizable grain, such as oats, barley, rice, not “oat flour, barley flour or rice flour”.

The best choices for protein are fish, egg whites and skinless chicken breast. The worst choices are hot dogs and bologna. We need some fat in our diets, but 30% of our total caloric intake is enough. 

In addition, all fats are not the same. Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found primarily in fish like salmon, sardine, mackerel, tuna, etc. are important for the functions of the brain and heart.

There are a number of different kinds of fats; trans fat, saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, etc. The source of the fat is important, animal fat is bad, vegetable fat is not so bad, but 30% from any source is enough.

5 Natural Supplements for Cardiovascular Health

Bottle of Herbal Roots Whole Bulb Garlic supplement with raw garlic and capsules placed on the sides of the bottle

In addition to diet and exercise, listed below are supplements that can help improve your cardiovascular health.

Garlic

Research on garlic shows that it can help support cardiovascular health by its ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as offering protection against strokes and heart disease. (3)

See our organic garlic if you would like to learn more about the benefits of this potent herb.

Mushroom

Research into the benefits of mushrooms show they may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, by supporting healthy cholesterol levels (total, LDL and HDL cholesterol) and by promoting reduced blood pressure. (4)

Get all the benefits from our 8 mushrooms blend and learn more about it here.

Valerian

Research on Valerian root shows that it may help promote healthy blood pressure and relax muscles. (5)

For more information on the benefits of valerian supplements you can visit the product page for valerian herbal supplement.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can be beneficial to cardiovascular health, by helping to support healthy blood pressure and supporting healthy cholesterol levels. (6)

There a wide range of apple cider vinegar benefit you can learn more about it in the ACV product page.

Turmeric

A recent study suggests curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, can help support heart health by impeding the development of arteriosclerosis, or clogged arteries, which can lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes. (7)

For more information on the benefits of turmeric supplements go to the turmeric product page.

Summary

Improving your cardiovascular health, meaning the health and condition of your heart and blood vessels is important as this can reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. This article covers lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet and dietary supplements that can help keep your heart and circulatory system healthy.

References
  1. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  2. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC139960/ 
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20550954/
  5. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0415/p1755.html
  6. https://www.webmd.com/diet/supplement-guide-apple-cider-vinegar#1
  7. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20090720/curcumin-may-prevent-clogged-arteries

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