Chances are, you know someone if not multiple people who have suffered from heart disease. In fact, cardiovascular disease accounts for 1 of 3 deaths in the United States, making it an efficient killer, one you need to protect yourself from. [i] However, reducing your risk factors isn’t hard if you know what to look out for while adjusting your diet.
Heart Disease: A Silent Serial Killer
Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 17.3m deaths a year, and 787,000 deaths in the US. This is more deaths than all forms of cancer. You need to educate yourself on its causes and how to identify potential heart problems to protect against possible heart attacks, angina, strokes, and heart failure.[ii]
- High salt intake
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Processed junk food and fast food
These things damage the circulatory system and lead to narrowed, blocked, and stiffened blood vessels. Damaging your body in this way, makes blood flow difficult and forces your heart to do extra work. Some symptoms of heart disease and clogged arteries include:[v]
- Chest pain
- Neck pain
- Jaw pain
- Throat pain
- Numbness in legs and arms
- Shortness of breath
Identifying these problems early and reacting with a healthy diet will make sure you aren’t making a cameo in one of those death-rate heart disease statistics. Avoiding certain foods and a damaging lifestyle can help you avoid clogged arteries or atherosclerosis, one of the huge contributors to heart disease.
Clogged Arteries: An Accomplice to Life-Threatening Heart Disease
Clogged arteries is a major obstacle for blood flow and your pumping heart. Like when you step on a hose, the water pump struggles to get water to your garden. The heart has a similar problem when plaque builds up in your arteries; blood struggles to flow to your cells, your brain, and throughout the body, putting stress on your blood pump (the heart) to push blood through your “stepped on” blood vessels.[vi]
Buildup of Plaque
One of the main causes for atherosclerosis is plaque build up, which is the result of too much damage to your circulatory system because of poor diet, stress, and smoking. When your arteries are damaged, plaque made up of cholesterol, minerals, and fat reside in the damaged area and build up. [vii] It is important to note that the buildup of cholesterol (plaque) is a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle and poor dietary choices, not a cause of heart disease.
Another issue is that LDL can seep through the artery walls and build up that way. Good cholesterol (HDL) cannot do this. [viii]
This build up can make it difficult for the heart to pump blood, but what makes it harder is when this plaque gets into the blood stream and provokes a blood clot stopping a significant amount of blood and causing us a lot of pain. [ix]
How to stop it?
While there isn’t treatment for dissolving plaque, a healthy lifestyle, as well as a proper diet, can slow down build up. Avoid foods high in trans fats which the body has problems digesting, and sugar which has been associated with inflammation in the circulatory system leading to atherosclerosis. [x] [xi] [xii]
Eating too much trans fats is a huge contributor to clogged arteries. It can help to avoid foods like these:[xiii]
- Processed milk products
- Fatty Meats
- Fast food
12 Whole Foods: Hearty Helpers
One of the best ways to avoid heart disease and atherosclerosis is by altering your diet in a sustainable way, by including these 12 foods which provide a stronger heart and reduce the build-up of plaque and cholesterol in your arteries.
- Fresh fruit has fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals all necessary for keeping your body healthy, and out of the cookie jar. Antioxidants are also efficient for preventing further damage to your circulatory system.[xiv]
- Black bean’s fiber is good for lowering cholesterol. [xv]
- Mackerel is a fish filled with Omega 3’s which lowers LDL, reduces blood pressure and maintains blood vessel elasticity. Fish is also a good source of Vitamin D which is associated with better blood pressure lower rates of heart disease. [xvi]
- Spinach reduces certain enzymes implicated in heart disease and is filled with fiber and vitamins.[xvii]
- Avocados’ potassium regulates blood pressure and heart rhythm, while monosaturated fats lower bad cholesterol. [xviii]
- Nuts are also filled with monosaturated fats as well as minerals, and selenium which is associated with a 15 to 57 percent less risk of heart disease.[xix]
- Flax meal is full of fiber, omega 3’s, and Vitamin E which improves circulation.[xx]
- Green tea lowers cholesterol and lipid levels and reduces the chances of fats being deposited in our arteries.[xxi]
- Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E and phytosterols which are known for protecting against high cholesterol, as well as containing healthy fats which lower overall cholesterol.[xxii]
- Garlic reduces cholesterol and hypertension which can cause stress on your circulatory system. [xxiii]
- Capsicum a compound in cayenne peppers might regulate inflammation, and control blood cholesterol levels.[xxiv] [xxv]
- Lentils are another legume which can cut down on bad cholesterol. A meta-analysis that looked at 26 studies of more than 1000 people found that lentils reduced LDL by 5 percent, reducing chances of heart disease. [xxvi]
Cardiovascular disease is an efficient killer; the current rate is estimated at one death about every 40 seconds.[xxvii] Changing your diet now can be an effective way to get in the habit of protecting yourself from the silent serial killer and its accomplice, and making sure you and your loved ones aren’t the victims.
[i] Benjamin E, Blaha M, Chiuve S et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2017 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135(10):e146-e603. doi:10.1161/cir.0000000000000485.
[iii] Strazzullo P, D’Elia L, Kandala N, Cappuccio F. Salt intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2009;339(nov24 1):b4567-b4567. doi:10.1136/bmj.b4567.
[iv] Heart disease Causes – Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/basics/causes/con-20034056. Accessed May 1, 2017.
[vi] Balch P. Prescription For Nutritional Healing. 1st ed.; 2010.
[vii] Benjamin E, Blaha M, Chiuve S et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2017 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135(10):e146-e603. doi:10.1161/cir.0000000000000485.
[viii] Feinmann J, Atkinson L, Butcher A. HOW TO BEAT… HEART DISEASE. Mail Online. 2015. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3046298/HOW-BEAT-HEART-DISEASE-isn-t-fat-clogs-arteries-true-villain-surprise-you.html. Accessed May 1, 2017.
[ix] Benjamin E, Blaha M, Chiuve S et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2017 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135(10):e146-e603. doi:10.1161/cir.0000000000000485.
[x] All about blocked arteries. Bhforguk. 2017. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-matters-magazine/medical/blocked-arteries. Accessed May 1, 2017.
[xi] Feinmann J, Atkinson L, Butcher A. HOW TO BEAT… HEART DISEASE. Mail Online. 2015. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3046298/HOW-BEAT-HEART-DISEASE-isn-t-fat-clogs-arteries-true-villain-surprise-you.html. Accessed May 1, 2017.
[xii] Foods to Avoid for High Cholesterol. WebMD. 2017. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/foods-to-avoid-for-high-cholesterol. Accessed May 1, 2017.
[xiv] Balch P. Prescription For Nutritional Healing. 1st ed.; 2010.
[xxii] Brannagan M. Cholesterol in Sunflower Seeds. LIVESTRONGCOM. 2010. Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/281056-cholesterol-in-sunflower-seeds/. Accessed May 1, 2017.
[xxiii] Varshney R, Budoff M. Garlic and Heart Disease. Journal of Nutrition. 2016;146(2):416S-421S. doi:10.3945/jn.114.202333.
[xxiv] Sylvie Tremblay M. Can Eating Cayenne Pepper Help Unclog Arteries?. LIVESTRONGCOM. 2017. Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/538213-can-cayenne-pepper-unclog-arteries/. Accessed May 1, 2017.
[xxv] Balch P. Prescription For Nutritional Healing. 1st ed.; 2010.
[xxvi] Preidt, Robert. Beans, Lentils, Peas: Your Recipe for Lower Cholesterol?. WebMD. 2017. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/news/20140407/beans-lentils-peas-your-recipe-for-lower-cholesterol#1. Accessed May 1, 2017.
[xxvii] Benjamin E, Blaha M, Chiuve S et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2017 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135(10):e146-e603. doi:10.1161/cir.0000000000000485.
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