Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. However, there are things that we can all do to prevent cardiovascular disease. Whether you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or are currently within the normal measurements, these tips will help you ensure that your heart stays healthy.
A heart attack or stroke is when a blood clot reaches the small vessels in either your heart or brain and blocks the flow of blood, and thus oxygen, to that area causing the cells to die. We are finding that the viscosity, or thickness, of your blood has a lot to do with whether or not these clots form. Thin blood flows easier and clots less than thick blood. Here are ways to keep your blood thin:
- Stay hydrated – You should be drinking 1/3 of your body weight in ounces. For example a 150lb person should be drinking 50 ounces of water daily as a baseline. Then add 8 ounces of water for every cup of coffee, alcoholic beverage, or 30 minutes of exercise as these things dehydrate you.
- Heat up your body – This should happen for 30 minutes per day. Ways of heating your body include exercise that makes you sweat, saunas, hot tubs, and being out in weather hot enough to make you sweat.
- Consume omega 3 fatty acids- These are found mostly in fish. Eating 4 ounces of fish 3 times per week is enough to protect your cardiovascular system. If you are not consuming this much fish, then I would suggest taking 3000mg of fish oil daily as a preventative measure. Krill oil is an excellent vegan option.
High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and/or low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and overall inflammation of the blood vessels also increase the risk of a clot forming and leading to heart attack or stroke. Here are some ways to prevent inflammation and high cholesterol:
- Avoid refined sugars – Sugar is very inflammatory to your blood vessels. Keep your sugary snacks to a minimum and choose whole grains over “white” or processed grains.
- Exercise – 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week will increase your levels of HDL (good) cholesterol which will decrease the inflammation in your blood vessels.
- Eat Fiber – Fiber decreases your levels of LDL cholesterol. Fiber is present in vegetables and fruits with their skin and whole grains. Eating 20-35 grams of fiber per day is protective. Foods that are particularly good at lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol are oats, barley, beans, soy, apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits, and nuts.
- Eat antioxidant rich foods- Antioxidants help keep the cells of your circulatory system (and all your organs) from being damaged. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables all have antioxidants in them. Foods that are particularly high in antioxidants are blueberries, red and purple grapes, raspberries, black berries, strawberries, plumbs, broccoli, kale, spinach, and chard.
Considering these things when making food and activity choices will ensure that your cardiovascular system stays strong and healthy allowing you to keep doing the things you enjoy for many years to come! If you have specific concerns for your heart or cholesterol levels, or if you are due to have your levels checked, call and schedule an appointment today.