A healthy heart is key to a long life. When I say this to my patients many of them protest that avoiding cancer or protecting your brain is just is important. While they have a point, I stand by my statement. The reason I feel so strongly about heart health is that I’ve seen time and time again that people who take good care of their hearts tend to avoid other deadly, chronic diseases like liver disease, many cancers, and Alzheimer’s.
The steps you take to improve your heart health will have a great impact on your overall health. And with heart disease being the leading killer in the United States, it’s just a smart place to start if you want to begin improving your health.
Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk Factors
Most heart disease discussions begin and end with cholesterol. That’s unfortunate because there are many other important risk factors. If you take the time to lower your cholesterol, the simple truth is that it may not be enough—you might end up with heart disease anyway.
But if you address the three risk factors I’m going to tell you about today, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your risk of many other chronic diseases as well.
Three Risk Factors That are More Important Than Cholesterol
The first risk factor that I address with my patients is their blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, changes are happening in your body that you might not be aware of.
First, the endothelial lining of your arteries is becoming damaged. When that happens, it becomes rigid and unable to adapt to the changing demands of your circulatory system. Less flexibility puts you at higher risk of a blood clot lodging in an artery and that’s bad news.
High blood pressure also makes your heart work harder than it needs to. This can lead to heart disease, as well. As you get older there is a 90% chance that you will develop at least mild levels of high blood pressure. In one study, researchers found that high blood pressure directly caused 28 to 29 percent of heart disease cases.
Inflammation is another important risk factor. Low-level inflammation that is chronic and systemic damages your body throughout. The endothelial lining and the arteries are particularly vulnerable. Low-grade inflammation can be caused by many things—obesity, an infection, environmental pollutants, certain foods, and a lack of physical activity can all contribute. Research shows that people with the highest levels of low-grade inflammation are more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those with the lowest levels.
Glycation is another heart disease risk factor that often goes overlooked. When you eat foods high in sugar and starch, the glucose that enters your bloodstream can bind with proteins. This process is called crosslinking, and it’s not good. Some researchers have found that it contributes more to the development of heart disease than either cholesterol or diabetes.
How to Quickly Make a Real Difference in Your Heart Health
It doesn’t take much to make a significant improvement in your heart health. If you were to do just one small thing each day, over time it could result in a significant improvement. There are many small, easy steps you can take that will give your heart a boost.
To reduce your blood pressure, I suggest that you eat breakfast each day, go for a walk after dinner each night, and then take hawthorn extract and omega-3 supplements.
Eating breakfast in the morning helps your body to get off to a good start, and that means better regulation throughout the day of everything from your appetite to your blood sugar to your blood pressure. A brisk half-mile to a mile walk after dinner will get you moving and higher levels of physical activity help to reduce blood pressure, too.
Hawthorn extract and omega-3s both help to improve blood pressure. Hawthorn is an all-around heart tonic. Evidence shows that it helps the heart to maintain a normal rhythm and that it lowers blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. Omega-3 essential fatty acids provide a number of benefits to your heart, including lower blood pressure levels and reduced inflammation.
Another way to reduce your inflammation levels is to get more exercise, especially short bursts of strenuous exercise. You should talk with you doctor first to make sure this kind of exercise is safe for you. Becoming more physically active can reduce your inflammation levels by up to 35%.
Finally, to prevent glycation, choose more lean protein and more fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods with high levels of sugar and starch. High fructose corn syrup is the worst offender when it comes to the formation of crosslinked proteins. In animal studies, researchers showed that fructose results in glycation and arterial damage when combined with cholesterol. The damage is much worse than that caused by cholesterol alone.
Reducing your heart disease risk factors goes well beyond monitoring and controlling your cholesterol. By taking control of your blood pressure, inflammation, and glycation levels, you’ll go a long way to preventing heart disease as well as many other diseases.