Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Tips for a Healthy Heart
Today, we'll talk about the leading causes of death for men and women in the United States: heart disease. Heart diseases causes over 600,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Since it is also one of the most preventable diseases, many consider this an alarming statistic. There are many contributing factors, and it's important to know them. So let's get to the heart of it. 1
Heart disease is a disorder affecting the blood vessels in and around the heart. When blood flow is compromised, arrhythmias leading to heart attacks can occur. There are a variety of reasons heart disease can present itself. We'll discuss these below.
High Blood Pressure
We most commonly think of high blood pressure in terms of stress, but there are many other ways a person can develop high blood pressure.
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with some of the most common reasons. Are you at risk?
Many of us are familiar with other dangers associated with smoking such as lung cancer and emphysema. But in fact, the risk of developing heart disease from smoking far outweighs these. Smoking causes high blood pressure and increases the risk of heart attack because nicotine narrows your arteries, hardens their walls, and makes your blood more likely to clot. Clotting is also a risk factor for stroke, a condition which claims nearly 150,000 lives every year. Second-hand smoke carries the same risks. 2
The larger you are, the harder your heart has to pump to supply oxygen to all parts of your body. This extra strain (oftentimes combined with a lack of physical activity) increases your risk of hypertension and blood vessel damage.
Your heart is a muscle that requires regular exercise. Since a sedentary lifestyle and obesity oftentimes go hand in hand, the risk for heart disease in sedentary persons is similar to the risk in someone who is obese. Additionally, physical activity prevents a wide variety of other health ailments that are contributing factors for cardiovascular disease. These include type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood sugar.
If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you are at a similar risk for heart as a smoker. 3
We need salt in order to survive. Salt controls fluids, muscles and nerves. However, in the U.S., we consume more than twice the recommended daily amount, on average. Too much salt causes heart disease by increasing blood pressure. It has also been shown to contribute to osteoporosis, asthma, stomach cancer and weight gain.4
The recommended daily allotment of salt is 1500 mg (or 0.75 teaspoons) per day for a healthy adult. The average intake of sodium in the U.S. is about 3400 mg, most of it coming from processed foods. 5
Aside from the numerous other negative health effects caused by alcohol, hitting the bottle on a regular basis also raises your blood triglycerides, a risk factor for heart disease. 6
Enjoy alcohol in moderation. Not sure what "moderation" means when it comes to alcohol? Check out this article.
Your age and genetics can also contribute to high blood pressure. But don't let these uncontrollable
factors lead you to believe your risk for developing heart disease is inevitable. Your heart's health is largely in your hands.
Below we'll discuss the remaining major risks for heart disease. These consist of diet and diabetes.
Insulin resistance is the most common form of type 2 diabetes. In healthy individuals, the pancreas produces insulin in response to sugar and carbohydrate intake, resulting in your body’s production of usable energy. In individuals with insulin resistance, normal amounts of insulin no longer result in this energy creation. To combat this, the body produces more insulin to keep up. But eventually, insulin resistance becomes so severe that the pancreas can no longer accommodate your body's need for insulin. This causes blood glucose levels to increase, eventually leading to diabetes.7
Diabetes type 2 is 100 percent preventable. The major contributors to insulin resistance are excess weight, specifically around the waist, and physical inactivity. People with diabetes can develop vision loss, kidney failure, nerve damage, heart disease and stroke. A healthy diet, regular exercise and regular diabetes screenings are all preventative measures for diabetes and heart disease. 8
If that isn't enough of an incentive to incorporate some greens into your life, a brand-new study published in PLOS One in February 2017 found that "young adults who were given extra fruits and vegetables each day for 14 days experienced a boost in motivation and vitality."
The findings confirm that just two cups of fruit (roughly an orange) and three cups of vegetables (three carrots, a bell pepper and a small tomato - the perfect addition to any salad) will do the trick! 10