We all know that having a healthy heart is crucial to a long and healthy life. Here are 15 steps you can take right now to help you along the path to a healthier heart.
Step 1: Vitamin E, Selenium and Grapeseed Extract
High blood cholesterol is known to be a major risk factor in cardiovascular disease.
High cholesterol is particularly dangerous when it is oxidized. The first step in protecting yourself from the dangers of high cholesterol levels is to prevent its oxidation. (Then work on lowering it.) Vitamin E prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol, and protects arterial walls from free radical damage.
This is a very important factor because LDL oxidation is the first step in the process that leads to hardening of the arteries. Results from a recent study showed that 400 and 800 I of supplemental Vitamin E each day reduced the risk of heart attack in men by 75%.
Here is more Vitamin E can do:
- It causes dilation of blood vessels, thereby permitting a fuller flow of blood to the heart.
- It also inhibits coagulation of blood and prevents clots from forming.
- It decreases the oxygen requirement of a muscle by at least 43% thereby enabling the body to do the same job on less oxygen. (Remember: The heart is a muscle.)
The combined effect of Vitamin E and Selenium is a greater level of antioxidant protection than each of these nutrients would have separately. Grapeseed extract contains proanthocyanidins, which are compounds shown in recent studies to have extremely potent antioxidant properties.
Step 2: Reduce the Amount of Saturated Fat in Your Diet
The blood levels of cholesterol in most people is unaffected by the amount of dietary cholesterol; the real culprit is the consumption of saturated fats. Saturated fats stimulate the liver to produce cholesterol. At least two-thirds of the cholesterol in your body is manufactured in the liver.
Your body makes its own cholesterol because cholesterol is essential to perform certain functions such as:
- It helps form hormones.
- It is required for functions of transport & communication systems in cell membranes.
- 90% is converted into bile acids for digestion
Bile acids contain a lot of cholesterol. Think of bile acids as the natural detergents which our body makes to help us digest food, especially fat. After bile does its essential work in your digestive tract, it is re-absorbed into the bloodstream UNLESS you have a diet high in soluble fiber.
Soluble fiber binds with bile acids (containing cholesterol) in the small intestine to prevent them from being re-absorbed. This soluble fiber containing the absorbed cholesterol is eliminated from the body in fecal waste unless unfriendly microflora unbind the bile acids from the soluble fiber. (See Step 9 below.)
Soluble fiber zeros in on LDL (the "bad cholesterol") and leaves the HDL (the "good cholesterol") alone.
Step #3: Increase Your Fiber Intake to Recommended Levels
The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 25 grams of fiber daily for a 2,000 calorie diet. The typical American consumes only 10 grams of fiber. Low fiber diets are associated with heart disease and some forms of cancer.
You should also increase the amount of fruits and vegetables that you eat each day.
Step 4: Maintain Optimal Levels of B Complex Daily
Studies show that the B vitamins folic acid, B6 and B12 help promote a healthy cardiovascular system by helping to maintain low homocysteine levels in the blood.
During normal metabolism, these B vitamins convert the natural biochemical homocysteine to an amino acid. Without this conversion, homocysteine levels accumulate. Research suggest too much homocysteine in the blood can cause damage to blood vessel walls.
Supplementary B6, B12 and folic acid have been shown to lower elevated homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels can significantly increase the risk of the following severe health problems:
- Stroke in the large blood vessels
- Small strokes in the brain that result in mental problems
- Direct damage to the lining of vessels, causing inefficient blood flow to critical areas of the brain
- Blockage in the deep veins (thrombosis)
- Blockages in the arteries of the arms, hands, legs, and feet
- A 50% increase in the risk of a heart attack.
Daily intake of B-vitamins is important because these water-soluble vitamins are not stored at significant levels in your body. It is best to consume B complex throughout the day to maintain high blood levels of these nutrients (for example, one or more tablet each meal).
Step 5: Ensure Adequate Essential Fatty Acids
We have been told to cut down on fat, but the body needs some fats necessary for health called "essential fatty acids."
Omega-3 fatty acids, play a role in the formulation of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that regulate a wide range of body functions such as blood clotting and inflammation, and help maintain normal blood pressure.
Lecithin is a natural emulsifier that allows the fat-soluble cholesterol to dissolve into the water of the bloodstream so that it may be eliminated.
Step 6: Calcium
Calcium is required for normal heart muscle functions and calcium plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure. Excess dietary calcium in the digestive tract can bond with the cholesterol-containing bile acids to form compounds that cannot be absorbed through the intestine thereby reducing the blood level of cholesterol.
Step 7: Garlic
Studies show that garlic promotes cardiovascular health by helping to retain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels when used daily as part of a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
Garlic is reported to dissolve plaque and lower plaque-forming blood lipids. These lipids can clog arteries and can lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Research has shown how garlic can lower the blood pressure through the actions of one of its components, methyl allyl trisulfide, which dilates vessel walls.
Two components in garlic, adenosine and allicin, are involved in inhibiting blood platelet aggression, plaque building and clotting. Allicin has also been found to maintain healthy levels of microorganisms.
Step 8: Alfalfa
Alfalfa tablets, made from the leaves of mature alfalfa plants, contain the fibers called “saponins" which soak up cholesterol like a sponge. The minerals in alfalfa are also important for nourishing the heart muscle.
Step 9: Maintain High Levels of Intestinal Microflora
The bowel requires approximately 100 trillion microflora at all times (that about 3 to 5 pounds). These high levels of microflora are very involved in reducing total cholesterol, improving the HDL/LDL ratio, and reducing triglycerides.
Harmful microflora undo the binding of fiber to bile acids that contain cholesterol. (See Step 1.) The friendly microflora crowd out the harmful microflora ( by "competitive inhibition"). This allows the cholesterol to continue on its path toward elimination in fecal waste.
Step 10: Soy Protein
Soy protein has many heart healthy benefits including lowering cholesterol. In 38 studies involving 730 participants adding soy to the diet had phenomenal results:
- Total cholesterol dropped on average 9%.
- LDL (bad cholesterol) dropped on average 13%
- Triglycerides dropped on average 11%
- HDL (good cholesterol) rose on average 2%
The soy isoflavones (rather than the protein itself) are responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effect. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, "25 grams of soy protein a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."
Step 11: Milk Thistle
Milk thistle seed extract, in addition to schizandra, reishi mushroom, dandelion, artichoke and turmeric have all been shown to build a healthy liver. Studies on this product show both detoxification and regeneration of liver cells.
- The liver is involved in the regulation of cholesterol.
- A sluggish liver leads to high cholesterol.
- The Reishi mushrooms and the Schizandra Chinensis have antioxidant properties.
Step 12: Ginkgo Biloba and Hawthorn
Ginkgo biloba improves circulation to every cell in the body, including the heart. Ginkgo biloba reduces homocysteine in the blood Hawthorn improves the ability of the heart to pump efficiently in FOUR ways:
- It allows more oxygen & nutrients to reach the heart
- It causes blood to flow more smoothly
- It increases the power of the heart
- It dilates blood vessels (especially coronary)
Step 13: "CoQ10"
Coenzyme Q-10 is vital for heart health. It helps produce energy in every one of your cells. That is especially important to your major organs. Coenzyme Q-10 also helps prevent LDL cholesterol oxidation.
Resveratrol is believed to be one of the most beneficial compounds found in red wine. Resveratrol has strong antioxidant properties and complements CoQ10 in the prevention of LDL cholesterol oxidation. Resveratrol might help facilitate blood flow.
Step 14: Stop Smoking
Ingredients in cigarette smoke are extremely oxidizing. High cholesterol is particularly dangerous when it is oxidized. Smokers have much higher need for antioxidants. The B Complex vitamins, including 2 forms of vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid and nicotinamide), can reduce nicotine cravings.
Step 15: Exercise, Drink Water and Lose Weight
Everyone knows that the keys to good cardiovascular health are exercise and maintaining your ideal weight. Just a few minutes of exercise per day can increase your level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL or "good" cholesterol). Just 10 minutes of exercise first thing in the morning can increase your metabolic rate for the rest of the day.
Also, consumption of water, so that you are fully hydrated, can increase your metabolic rate 24 hours per day.
Information from: Nutrition Handout from HEALTHQUEST
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