Everyone knows someone affected by heart disease. Since it’s actually more prevalent than cancer, it’s hard to ignore the ribbons, the walks and the onslaught of information. That can be scary at times, especially if you’re unsure how to protect yourself, and even more if you want to do so naturally!
Choosing the Natural Path
Millions of people are prescribed medications every year for heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. These medications come with a huge caveat. Essentially, you’re putting an “unknown” into your body, and that can have some nasty side effects as your body tries to figure out how to handle it. For example, statins are great for lowering cholesterol, but in some people they can cause muscle pain and memory loss.
There are also times when the medication works too well. Xarelto is a blood thinner, and it helps prevent the clots that cause heart attacks and strokes. It’s a very effective drug, but that’s where the issue comes in. When you get a scrape or bruise, those clotting factors are essential to stop the bleeding. On Xarelto, it won’t stop, and there’s no antidote, so a simple cut could be deadly.
There are times when medication is necessary, but it’s important to take a hard look at the risks before choosing to take a drug. Often, there are other solutions available that have only positive benefits, and help your body stay healthy in a more natural, simple way.
Food Makes a Big Impact
When you eat foods high in saturated fats, sodium and cholesterol, it has a significant impact on your cardiac system. In some ways, an unhealthy diet creates associated issues, like obesity, which then impact heart health. In others, you really “are what you eat,” because things like cholesterol go straight to your arteries, building up as plaque and hardening blood vessel walls.
There are some variations on the dietary choices you’ll want to make, based on your possible risk factors for heart disease. Now, if you currently don’t have any risk factors, that is fantastic! It is still good to be proactive for your health later on. A generally heart healthy diet will be low in those saturated and trans fats, sodium and cholesterol. Additionally, the less processed, sugary foods you consume, the better.
If you have a risk factor, your body’s needs get a little more specific. For a person with high cholesterol, the goal is to lower LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol, while maintaining or raising HDL (good) cholesterol. A fantastic natural tool for this is fiber! Soluble fiber is found in strawberries, citrus fruits, apples, and other fruits. It works in your body by preventing the absorption of LDL cholesterol, naturally lowering your levels so your body can handle them. The same goes for plant stanols and sterols. These activate in your gut, preventing cholesterol absorption, and can be found in wheat germ, bran, vegetable oil and nuts like almonds.
In an effort to use nutrition as a means to reduce tension caused by high blood pressure, researchers created the DASH Diet. The DASH plan tells you to choose foods that are rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein. These include whole grains, nuts, broccoli, carrots, kale, and lean meats. DASH is one of the best examples of a natural solution that truly works, because in some patients, it lowers blood pressure in just 2 weeks.
Exercise Completes the Package
Diet and exercise are a couple that you just can’t break up! They work together to help boost your immune system and stay healthy for a longer life. So while you’re changing what you eat, take a look at what you do to help strengthen your heart.
Cardiovascular exercise has multiple benefits. It can help you lose weight that contributes to cholesterol levels and blood sugar issues. It relieves stress that drives up cortisol, and can have a direct impact on blood pressure that way. But more than that, it strengthens the actual heart muscle, so it can work effectively and efficiently, even when under stress.
The American Heart Association guidelines recommend 30 minutes of exercise per day, for at least 5 days out of the week. All that’s required is that your heart rate goes above 100 BPM and stays there! There are so many ways to achieve this, even if you aren’t a gym lover. Even walking the dog around the block can count (and your dog will thank you!).
Stick With It
Your body can do incredible things when given the right tools. The healthy nutrients from unprocessed foods reduce risk factors to keep your blood vessels clear and strong. On the flip side, exercise allows your body to build up its strength and endurance, so in moments of stress or illness, your heart can fight through. Together, they are a natural super-shield, defending against heart disease your whole life long.