Have you stopped to think about how much your heart does for you? It beats about 115,000 times a day so you can go on adventures, explore the world, and enjoy life. It’s so important, we often use it as a symbol for friendship and love… but are we treating it with love? Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S which means – perhaps we should take a moment to discuss heart health.
What is Heart Disease?
Many kinds of heart conditions exist under the umbrella of heart disease. The most prevalent in the U.S is coronary artery disease. This disease can lead to heart attack. Though it’s true that genetics play a role in the likelihood of developing heart disease, there are several lifestyle changes that can help protect your heart! We’ll go over coronary artery disease, risk factors in heart health, and what you can do to show your heart some love.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD):
The cause of coronary artery disease (CAD) is plaque. Plaque is a buildup of cholesterol and other substances around coronary artery walls. These arteries supply blood to the heart, so having them clogged with plaque is dangerous. The buildup around the walls narrows the artery, restricting blood flow to the heart and making it work harder. Furthermore, a plaque deposit could break loose in the artery and form a blood clot. This also impairs, or stops, blood flow entirely, which results in a heart attack. Unfortunately for some, the first symptom of CAD is a heart attack, since plaque buildup happens over time and it’s not something noticeable. However, there are other signs of possible CAD such as chest pain (angina), especially during exercise or emotionally stressful situations. Shortness of breath can also be a symptom of CAD. Monitoring heart health with your healthcare provider is one of the best ways to keep an eye on possible CAD development, especially if you fall into a high-risk group.
Some factors which increase the likelihood of developing CAD include:
– High blood pressure: high blood pressure may harden or thicken arteries, which, much like plaque buildup, restricts blood flow through the artery.
– Unhealthy cholesterol levels: since plaque build ups are largely created by cholesterol flowing through the bloodstream, the higher the cholesterol level, the more likely these buildups are to occur. Keeping cholesterol levels in check with proper nutrition and exercise can help lower this particular risk factor, as well as lower the risk of diabetes and obesity.
– Diabetes: the insulin resistance present in diabetes has been associated with other factors such as poor cholesterol scores, high blood pressure, and obesity. As these are major factors for heart disease, diabetes plays a significant role in the chance of developing CAD.
– Physical inactivity: this is another factor that compounds with other risks such as obesity, poor cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity. Being physically inactive increases the chance of all of these, therefore increasing the risk of developing CAD.
– Smoking: smoking can actually damage the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of CAD and other heart diseases as well.
– Being overweight or obese: obesity or being overweight is having excessive body fat. These levels of high body fat can result in poor cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure, and increased risk of diabetes. All of these play a role in the development of CAD.
– Poor diet: eating too much saturated or trans fat, or a diet high in cholesterol, can lead to increased risk of CAD. This is because it increases the chance of plaque buildup in arteries.
– Family history of heart disease: having family members who developed heart disease can increase your risk too. This is especially true if it was a close relative male (father or brother) who developed it before the age of 55, or a close relative female (mother or sister) diagnosed before the age of 65.
– Leading a stressed-out lifestyle: high stress can damage arteries as well as increase the risk of several factors on this list like falling into a poor diet, little exercise, and developing high blood pressure.
This list may seem intimidating, but the good news is you can decrease your risk of developing CAD in 8 out of 9 of these factors! There may not be much to do about the family history component, but healthy lifestyle choices have a huge positive impact on the rest.
What You Can Do To Love Your Heart:
1.) Nourish and Protect it through Diet.
Healthy nutrition helps reduce several risk factors such as stress, overweight or obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. There are two ways your nutrition can help: introducing heart-healthy foods and eliminating heart-damaging foods.
Some heart-healthy foods include leafy green vegetables. These veggies come with a powerful package of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. However, their Vitamin K is the biggest heart fan. Vitamin K is known to aid in protecting arteries and proper blood clotting. Including whole grains can also help improve your heart health. Whole grains, such as oats, brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa, contain fiber that reduces LDL (bad cholesterol). If you’re a fan of fish, including some fatty fish and fish oil in your diet can help reduce cholesterol, blood triglycerides, and blood pressure.
Foods to include in your nutrition plan could be:
– Fatty fish
– Nuts and seeds
– Leafy greens
– Whole grains
– And Tomatoes
The foods you’ll want to minimize or avoid are those rich in saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, or cholesterol. These include fried foods, whole dairy foods like cheese or butter, processed meats, red meat, and refined grains like white bread, rice, or pasta. Some healthy alternatives to these might be switching out butter for olive oil, red meat for fish or poultry, skim milk for dairy products, and whole grains instead of refined grains. Your heart will thank you!
2.) Get Moving!
Physical activity can also lower stress levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, and your chances of developing diabetes. Furthermore, regular exercise, paired with good nutrition, can help you get to and manage a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight in turn, helps reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, your chances of developing diabetes or obesity… see where I’m going with this? It creates a positive feedback loop! Truly a gift that just keeps on giving.
I’m not saying you have to run a marathon every month either. Something as simple as including brisk walking for 30 minutes at least five times a week can make big improvements! Find a form of exercise that works for you such as:
– Resistance training
– And Sports
Who knows, maybe you’ll even find a new hobby that helps keep your body, heart, and mind healthy.
3.) Consider Quitting Smoking
Smoking can have a detrimental impact on your heart. It increases several heart disease factors such as raising triglycerides. These are fat cells, often packed in with cholesterol or floating around your blood, that can end up creating the artery-blocking plaque from earlier. Smoking also lowers HDL (good cholesterol) whose job is to reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood. It also makes your blood stickier which increases the risk of a blood clot. Blood clots are dangerous since they can block blood flow to your heart and brain, leading to a heart attack and/or stroke. Lastly, smoking thickens and narrows blood vessels or damages the cells around them. Overall, it can be really harmful to your heart.
If you don’t smoke, consider not starting as this can be a difficult habit to quit. That being said, quitting is not impossible, and several resources exist for those who wish to stop smoking. Recovery is possible, and it can be one of the best things you do for your heart and overall health.
How Can FK Help?
One of the risk factors associated with heart disease is poor nutrition. Fortunately, optimizing nutrition is what we’re all about! Our meal plan programs are designed to offer maximum nutrition, and its health benefits, along with delicious flavor. The FK meal plans will reduce or eliminate some of the harmful foods such as processed meats, refined grains, and high trans fat foods. Plus, the meal plans are designed to help:
– Detox the body
– Reintroduce important minerals and vitamins
– Reduce inflammation
– Improve immunity
– Heal the gut for improved nutrient absorption
– Restore optimal body function
And leave you feeling better than ever! There are a few ways you can become part of the FK family. We offer two different meal routes: delivery and online.
Our delivery meal plans are available to those around the Phoenix, Arizona area. These meals plans are created, prepared, and delivered to customers on an agreed upon schedule. The options for delivery meal plans are: Autoimmune Protocol, Keto, Detox, and Paleo. Though they may have slightly different goals, all of them are designed to optimize your nutrition and transform your health.
Our online meals plans are a customizable and personalized plan sent to our clients via email. You are able to select the meal plan you would like to follow: Keto, Vegan, or Metabolic, and we create a plan according to your goals and needs. Finally, we’ll send over a copy of your meal plan showcasing what you’ll eat every day, how to prepare it, the nutritional facts, and even a shopping list!
As we’ve seen, nutrition can help reduce many of the risk factors associated with heart disease by lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, decreasing chances of developing diabetes and/or obesity, and removing foods harmful to your health. You don’t have to change your entire nutrition plan on your own though. Check out our website to see how we can help you!
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