We all know that heart disease is not going away. In fact, it is on the rise, in both women and men. The biggest barrier to cardiac health is lifestyle. We may not be able to change our genetic predisposition to cardiac problems, but we certainly can control our risk factors. There is a great deal that we can do to reduce our chances of cardiac diseases. The basic changes include exercise; a low-fat, low-salt diet; stop or don’t start smoking; and reducing stress, just to name a few.
I have seen reports of children as young as four with the beginnings of atherosclerosis. High levels of blood cholesterol are the culprit and occur from the high saturated fats that our children eat. Our children are also less active than we were as children. As a child, I was always outside playing with the neighborhood kids. Of course, it was safer to go outside and play, but that is no excuse to keep your children in the house. Regular activity helps to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and raise HDL cholesterol levels. Not to mention that exercise, along with a healthy diet, will reduce our growing obesity problem among children.
Our society today is more stressed than previous societies and we are constantly on the go. We work long hours at the office, then we sit in traffic. We might go to the grocery store to figure out what to make for dinner. We might have children in daycare that we have to pick up. By the time we get home, help the kids with their homework, and cook dinner, it is close to 8pm. So, it is just easier to fix meals that are fast, easy to make, and cheap (eating healthy, unfortunately is more expensive than eating cheap).
The fast food industry and the frozen food section of the grocery store is thriving. Many of us opt not to eat fresh fruits and vegetables because they are expensive and spoil easy. Canned foods are very popular, since they are cheap and easy to make. However, have you looked at the food labels on those can meals? The salt content in one of those cans is usually enough for your entire week’s recommended daily allowance. Salt adds flavor to foods and is a great preservative. There is also a lot of fat or sugar in canned foods, while very little is devoted to fiber or protein.
Ingredients are listed on food labels in order of weight. If you buy a product that is supposed to be fruit salad, but the first five ingredients all pertain to sugar, and the last two are fruit, I would suggest you return the can to the shelve and go over to the produce isle and get some fresh fruit. Diets that are high in fruits and vegetables may help reduce high cholesterol levels and, they are good for so many other physiological functions.
There are also some wonderful herbal remedies and supplements for heart health. The first is parsley – parsley is not only a blood purifier it also reduces tachycardia and lowers blood pressure. Parsley is great in soups, as a spread, or roasted with garlic. Another herb that is great for cardiac health is chives. Most of us are familiar with chives as it is a popular toping on baked potatoes. Chives helps to lower blood pressure and it also has a mild diuretic effect to take off accumulation of fluid that can cause the heart to work harder. It also is beneficial in lowering blood cholesterol levels. Coenzyme Q10, black haw, evening primrose oil, Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, grapeseed oil, lycopene, oleander, are also heart friendly. A word on Omega 3 and Omega 6 - it is important to maintain a proper 1:1 balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils as they have an opposite effect in the body. Omega 6 stimulates the inflammatory process while Omega 3 suppresses inflammation.
In conclusion, the above are just suggestions for heart health. Speak to your primary care provider for more tips on how to keep your heart healthy. It just makes sense to be heart healthy!
Dr. Linda Mundorff is a Board Certified Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases. Dr. (Rener) Mundorff is the author of Medical Terminology: A Student Workbook, and Memories of My Sister: Dealing with Sudden Death. You can reach Dr. Mundorff at email: Bridges2hlth@aol.com