Heart disease: What you can do to lower your risk
Good news for those who are interested in protecting their heart, as the right diet and lifestyle can substantially reduce your risk of developing the disease. Listed below are probably the five main things that you can do to protect your heart.
1. Eat the right diet
This means eating lots of vegetables each day to obtain your plant sterols (which may help lower cholesterol) and fibre, which can also lower cholesterol, as well as folic acid and magnesium. Eating whole grains, like brown bread and pasta, is also rich in fibre and many minerals good for heart health.
There was good news too, for those of us who like butter, as there isn’t enough evidence to support the notion that saturated fats are associated with heart disease, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine in March 2014. In this study, researchers pooled the results of 72 studies that had looked at the link between fatty acids and coronary disease. This doesn’t though mean you should eat saturated fats to the exclusion of other fats, though, as you still need the right balance between all fats (essential fatty acids, mono saturated fats and saturated fats and eating 1-2 portions of oily fish per week may keep cholesterol in check).
2. Lose weight
If you are overweight then seek help to achieve your ideal weight as being overweight puts you at a greater risk of heart disease and other health problems, such as cancer.
3. Take B vitamins to lower homocysteine
Check your homocysteine level (either ask your nutritional therapist to organise a test) and supplement accordingly depending on the results. Homocysteine is an independent marker of heart disease and though a necessary biochemical molecule, too much homocysteine can act as a vascular abrasive and damage your arteries.
If you are over 50 it would be prudent in any event to make sure you are supplementing a high dose B vitamin supplement as studies have shown that lowering your homocysteine in the 50+ age group, has the additional benefit of improving your memory.
4. Look after yourself
Exercise – even if this means walking daily for 20 minutes, rather than joining a gym, is already a good start. Research published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that "the greatest risk [of an early death] was in those classed inactive, and that was consistent in normal weight, overweight and obese people ". See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30812439
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should continue to be overweight and active, as losing weight, will also cut your risk of an early death and other health complications, such as diabetes (which is also a risk factor for heart disease).
5. Visit your dentist regularly
You may be surprised to know that inflamed gums can contribute to and exacerbate heart disease. This is because inflammatory chemicals (from gum disease) may enter the bloodstream and contribute to arterial inflammation. So, it is good to visit your dentist on a regular basis and take their advice on good oral hygiene.
You could also consult a trained nutritional therapist to carry out a dietary evaluation, as they will be able to work out from your diet history – past and present - how to improve what you are eating or what foods to avoid or if you are low in certain food groups, such as protein or other nutrients that may help reduce the likelihood of you developing heart disease or managing any problems you currently have.
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About Melody Mackeown
Melody Mackeown, is a nutritional therapist who works in Putney and Earlsfield, London.
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