Health Adds Years to Your Life
Cardiovascular Disease, also known as heart disease, is the leading cause of death in the United States-the #1 Killer-of both men and women. Cardiovascular disease, or CVD, is not limited to the heart. Diseases of the arteries and blood vessels are part of cardiovascular disease, too. Almost one million people die of heart disease every year in the U.S.A. alone ... an average of one person every 33 seconds!
Many Americans don't think about cardiovascular health until something goes wrong. Then, all of the sudden - angina, heart attack, aneurysm, peripheral artery disease, or a stroke may occur. Yes, a stroke isn't just associated with brain function; it's also heart-related, because it involves arteries and blood vessels that can't deliver enough blood to your brain.
Having a healthy heart depends on other conditions in the body that might seem unrelated at first. We've all heard about the negative effects of poor diet and lack of exercise, but in addition to these, heart damage also can be indicated by high levels of homocysteine (an amino acid found in the blood that builds up from eating large amounts of meat) and C-reactive protein (a protein produced by the liver and found in the blood in response to inflammation in the body).
You Can Achieve Heart Health, Naturally
To protect cardiovascular health, many people have been trying to consume more good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and avoid eating foods with bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein and LDL stands for low-density protein. Eating too many foods with LDL cholesterol, such as red meat, margarine, and dairy products, can increase your triglyceride levels, which is a type of fat found in your blood that your body uses for energy. High triglyceride levels cause the blood vessels to narrow, which increases your blood pressure. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, includes foods such as fish, flaxseed oil, and walnuts. Increasing your HDL levels can lower your LDL levels, improve your lipid levels, and lower your blood pressure, putting you at lower risk for heart problems. As a general rule of thumb, it is estimated that only about 10 percent of a 2000-calorie diet should come from saturated fats like those found in animal products. Whenever possible, consider substituting animal products for plant products, like fruits, vegetables, seeds, and legumes.
In addition to eating foods that are low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat, and that have lots of fiber and nutrients, other lifestyle modifications can help us maintain cardiovascular health, without prescription medication. While you should always check with your primary care provider before beginning a new fitness regimen, it may be a good idea to try slowly integrating short periods of exercise into your daily routine, such as walking once or twice around the block or swimming a few laps in a pool. Starting a rigorous exercise routine all at once simply isn't realistic, and you won't be doing your cardiovascular system any good if you start by overexerting yourself and then can't continue with the exercise routine. The same goes for trying to reduce your stress levels. While short periods of acute stress, such as getting nervous before making a big presentation at work, are normal, prolonged periods of chronic, day-to-day stress can have negative effects on your cardiovascular health. Stress triggers a "fight or flight" response in your body, which means over time your digestion slows down, your heart rate increases, and your blood pressure goes up.
Making small changes in how much we exercise and how we manage our stress levels are just a few of the ways that lifestyle adjustments can improve the condition of our hearts, even if medicine is also needed.