Lifestyle & Nutritional Tips for Optimal Heart Health

Lifestyle & Nutritional Tips for Optimal Heart Health

Cardiovascular health problems are a major concern, and heart issues are one of the highest causes of death in the western world.

There are a number of elements that can contribute to heart health problems. These can include lifestyle factors, diet, the amount of exercise that a person gets as well as family history.

Lifestyle

Taking care of your heart through your day-to-day life is essential. With a high correlation between physical activity and cardiovascular health, it is clear that people with low activity levels are more at risk of very serious heart problems.

Statistics reveal that in 2008 alone, over 5.3 million people worldwide died prematurely as a result of physical inactivity.

Physical activity can come in any form, whether it means walking on a short journey instead of taking the car, or spending time doing housework or gardening. The more active somebody is, the less chance they will have of developing problems with their heart.

Increasing the level of activity will ensure that the risks of cardiovascular health problems will be lowered. By using fitness trackers to create activity targets such as step goals it is possible to motivate yourself and monitor your activity in order to increase it.

Tests comparing the activity of runners against non-runners over a prolonged period of 15 years revealed Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk.

Diet

Diet plays a considerable factor when it comes to taking care of your heart. A diet that is high in saturated fats found in meat and dairy products can cause a rise in cardiovascular health problems.

In one study, the cluster of participants who consumed more low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, whole grain carb sources, and tea had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) than the other participants in the study. High BMI and WHR are risk factors for heart disease.

The groups that consumed high-glycemic foods, or an abundance of high-fat and high-carb foods had a significantly higher BMI, WHR, and blood pressure than the “healthy” participants, in addition to a significantly lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

Many of the cardiovascular benefits in a healthy diet come from the micronutrients, healthy fats, and phytonutrients found in our foods. Some of the foods that contain these compounds include fish, fruits & vegetables, and nuts. If you have trouble including these in your diet consistently or due to caloric constraints, supplementing with the compounds themselves is a viable option.

Exercise

Physical exercise is important for long-term cardiovascular health. The benefits of exercise include reduced resting heart rate, reduced blood pressure, autonomic nervous system activity regulation, weight loss, improved lipid profiles, and glucose tolerance.

The effectiveness is likely dependent on age, sex, genetic variants, as well as other demographic traits. One study found that sedentary men upon their first examination that began exercising regularly and were deemed fit upon their final examination several years later had a 52% reduction in cardiovascular mortality compared with men who remained unfit.

Some adaptations that are typically associated with bone health from exercise also benefit cardiovascular health. One example of this is the release of the protein irisin from the muscles. This protein regulates bone remodeling but also has effects on adipose tissue, glucose tolerance, cholesterol metabolism, inflammation, and has an effect on cognitive function.

Exercise may even affect your gut health. Elite-endurance athletes tend to have increased levels of the Veillonella bacteria species in the gut which has been shown to increase some metabolic processes associated with cardiovascular fitness. The metabolic benefits of exercise also benefit microvascular function, oxidative stress, and myocardial stiffness.

Federal guidelines on physical activity call for a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, while the Institute of Medicine suggests that 60 minutes of physical activity each day is ideal. Only about 10% of people actually manage to meet these minimum requirements. Not to worry though, even if you don’t meet these targets, you will still find health benefits through any activity you can do.

11 Nutritional Sources for Optimal Heart Health

1-3)
Cocoa, grape seed, and resveratrol are antioxidants that can help support nitric oxide (NO) levels, and research shows that cocoa does improve blood flow. Cocoa might also cause a minor decrease in blood pressure in people with hypertension, but it has no effect on heart rate.

4)
Garlic
enhances NO signaling, but its ability to lower blood pressure is mostly due to its enhancing hydrogen sulfide (H2S) signaling Nitrates- break down into nitrites, which circulate in the body and are turned into NO as needed. Elevated NO levels are associated with better blood flow and lower blood pressure. 

5)
Nitrates break down into nitrites, which circulate in the body and are turned into nitric oxide (NO) as needed. Elevated NO levels provide better blood flow and lower blood pressure. The best sources of nitrates include beetroot powder and leafy green vegetables. 

6)
Carnitine
lowers the risk of both ventricular arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeats) and angina (pain in the chest or limbs caused by impaired circulation). Healthy carnitine levels are also associated with optimal fat metabolism.

7)
CoQ10
can provide additional benefits, such as reducing the risk of further heart complications in people who have suffered a heart attack

8)
Fish Oil
can reliably reduce triglyceride levels. Even in people with normal triglyceride levels, it can reduce inflammation and high blood pressure, and consequently plaque formation and the risk of atherosclerosis (the hardening and narrowing of the arteries). Along with the cardiovascular benefits fish oil also supports improved mood and cognition.

9)
Taurine
, particularly high concentrations in the heart tissue, where it is thought to help maintain cell membranes and regulate heartbeats.

10)
Venotropics such as Pycnogenol (pine bark extract), butcher's broom, and horse chestnut work to improve the rate at which the blood returns to the heart. They are used to treat chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), which is characterized by blood pooling in extremities. They can also be used to treat leg swelling caused by prolonged sitting or to reduce varicose veins. 

11)
Vitamin K
is fat soluble and supports blood clotting and calcium regulation; by inhibiting the calcification of soft tissues, such as the coronary arteries, it can reduce cardiovascular risk. It has also been shown to play a role in regulating body fat accumulation.

11 Sources for Optimal Heart Health InfographicPeople with heart problems are more likely to suffer from the side effects of stimulants, which include increased blood pressure, arrhythmia, and a greater risk of traumatic cardiovascular injuries, such as heart attacks.

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Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25082581
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22818936
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19127177
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31235964
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26113406
https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161

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