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Matters of the Heart

Part Two: Ten Tips For a Healthy Ticker

One of the most important lessons in preventing heart disease is to always do your best to see the glass half full. In other words, attempting to mitigate stress as best you can is a simple – easier said than done - way to put years on your heart. Research has found that optimists have lower rates of heart disease.  Being pessimistic is stressful. According to a recent national survey, women experience more stress than men and more physical symptoms of stress. Stress increases the risk of heart disease in several ways: it increases blood pressure and cholesterol, triggers inflammation and makes the blood clot more easily. New research has also suggested that stress may have a more profound effect on women’s hearts than men’s. In one recent study the impact of job stress and burnout on heart disease risk was greater in women than men.  Stress also typically leads to lack of sleep or less quality of sleep which ends up as another significant risk factor for heart disease in both genders. Recent studies have found that women who get less than 7 hours of sleep are at a much greater risk of heart disease.

 

Diet and eating heart healthy foods and snacks is huge when it comes to the prevention of heart disease. Here are some tips to help your ticker stay strong no matter what your gender.

 

1. Still having cereal for breakfast?

A lot of you like corn flakes or crisped rice, but it’s made with refined flour and sugar, and not much fiber. Instead, have oatmeal with chia seed for breakfast. The soluble fibre in oats and chia can help lower cholesterol levels

 

2. Less Red Meat

Eat more fish, garlic and green tea. These foods help cut heart disease risk.

 

3. Ditch the empty carbs.  

Choose whole grain bread/pasta and brown rice over white rice. Studies show that highly refined carbohydrates (high glycemic index) are worse for your heart than foods high in saturated fat, like red meat and butter.

 

4. Avoid foods that contain trans fatty acids

They can raise cholesterol levels and increase risk of heart disease.

 

5. Like cookies?

Look for the ones that are low-sodium, whole grain which provides soluble fiber and also have some protein in them as well as plant sterols. Plant sterols are a naturally occurring plant compound found in nuts, seeds and vegetables. Recent studies have shown that sterols can lower cholesterol by 12-14% in as little as 2 weeks, but it is almost impossible to get the required amount from regular foods. That’s why many foods are now being fortified with plant sterols, such as orange juice, yogurt and even cookies.

 

6. Hooked on peanut butter?

Most peanut butters have hydrogenated oil, sugar and salt. Go for the natural peanut butter like the kinds you find in the health food stores or look for one made with non-hydrogenated oil such as palm fruit oil. 

 

7. Cheese head?

A lot of people think they’ve got to cut out cheese from their diets, but you can find cheeses now that are low in saturated fat and made with plant sterols. Choose hard cheese versus soft cheeses! 

 

8. Salty snacks stress your heart.

Instead of reaching for potato chips or corn chips, enjoy a handful of almonds, pistachios or walnuts. They contain a range of nutrients that are good for your heart. Choose the unsalted or lightly salted nuts. Reducing salt intake can lower blood pressure as effectively as some medications.

 

9. Go natural.

Drugs save lives. Chemicals can preserve food.  But minimize their use whenever possible. Interesting Fact: hundreds of the drugs in use today are derived directly from plants or contain synthesized materials from agents originally derived from plants. For example, the widely used drug for congestive heart failure digoxin is derived from Digitalis purpurea, commonly known as purple foxglove. Quinidine, a drug used for cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm), is derived from the quinine tree, Cinchone ledgeriana.

 

10. Supplement your diet.

More than 75% of Canadians now do.  You may not be able to achieve optimal levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids crucial to your heart through diet alone.  Have the conversation with your healthcare provider about  whether supplementing with Co-Q10, Magnesium, Alpha-Lipoic-Acid, and a B Complex is right for you.  Be forewarned,  heart drugs may have serious interactions with herbal supplements such as ginkgo biloba, St John’s Wort, and garlic. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

 

 

Dr. Bryce Wylde is one of Canada's leading experts on natural medicine. wyldeabouthealth.com