February is American Heart Month and bringing awareness to cardiovascular disease is quite necessary after you look at the statistics.
Cardiovascular disease affects about 1 of every 3 deaths in the US. It is responsible for more deaths per year than all forms of cancer and Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease combined. Coronary Heart Disease is the leading cause of deaths attributable to cardiovascular disease in the US, followed by stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, diseases of the arteries, and other cardiovascular diseases.
At CentreSpring MD we treat many patients looking for a comprehensive approach to their health and diet can play a tremendous impact. Consuming a whole foods diet, with plenty of plant based foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber can improve the risks associated with heart disease. Harmful fats like trans-fatty acids and hydrogenated fats from processed foods should be avoided, as well as excessive sugar and sodium found packaged foods.
Here are some of my favorites for improving the health of your heart:
1. Beetroot Juice
Beetroot juice increases levels of nitric oxide (NO) which causes vasodilation and improvements in blood pressure. It also creates an anti-coagulatory and anti-inflammatory response in the body. Beetroot juice has also been shown to improve gas exchange, improves mitochondrial production and efficiency (improving energy), and strengthening of muscle contraction. Other foods that increases nitric oxide production are leafy greens, the highest being arugula. Lastly, garlic can increase NO production by increasing NOS which converts L arginine into NO (nitric oxide).
2. Green Tea
Green Tea contains EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) and has the ability to remodel toxic oligomers, coating them and halting the plaque forming process. It protects against free radical damage and prevents the buildup of plaque. It can also lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Green tea consumption was shown to be inversely associated with mortality due to all causes as well as to cardiovascular disease.
Wild blueberries contain polyphenols/anthocyanins and have been shown to cause improvements in LDL oxidation, lipid peroxidation, total plasma antioxidant capacity, abnormal cholesterol levels and glucose metabolism, all of which lower cardiovascular disease.
Wild salmon is high in omega-3-fatty acids and has been proven to have beneficial action on cholesterol profiles, cytokine cascade (inflammation), oxidant-anti-oxidant balance, parasympathetic and sympathetic tone and nitric oxide synthesis. Nuts and seeds are also high in omega 3 fatty acids and can be easily added to salads or as a snack.
5. Olive Oil
Daily consumption of extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil seems to modulate cytokines and inflammatory markers related to coronary artery disease in individuals at risk for cardiovascular diseases.