Your heart beats around 70 times a minute, non-stop for 80 years or more, pumping over 2.5 million litres of blood around your 100,000km of blood vessels every year. How amazing is that? And yet so many of us insist upon making this already monumental task all the more difficult by eating foods and adopting lifestyle choices that make its job that much harder.
What is heart disease?
Cardiovascular disease, an umbrella term used to describe all diseases to affect the heart, touches the lives of an unprecedented number of people, and heart diseaseis still the main cause of death in the UK.
A sorry statistic and yet sadder still, is that for many of us, problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity can all be avoided.
Although some risk factors such as ageing and genetics cannot be altered, we CAN determine for the most part to eat more healthily and make healthy lifestyle changes.
Healthy foods for a happy heart
Changes to your diet can make a huge difference, especially if you’re overweight. Stock up on plenty of heart-healthy fruit and veg. Bananas, tomatoes and broccoli for example are all good food sources of potassium, whereas cherries are a rich source of heart-friendly antioxidants and flavonoids. Of particular note are Montmorency cherries, with results of ongoing research suggesting that regular consumption of Montmorency cherry products, such as Active Edge Cherry Active Capsules and Cherry Active Concentrate , may help to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
Foods to reduce cholesterol
Reduce your intake of saturated fats found in meats, butter, cheese and cream and replace them with unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats actually help to reduce LDL cholesterol (often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol) and are found in vegetable oils, sunflower spreads, nuts and avocados.
Especially avoid any foods containing hydrogenated or trans fats, which can be found in mass-produced processed foods such as pies, biscuits and cakes, and keep fried food to a minimum as the frying process can damage fats making them bad for health.
Coconut oil and butters are generally believed to be better for you as they are heat-stable and do not create toxic trans-fats when heated, nor do they raise cholesterol levels.
Beef up your bulk
Fibre also helps to reduce LDL cholesterol, so eat more oat or rice bran, wholegrains (brown rice, whole wheat, millet and quinoa) and any beans (red kidney, soya etc). For extra fibre you could try supplementing with linseed; it has a gentle bulking effect but needs to be taken with plenty of water.
Probiotics and cholesterol
Is there a link? It would appear so. Optibac Probiotics For Your Cholesterol has undergone huge amounts of research and clinical trials to prove that its ingredients help maintain normal levels of cholesterol. Each daily dose contains 1.2 billion ‘AB-life’ live cultures (made up of three different strains) as well as Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
The strains of bacteria used in these capsules are the first strains available in the UK that are proven to help lower cholesterol by both reducing the absorption of cholesterol from the diet, and reducing the production of cholesterol in the liver.
Increase your EFAs
In addition to ALA, we need EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two important omega 3 fats, for a healthy heart and blood circulation. We can make some of these fats from the food we eat, but only a small amount. So, it’s good to eat foods that already contain them. Food sources of essential fats include oily fish, nuts and seeds, or you could opt for an omega-3 supplement.
Specific nutrients for a healthy heart
As well as healthy food choices, specific nutrients can also lend support. Co-enzyme Q10 is thought to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure and cholesterol; magnesium helps to maintain the health of muscles, your heart included – and it plays a role in the chemical reactions that generate your heartbeat; lysine is necessary for the production of carnitine, which helps the body to metabolise fats, and arginine is needed by the body to make nitric oxide, a substance that allows blood vessels to relax, thereby helping to reduce blood pressure.
Plant remedies for heart health
As for herbal remedies for heart health, Jan de Vries prized both hawthorn and garlic highly and wrote extensively about both herbs. You can find both in our Jan de Vries Hawthorn-Garlic complex. There is also Red yeast rice extract that contains plant sterols that have been found to help reduce cholesterol levels.
If you have any concerns about your heart, consult your GP or healthcare provider.