How to Keep Your Heart Healthy and Avoid Heart Attacks

hh-article-3.jpgUnderstanding what makes a heart-healthy lifestyle can extend longevity as well as improve general health and wellness.

Statistically, the single most common cause of death in America is a heart attack, but heart disease is preventable. Lifestyle choices can significantly impact death rates more than any medication. Heart health is also an issue that affects women’s health just as much as men’s health.

What Is Heart Disease?

Fatty deposits, called plaques, can deposit on the arterial walls, causing an artery to narrow. Plaque in coronary vessels is called Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). If a plaque breaks free, it can lodge in a narrower vessel, obstructing blood flow. If that vessel supplies the heart, a heart attack (‘myocardial infarction’) occurs, or, if in lodges in the brain, it causes a ‘stroke.’

What Causes Plaques to Develop?

Plaques are the result of inflammatory damage to the endothelium — the layer of cells lining arterial walls — and from the formation of a localized blood clot (thrombus). Factors that damage the endothelial lining of arteries include:

  • High blood sugar (diabetes)
  • High levels of insulin (cells require insulin for sugar absorption)
  • Smoking
  • High levels of cortisol and other stress-related hormones
  • High levels of triglycerides or homocysteine in the blood
  • Deficiencies in vitamin C, vitamin K or B vitamins, or not enough omega-3 fats (fish oils) relative to omega-6 fats (from grains)

Increased inflammation more easily damages blood vessel linings and increases the clotting of blood. If you don’t form plaques, you will not die of heart disease.

Why Do Some People Get CHD While Others Don’t?

After years of studying health habits, the single most important cause of heart disease was found to be Metabolic Syndrome, brought on by anxiety, depression or mental stresses. This induces abnormal levels of ‘stress hormones’ (like cortisol and adrenaline). Eating a meal while undergoing emotional stress causes elevations of blood sugar, insulin and pro-inflammatory substances — all part of plaque production. Surprisingly, one’s mental state while eating and digesting is of greater importance for heart health than how much, or the types of, fat consumed.

What Can You Do to Prevent a Heart Attack?

To most effectively protect yourself against heart disease, do the following things:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Exercise for 20 minutes four-to-five times a week
  • Avoid sugar to maintain insulin levels
  • Maintain your ideal weight
  • Consume a nutritious diet rich in antioxidants, and supplement your diet with Omega-3 fats (fish oils), Coenzyme Q10, flaxseeds, soy lecithin and vitamin C
  • Take the time to eat slowly and avoid becoming agitated while digesting a meal
  • Laugh often and avoid stressful situations
  • Maintain a network of friends
  • Get a dog (people with pets live longer)
  • Don’t obsess about cholesterol levels

Incorporating these simple action steps to improve your heart health will do more to reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack than any drug or diet.

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