In honor of heart health month, I’m sharing information and resources that you can utilize to keep your heart healthy and prevent heart disease. In my last blog post I defined heart disease and explained the risk factors involved in its development, so I thought it fitting in this post to discuss prevention.
What are the things you can do on your own to prevent the development of heart disease?
You can start with your plate, and make sure you are getting nine essential nutrients:
1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Consuming omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, help keep your arteries and heart muscle healthy by decreasing inflammation of the heart and preventing blood clots. They also help you to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and regulate blood pressure.
This vital nutrient can be found in the following foods: wild caught salmon, cod, bison, and eggs. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can find Omega 3s in flax seeds, flax oil, chia seeds, and walnuts. You can also supplement if you find that you are unable to keep your levels stable using diet alone. If you must supplement, I recommend the following over the counter brands: Nordic Naturals and Carlson’s. We also carry a brand in the clinic, Nutritional Essentials, that I recommend frequently to patients. Before you supplement, be sure to contact your primary care physician to find out your nutrient levels.
2. CoQ10 or Coenzyme Q10
This antioxidant is the energy producer for every cell in your body, including the heart. Without it, your heart ages faster than is ideal. CoQ10 is especially important if you are taking cholesterol medication as cholesterol medication naturally depletes your body’s supply of CoQ10.
You can find it in organ meats – liver, kidney, and heart, as well as grass-fed beef, wild caught mackerel, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. You can also supplement with a high-quality ubiquinone, this is a form of CoQ10 that is easily absorbed into the body.
L-Carnitine is an amino acid that is found in each one of your cells, and it is really important for heart health. It helps to transport long-chain fatty acids across the inner mitochondrial membrane so they can be converted into energy for the heart to use, which improves exercise endurance. In addition, it helps to break down fats and cholesterol.
You can maintain healthy levels of L-Carnitine by eating avocados and a variety of animal protein. Be sure to consume animal protein that is hormone and antibiotic free, and pasture raised, when possible.
Magnesium is the number one mineral deficiency I see in patients.This is unfortunate because it is really important for heart health. It allows for proper contraction of the heart and aids in relaxing the blood vessels, which helps to maintain normal blood pressure levels.
While it can be challenging to get magnesium from food since our soil is so depleted here in the United States, increasing your intake of green leafy veggies, like spinach and kale, and consuming nuts, like almonds and walnuts, will help keep your magnesium levels within normal range. If you need to supplement, however, I recommend finding a high-quality magnesium glycinate – Magnesium Complete is the one I recommend most often. As with any supplementation, it’s important to have your vitamin and mineral levels checked prior to taking them, so you and your doctor know exactly what your body needs.
These antioxidants are found in purple and red foods, like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and beets. They help reduce the risk of stroke by increasing nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide relaxes the blood vessels, which helps to lower blood pressure. Polyphenols also increase HDL, good cholesterol, and lower bad cholesterol, or LDL, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant found in red wine, grapes, and dark chocolate. It is a polyphenol that prevents blood clots and helps to balance blood pressure by supporting healthy dilation of your blood vessels.
One way to increase consumption of resveratrol is to have a glass of high-quality red wine on occasion. My favorite are grenaches as they have the lowest levels of tannins and sulfites – many people react less to grenaches than other wines.
Get your resveratrol from 70-80% dark chocolate, cacao powder, or cacao nibs.
7. Folic Acid
Folic acid in conjunction with B12 lowers homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid and by-product of protein metabolization, which in large concentrations has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
You can maintain healthy levels of folic acid by consuming green leafy veggies – spinach, kale, chard, arugula, bok choy and eating pasture raised eggs.
8. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is an essential fat soluble vitamin as it is one of the main vitamins responsible for bone mineralization and blood clotting. Vitamin K also helps you keep calcium in our bones and out of the arteries of the heart, preventing them from becoming hardened and blocked.
You can find Vitamin K in a variety of food sources: dandelion and mustard greens, swiss chard, kale, brussel sprouts, green onions, cabbage, broccoli, and cucumbers.
If you suspect that your vitamin K levels are low, reach out to your primary care physician for testing. Since vitamin k controls clotting patterns in the blood, I do not recommend supplementing without first checking in with a doctor.
This simple sugar is a component of B2, or riboflavin, which the body uses to make energy. Your heart needs d-ribose in order to function properly. It can be found in grass-fed red meat, pasture raised poultry, wild caught fish, nuts, spinach, asparagus, and broccoli.
Prevention starts on your plate –
Making adjustments to your diet could greatly decrease your risk of developing heart disease. Consuming a variety of foods – grass-fed and pasture raised meats, wild caught fish, nuts, seeds, and a variety of leafy greens will help ensure that you are getting the proper nutrients to maintain the health of your heart. If you feel as though you need to supplement, however, check in with your doctor for guidance.