While generally thought of as a man's disease, more women die every year of heart disease than men.
The best protection against heart disease is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Poor diet, lack of exercise and years of bad lifestyle habits takes its toll on the heart. Click here to learn how to spot the not-so-common symptoms women experience. Identifying them could be the difference between life and death.
Heart disease can be prevented if you are willing to stop the assault and adopt a health lifestyle from this day forward. This simple 28-day plan holds some powerful changes you can make for your heart and you can start today.
Week 1: Eat for Your Heart
In addition to limiting your intake of high-fat foods and red meat, there are certain things you should also be adding to your diet. Focus on a plant-based diet loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, as well as the following:
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce: This Asian-style hot sauce consists of, among other tasty ingredients, garlic and red chili peppers. Allicin, the active compound in garlic, affects the nitric oxide system, thus helping to relax blood vessels, which can help reduce blood pressure. The capsaicin in chili peppers may also have these vasorelaxant properties, helping to reduce blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels as well.
Kidney Beans: These legumes are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides, stabilize your heartbeat, make platelets "less sticky" and can even lower blood pressure. Omega-3s also boost levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) and help clear your arteries. Add kidney beans to soups and salads.
Sweet Potatoes: These root vegetables contain lutein, carotenoids and alpha carotene. All these antioxidants work to protect your heart. Swap white starches out for nutrient-rich sweet potatoes whenever you have the chance.
Week 2: Drink for Your Heart
Thinking outside the box when it comes to juice can be beneficial to your health. The following juices may not be in everyone’s kitchen, but they are certainly worth trying. Both are available in grocery stores. For an even greater health boost, try making fresh juice at home.
Blackcurrant Juice: A recent study has found that blackcurrant juice may help lower the levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP), which appears to be correlated to heart disease risk. The body produces CRP during the general process of inflammation. Therefore, CRP is a "marker" for inflammation, meaning its presence indicates an increased state of inflammation in the body. Drink 1 cup a day to lower these levels.
Beet Juice: The nitrate content of beet juice is the muscle behind its blood pressure lowering benefits. Studies have shown that drinking 1 cup a day can help to reduce high blood pressure.
Week 3: Call for Less Stress
Human contact is essential to good health. Bad day? Let it out. Good day? Even better. Interacting and reconnecting with people you care about can be beneficial to your emotional health. This will reduce stress on the your heart. Set aside social time and reach out to at least two people a week. Tip: Set an alarm on your phone, and call that friend or family member you’ve been meaning to catch up with.
Week 4: Shop for Your Heart at the Pharmacy
When you think about your local pharmacy, you may think of filling prescriptions or a place where you can buy last-minute gallons of milk when you’re running low. But, if you look at it through a different lens, you’ll see it can be a treasure trove of preventive tools and supplements, especially when it comes to your heart. There’s everything from home blood pressure monitors to holistic heart health products like omega-3 supplements, Coq10 and low-dose aspirin.
Know Your Blood Pressure and Monitor It at Home
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often called the Silent Killer because many people are not aware that their blood pressure is too high. One out of 3 adults in the US suffers from hypertension.
Research shows home blood pressure monitoring can be vital to reducing a patient’s risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. In fact, internationally recognized organizations, such as The American Heart Association, recommend any patient with or at risk of hypertension should purchase a clinically validated home blood pressure monitor and regularly monitor their blood pressure at home. For more on understanding your blood pressure reading, click here.
Omega-3 Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids are cholesterol-clearing good fats (monounsaturated). For years, research has demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids help lower an individual’s risk for heart attack, stroke and overall inflammation.
CoQ10: Coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10) is a vitamin-like compound that aids in the production of the body’s energy. That is because it is found primarily in our mitochondria – small cell structures that act as the powerhouse of a cell. The highest concentrations of CoQ10 are where we need the most energy – your heart, liver and kidneys. CoQ10’s energy generation makes it vital to heart health, while its powerful antioxidant properties add yet another layer of protection in maintaining a healthy heart.
Baby Aspirin: It has been shown that baby aspirin can help prevent heart attacks and it can reduce the chance of stroke. Recent studies suggest an added benefit: Aspirin has been linked to the prevention of almost every cancer. Take 2 baby aspirin daily. Consult your doctor before starting a daily aspirin regimen.