According to the Centers for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease (CVD) ranks as the number one killer for both men and women. Although the rates of CVD for men have stayed relatively stable, rates for women being diagnosed with a stroke or heart attack are rising. It’s now the cause of 1 out of every 4 female deaths. Although declining estrogen concentrations effect your risk as you age if you are a woman, your risk is actually effected more by your weight, your ability to handle stress and your lifestyle (and this is also true for men).
New studies show the biggest risk factor for diseases of the heart is from inflammation and not cholesterol as assumed. You need to decrease stresses, acute and chronic, to reduce your risk. Studies have shown that cynicism, distrust, pessimism, smoking, excess alcohol, sleep deprivation, chronic infections, chronic environmental toxin exposure and high triglycerides and/or high blood sugar all put stresses on the body. This stress creates certain markers of inflammation to be developed; among them are C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. These metabolites create inflammation associated with chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus type II, and Metabolic syndrome X.
Managing your fat
Although fats have received bad press because of their implication in heart disease they play an important role in maintaining your health. High quality fats consumed in moderation are a good source of essential fatty acids, lecithin, and vitamins. Fats serve as a high-energy food, are used to make healthy cell membranes and play an important role in our immune system. Fats slow stomach emptying keeping us feeling satiated and play a vital role in the absorption and transport of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Although fats are necessary for health, there are different kinds of fats and they effect health in different ways. Monounsaturated fats (olive oil, hazelnut oil, peanut oil and avocados) help to reduce overall inflammation levels. Polyunsaturated fats are broken down into two categories, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The American diet is rich in omega-6 fatty acids (corn, soybean, sesame, safflower and sunflower oils) which actually increase inflammation, and low in omega-3 fatty acids (flax, hemp, walnuts, borage and cold water fish) with are cardio-protective and decrease the inflammatory response. Certain saturated fatty acids, erroneously perceived as unhealthy previously have now been shown to be nutritious and beneficial to us. Saturated fats from animals raised on grass fed diets, as opposed to corn or soy based diets contain essential nutrients needed for cellular integrity. These fats can be found in grass fed meats, dairy from grass fed animals and meat and eggs from pastured chickens. That said, corn or soy fed animals, dairy and meat, as well as partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated or trans fatty acids, promote inflammatory diseases including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Corn and soy fed animal products are the mainstream products. To avoid them you need to read labels carefully or purchase organic. Hydrogenated fats are used in most baked goods, margarines, shortenings, and all goods made with those products. To keep your heart healthy, eat 1-3 servings of monounsaturated fats, omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and grass fed animal products daily. Watch your serving size, a serving is 1 Tablespoon of fat, 6-8 nuts or 2 Tablespoons of nut butter.
Magnesium and Fiber
A strong connection has been drawn between magnesium deficiency and cardiovascular disorders. Magnesium maintains regular heartbeat and muscle tone, prevents arterial muscle spasms, prevents potassium loss, decreases serum triglycerides, and increases HDL cholesterol. Foods high in Magnesium are dried beans, raw spinach, whole grains, and bananas. These foods are all also high in soluble fiber. It’s not just 5 a day, the new motto is ten a day to keep the doctor away. This high intake plant foods will, hopefully, make you too full to eat those calorie dense partially hydrogenated snack foods.
Remember you need to eat right, exercise and sleep well to rest and repair your tissues from your daily stresses. A diet rich in whole grains, legumes, nuts, vegetables, pastured raised and grass fed meats and a moderate intake of fruit is the best. Aim for 3-5 days of exercise a week and 6-8 hours of sleep each night to restore your vitality. Other great ways to decrease stress are socializing with loved ones, taking care of a pet or volunteering to help others.