- Manage the big risk factors. Quit smoking, and if you have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about getting them under control – follow his or her advice about appropriate medications. While medications may not be anyone’s first choice, once the condition is present, very often the benefits of control outweigh any side effect concerns. Be sure to also implement the following tips below as these are top line treatments as well. Especially if you have a heart attack history, seek the advice of an integrative medicine practitioner to help you weigh what is best for your future protection.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Avoid partially hydrogenated and trans-fats and include more vegetables, fruits, whole soy products, legumes, high fiber whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. See the food choices recommended in my Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid.
- Get active. Moderate physical activity helps keep the heart muscle strong and the arteries flexible, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, increases overall energy and helps elevate and stabilize mood.
- Relax. Learn how to implement one or several relaxation strategies into your daily life. Try guided meditation, my 4-7-8 breathing exercise, yoga or any other method that appeals you. Also, consider a deep-dive with a spouse, friend or family member to identify your stressors and ways you might reduce them.
If you have ever heard that a crease in the earlobes – specifically one that runs diagonally – indicates an increased risk of heart disease, you aren’t alone. More than 30 studies over the past few decades have examined whether an earlobe crease is a sign of heart disease or suggests a higher-than-normal risk of heart trouble.
The good news is that there’s no medical consensus on whether or not an earlobe crease is a meaningful marker for the presence of heart disease or a propensity toward it. Some studies have found an association between earlobe creases and heart disease and some have not, leading to the conclusion that the prevalence of earlobe creases probably increases with age, as does heart disease.
So if you do have a creased earlobe, don’t fret – but it is prudent for everyone, creased lobes or not, to take preventive steps when it comes to heart disease: eat a heart healthy diet like my Anti-Inflammatory Diet; consider taking a fish oil supplement; manage lifestyle risk factors by getting regular exercise and not smoking; learn a relaxation exercise and practice regularly; and know your personal history of heart disease and discuss it with your doctor.
It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that sooner or later, being chronically obese is going to exact consequences. That’s how it is with belly fat and brains: If you’ve got one, you’re losing the other.
During a study published in the journal Neurology, researchers found that people with the highest body mass index (BMI) and the highest waist-to-hip ratios (fat around the middle) had the lowest volume of brain gray matter. This matter contains most of the brain’s nerve cells, memory transmission centers, and synapses.
People with a BMI of 30 or above and a waist-to-hip ratio more than 0.90 for males and more than 0.85 for females had an average gray matter brain volume of 786 cubic centimeters. Those with healthy BMIs and waist-to-hip ratios had an average volume of gray matter of 798 cubic centimeters.
Just being overweight, even without a huge belly, is associated with a smaller hippocampal memory-relay center.
Such gray-matter shrinkage puts you at risk for dementia.
If you experience anxiousness and troubled sleep, but don’t want to use prescription or over-the-counter sedatives, consider jasmine. Researchers have found that the scent of jasmine is as effective as Valium and similar drugs for relieving anxiety, promoting more peaceful sleep, and reducing anxiety upon waking. Jasmine fragrances were even shown to have the same neurochemical mechanism of action as barbiturates, without the groggy, hungover feeling in the morning.
You can get the benefits of jasmine by taking a warm bath or shower with jasmine-scented soaps before bedtime, or placing a diffusercontaining jasmine in your bedroom. Make sure you use products that have actual jasmine in the ingredients and not just the scent of jasmine.
Other recommendations for getting quality rest include paying attention to your sleep hygiene – don’t drink anything containing caffeine or alcohol for several hours before bedtime, keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, reduce screen time as you start winding down for the night and make sure there is minimal or no light where you sleep. It’s also helpful to spend time outdoors and be active during the day.
- Fight free radicals. Plant foods rich in flavonoids and antioxidants are beneficial to humans: antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, which have been linked to heart disease and other health concerns. Dark chocolate comes from the cacao plant, which provides these compounds.
- Help prevent heart disease. British researchers looked at seven studies that focused on chocolate and cardiac health. Their findings suggest that people who ate more chocolate reduced their risk for heart disease: those who ate dark chocolate weekly had a 37 percent lower risk of any heart disease than those who ate the least amounts.
- Raise good (HDL) cholesterol. The cocoa butter in dark chocolate is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that scientists believe can raise HDL, or good, cholesterol.
Dark chocolate also appears to decrease the risk of stroke – Swedish researchers found that women who ate high amounts of chocolate – the equivalent of about two bars per week – had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke; British researchers found the number to be closer to 30 percent. But before you start loading up on candy bars, be aware that more studies are needed to determine what amount and type of chocolate is best. For now, look for a fair trade or organic dark chocolate that provides at least 70 percent cocoa content and enjoy in moderation.
If you have a personal or family history of heart disease, reducing risks in as many ways as possible is essential, but can be challenging and confusing. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, being lean, getting regular exercise and managing stress are all pillars to heart health, and should be on everyone’s healthy goals list.
There are also a few supplement options that may be valuable parts of an overall lifestyle to support cardiovascular health, and one is coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a potent antioxidant that has been linked to normal cardiac muscle functioning. Many cardiologists recommend supplemental CoQ10 for those taking statin drugs (which can effectively lower cholesterol and inflammation levels, but reduce the body’s ability to produce CoQ10). CoQ10 is also an essential cofactor in producing cellular energy in the form of ATP. This is probably the mechanism of action that makes CoQ10 useful in heart failure and angina, supporting the function of the heart muscle.
Wild-caught salmon is a good source of dietary CoQ10, but often supplementation is a more reliable way of providing consistent, useful dosing. When buying CoQ10, look for the ubiquinol form because it provides a more bioavailable form of CoQ10.