In Australia, Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) claims over 45 000 lives per year, and one Australian dies every 12 minutes. Sadly, it’s the single leading cause of death in Australia. However, modern medicine has developed a myriad of means to help people survive CHD with heart transplants, balloon angioplasty and many treatment drugs. As a result, the death rate has decreased in the past 15 years. That means that CHD is considered more chronic rather than fatal. CHD occurs when the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart narrow and sometimes harden, which over time can cause ruptures, heart attacks and other fatal conditions.
What Can We Do to Prevent CHD Deaths?
The answer is simple. In a nutshell, preventing cardiovascular disease involves reducing chronic inflammation in your body as it’s the root cause of most diseases. The main factors of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle include consuming a proper diet, one rich in anti-inflammatory whole foods, avoid consuming inflammatory foods, implementing stress management techniques, take regular exercise, receive sensible sun exposure daily, avoid toxins in personal care products and in your environment as well as ‘grounding to the earth’ by introducing walkings in nature.
A 2016 study found that; ‘genes can double the risk of heart disease, but a good lifestyle cuts it in half. Just as important, they also found, a terrible lifestyle erases about half of the benefits of good genetics’ 1.
This incredible research illustrates that you can naturally reduce your risk of heart disease even if you are genetically predisposed.
4 Easy Steps To Implement For An Anti-Inflammatory, Heart Healthy Diet And Lifestyle
Step 1: Avoid all processed and refined foods
We live in an era where convenience foods are the new ‘norm’. We even have fast food deliveries available, as well as UberEats and Menulog where you can order food online and get it delivered to your door. Many of these ‘modern’ foods are full of additives, colours, preservatives, synthetic vitamins and minerals, emulsifiers and vegetable oils. These types of processed and refined foods promote inflammation in the body, which is something we want to avoid.
Where possible, prepare meals yourself using ‘real’ whole foods. If you are buying pre-packaged foods, make sure you know how to read a food label and always endeavour to go for packaged foods and products that only contain natural ingredients that you recognise. A great rule of thumb is; ‘if you can’t recognise the ingredients, then your body won’t either, so it’s best to avoid it.’
Step 2: Stop bombarding your body with chemicals
We live in a polluted world. Before we leave the house to go to work we can be exposed to over 200 chemicals! Many of our foods contain agricultural chemicals as well as man-made substances such as preservatives, colours and flavours. We breathe in car and petrol fumes and some people routinely take prescription drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. I know this can be a little disheartening, realising how many toxins we’re exposed to on a daily basis. However it is within our power to keep our homes, beauty products and diet as chemical-free as we possibly can by using natural cleaning products, choosing lower toxin paints, carpets, mattresses, natural beauty care products, and spray free produce.
If you would like more information on how to lower your toxic load and decrease the amount of chemicals you’re exposed to in your own home, then I recommend you look at ‘Low Tox Life’ and ‘Twenty8’ websites for resources, tips and more valuable information. You can also read the following blog ‘They wouldn’t put it in there if it was safe! Or would they?’.
Step 3: Consume Heart Healthy Whole Foods
- Omega 3 Rich Foods
Wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, Changing Habits Inca Inchi oil, cod liver oil, walnuts, flax and chia seeds are all great sources of Omega 3’s. Omega 3’s help to support your heart by decreasing inflammation, preventing clot formation and helping to maintain healthy blood pressure. Some studies have found that consuming 2+ serves of salmon per week is associated with a 30% lowered risk of developing coronary heart disease. Salmon also has rich levels of selenium; an antioxidant that studies have shown boosts cardiovascular protection.
- Magnesium Rich Foods
A deficiency of magnesium can cause symptoms such as; muscle cramps and weakness, increased heart rate, irregular heart contractions, high blood pressure, fatigue and calcification of the arteries which all can contribute to coronary heart problems like heart disease or attack. Several large studies have found that getting enough magnesium may help those recovering from heart attacks as well 2. Magnesium rich foods include; spinach, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, swiss chard, Changing Habits Cacao Melts, sesame seeds, almonds, cashews, artichokes, dates, salmon, avocado, fresh figs and lady finger bananas.
- Green Tea
A 2013 study found that people who drank four or more cups of green tea per day had a 20% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke compared with people who rarely drank it. Antioxidants known as catechins may be responsible, as it has been found to be beneficial for brain, heart and other organs.
- Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains heart healthy nutrients, flavonoids called polyphenols, which may help blood pressure and blood flow, clotting, protects against oxidation and lowers inflammation. A study found that consuming dark chocolate more than 5 times per week actually reduced the risk of heart disease by 57%. So this is a perfect reason to make your own healthy homemade chocolate which doesn’t contain any additives, colours or preservatives.
- Green Vegetables
When it comes to your health, you really can’t go wrong increasing your consumption of vegetables. In particular green vegetables may give an extra boost to your heart health. These are high in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants and free your body of potentially harmful compounds. They’re also high in fibre as well as contain loads of vitamins and minerals. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have also been associated with cardiac protection.
Research has found that even two cups a day could lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by 30%. Read my blog ‘6 Ingredients to add to your coffee to boost flavour and health benefits’ so you can elevate the health benefits of coffee even further.
- Vitamin D
Our recent and very misguided fear of the sun and of consuming cholesterol rich foods from nature have created an epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency in Australia. In 2012 it was reported that 1 in 4 Australians were deficient, and Vitamin D deficiency is now one of the recognised causes of the heart disease epidemic. Vitamin D deficiencies have also been linked to; mental issues, poor immunity, susceptibility to infections, higher cholesterol levels, digestive abnormalities and kidney stones just to name a few.
Vitamin D is made from cholesterol in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Try to aim for at least 15 minutes of sun exposure each day. In those times of the year when we don’t have much access to the sun it’s important we also consume naturally rich foods containing Vitamin D. These include; cod liver oil, wild-caught fish, grass-fed butter and ghee, lard and egg yolks. Unfortunately most Vitamin D supplements are a synthetic form and is not the same as natural Vitamin D. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, the synthetic form of Vitamin D can contribute to toxicity in the body. She also states that ‘It is impossible to get toxicity of Vitamin D obtained from sunlight and cholesterol rich foods, because the body knows how to deal with the excess. What it doesn’t know how to deal with is excess synthetic Vitamin D. Additionally; natural forms of Vitamin D have been designed to work with Vitamin A. That’s why foods rich in one are also rich in the other. So by taking cod liver oil, we can obtain both vitamins in the correct ratio at the same time’.
These dark berries are packed with resveratrol and flavonoids, another antioxidant that helps prevent coronary disease.
- Consume Quality Fats
Getting enough quality fats from natural sources is essential. We recommend; olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, avocados and animal fats. These fats are essential to give the body all the building blocks it needs for proper cell and hormone function. You can read more about consuming healthy, quality fats in my blog ‘The Many Benefits of Fats’.
- Heart Health Herbs
Changing Habits Heart Health herbal formula can help to prevent heart disease in conjunction with living a healthy lifestyle. It’s has been developed by scientists to target one pathway in the body that causes heart disease. Adding these herbs to your daily routine can help you implement and maintain your health as well as prevent disease.
This one may be a surprise, but eggs actually have some surprising health benefits. They have been found to improve cardiovascular function, reduce your risk of heart disease, improve eye and skin health, maintain liver function and brain health just to name a few. One of the main reasons eggs are a heart healthy option is because of their Omega-3 fatty acid content. Free-range, organic and pastured eggs have double the amount of Omega-3’s compared to caged eggs. They also contain lots of nutrients to help the body synthesis fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). This is a great reason to enjoy those (chemical free) bacon and eggs for breakfast.
- Consume L-arginine Rich Foods
Some of the best sources of L-arginine includes; spirulina, brazil nuts, almonds, grass-fed meat and poultry, wild-caught fish, quality eggs, liver, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and sea vegetables. Research shows that L-arginine is beneficial for lowering inflammation, improving the health of the blood vessels and cardiovascular system and preventing high blood pressure. It’s also commonly used for treating chest pains. Please note that if you choose to supplement with L-arginine, speak to your chosen health care practitioner as there can be some potential side effects to keep in mind.
- Vitamin K2
This vitamin is essential for our heart health as a deficiency can lead to deposition of calcium in the arteries and increase inflammation. The richest food sources of Vitamin K2 includes; organ meats, grass-fed butter and ghee, organic cream, animal fats, quality egg yolks and fermented foods.
- Olive Leaf Extract
Olive leaves have a long history of being used as a herbal tonic to support cardiovascular function. Research shows that Olive Leaf Extract assists in the maintenance of normal heart function and helps to maintain a normal healthy cardiovascular system. It’s also fantastic for boosting the immune system.
Step 4: Take time out to DE-STRESS
Stress management should be a vital part of any heart disease prevention. In fact some researchers believe that stress may be the single most significant factor in the cause and prevention of heart disease. Chronic stress caused by our modern, fast-paced lifestyles can affect every bodily system: suppressing the immune system, increasing inflammation and oxidative damage, slowing or stalling digestion, detoxification and cell regeneration.
We also know that people with live a highly stressful lifestyle tend to get ill more often than people who have a relaxed and happy attitude to life. Why does that happen? Every emotion creates certain biochemistry within the body and not just in your brain, but everywhere else too. There are many different types of methods you can use to help reduce stress, including mindfulness techniques, kinesiology, massages, acupuncture, exercise, yoga, epsom salt baths, reading a good book and a walk in nature. Read more here.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, please have a look through the recommended readings below.
Other Recommended Reading
- The Gut-Heart Connection by Chris Kresser
- The Diet-Heart Myth by Chris Kresser
- Put Your Heart In Your Mouth by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride (I personally think this book is an incredible read!)
- Heart Health: Sugar, Cholesterol and Heart Disease by Amy Myers, MD
- The Real Roots of Heart Disease by Wellness Mama
- The Benefits of Cholesterol by Wellness Mama
Disclaimer: Please consult your physician or qualified health care practitioner on any serious matters regarding your heart health.
Happy changing habits
Changing Habits Nutritionist & GAPS Practitioner