February is American Heart Month! Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming nearly 1 in 3 deaths? Taking care of your heart health is important, and we here at All American Healthcare want to help you find your path to great health. – All American Healthcare Covington
Millions of Americans live with heart disease which is the leading cause of death in the United States. While age, genetics, and habits can contribute to your risks of getting heart disease, your diet can also play a major role. Making sure you balance your diet with essential nutrients is vital to your heart health. Certain foods contain anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering properties that can lower your blood pressure, increase blood flow, and promote cardiovascular health.
The heart is a muscle that generates blood flow throughout the body. The heart requires a constant supply of oxygen and fuel supplied by your blood and lungs. Excess cholesterol and fats in your blood can cause the arteries around your heart to build up with plaque and harden your artery walls. Over time, this plaque will continue filling with cholesterol, inflammatory cells and tissue damage.
Did you know your body naturally produces cholesterol? Cholesterol is an organic molecule that is essential to cells in the body to help regulate fluidity and structure. When we talk about cholesterol with regards to heart disease, we are referring to lipoproteins, the structures that carry cholesterol through the blood stream (lipoproteins are the same molecules that carry around triglyerices and phospholipids).
The two most important kind of lipoproteins are LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) and HDL (High Density Lipoprotein). Heart disease is not determined by the amount of cholesterol in your body but rather determined by the lipoproteins carrying the cholesterol.
Refined carbs and sugar are two factors that can build the number of LDL particles in the bloodstream. These particles can “oxidize” and cause plaque to build up in your arteries. This oxidized particle buildup is considered “bad” cholesterol. The more LDL particles you have carrying cholesterol, the higher your risk is of these lipoproteins penetrating the artery wall, leading to a clot. This is why it is essential to balance your diet with heart-healthy foods that promote blood flow and balance chemical compounds in your body.
Here are seven heart-healthy foods for optimal heart health!
- Tomatoes are a heart-healthy powerhouse packed with potassium, anti-oxidants, vitamin A and C, folic acid and deta-carotene.
- Tomatoes also contain antioxidant lycopene that can help remove bad cholesterol, keep blood vessels open, stabilize your blood pressure and lower your risk of heart attack.
- Lypocene also combines with other antioxidants to neutralize free radicals in the body that could cause damage to cells. This can reduce inflammation and oxidation in your system.
- Lycopene is also what gives the tomato its bright red color.
- Salmon is a rich source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin D, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- The AHA recommends eating omega-3 rich foods at least twice a week.
- Eating fish or taking fish supplements can help reduce your triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels can increase your risk for heart disease.
- Your body turns extra calories into fat and stores it in fat cells for later energy use. This stored fat is called triglycerides. If you eat more calories and fat than your body needs, the amount of triglyceride fat in your cells and blood can build up and contribute to hardening of the arteries. This increases your risk of a stroke, heart attack or heart disease.
- In additional to lowering triglyceride levels, fish can also help reduce high blood pressure, irregular heart beat and plaque buildup in your arteries.
- Blueberries are a superfood when it comes to fighting disease.
- Blueberries contain anthocyanins, an antioxidant that gives the berries their blue color. These heart-healthy antioxidants are said to decrease blood pressure and dilate your blood vessels to help with blood flow,
- Berries also contain polyphenols, plant compounds that protect tissue against oxidative damage and play a role in the prevention of degenerative diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- Berries have many other health benefits so don’t hesitate to add some extra to your morning smoothies, yogurt or oatmeal!
4. Dark Chocolate
- Chocolate is made from the seed of a cocoa tree and is a great source of antioxidants.
- Healthy dark chocolate (chocolate that is 60-70% cocoa) does not contain the sugar overload of other chocolate flavors. This chocolate contains flavonoids which can help reduce blood pressure, clotting and inflammation.
- Dark chocolate is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
- Dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of the arteries, which allows the arteries to relax, increasing blood flow and reducing blood pressure.
5. Soy Protein
- Soy proteins contain fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- A healthy balance of soy protein can lower triglycerides and lower LDL cholesterol levels in the blood.
- The FDA recommends eating 25 grams of soy protein each day.
- Compared to other proteins, soy protein can lower LDL cholesterol levels keeping your lipoproteins balanced.
- Whole grains and oats are a great source of vitamins, minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, copper, vitamin B1, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
- Oats have anti-inflammatory antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering fibers. Oats are also known to lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- Oats contain large amounts of soluble fibers which can lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood sugar and improve immune function.
- Oatmeal acts like a sponge in the digestive tract to soak up extra cholesterol to eliminate it from the body. This lowers cholesterol levels in the blood.
- Spinach’s rich dark color comes from the multiple phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.
- These elements help fight disease and preserve your eyesight in addition to promoting cardiovascular health.
- The nutrients found in spinach work to prevent oxidized cholesterol from building up in the walls of blood vessels.
- Folate, a nutritious vitamin found in both animal and plant foods, works with vitamin B6 and betaine to balance out dangerous levels of amino acid homocysteine (a clear marker of cardiovascular disease).
- The potassium and magnesium in spinach also help to lower blood pressure.
Sources: Health.com, WebMD, Authority Nutrition, Soyfoods.org