Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in this country. It has become an epidemic attributed to our lifestyles and diets. The typical American diet is high in saturated fats and cholesterol which creates inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is the main disease process of cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease includes atherosclerosis, hypertension, coronary artery disease, carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease and heart disease. The major risk factors for cardiovascular disease are: cigarette smoking, high cholesterol values and high blood pressure. Secondary factors include: obesity, being overweight, genetics, stress, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes an alcohol abuse. Many of these factors have become quite prevalent in our society, which is why cardiovascular disease has become the number one cause of death.
A complete medical work-up will help to determine presence or risk of CVD. This should include cholesterol testing, an EKG and thorough medical history. Prevention is the best approach to cardiovascular disease, but it’s never too late to reduce risk and improve your health even if you have been diagnosed.
The inflammatory process that leads to atherosclerosis is due to a toxic lifestyle. Acidic body chemistry creates inflammation, so consuming a primarily alkaline diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will reduce inflammation dramatically. The number one thing a person can do to decrease risk of CVD is stop smoking cigarettes. Avoiding cigarette smoke and other inhaled chemicals will also decrease inflammation. Developing methods to handle and cope with stress will help with lowering blood pressure. These may include exercise and mediation. High blood pressure or hypertension left untreated, may also contribute to increased risk of stroke.
Secondly, consuming a diet low in saturated and hydrogenated fats, cholesterol, salt and processed, refined sugars and fats will dramatically decrease risk of CVD and improve existing conditions. Other important steps include: consuming high fiber foods (20-30 grams daily), plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, regular exercise or physical activity and maintaing low body fat percentage. Cholesterol should be reduced to less than 300mg per day. Red meats should be very limited and cured meats should avoided completely. Avoid whole milk and dairy products as they contain mostly saturated fats and cholesterol. Flaxseed oil is also a good source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids, which have been linked to heart health. Limit salt and sugar intake.
Regular vigorous exercise strengthens the heart and circulation. Drinking spring water is best due to its beneficial mineral content that can help reduce chemical exposure apsorption. Abstaining from caffeine and alcohol are is wise, caffeine increases heart rate and blood pressure and alcohol is an irritant.
Not smoking, aggressive control of obesity, hypertension and/or diabetes and a strict low-fat diet(20-25% of total calories) are mandatory for CVD prevention.
Herbs like garlic and cayenne help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and foods like onions and soybeans or tofu may have a benefit cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis. Ginger, hawthorn berry and ginkgo are also beneficial for circulation and as heart tonics.