"The thousand mysteries around us would not trouble but interest us, if only we had cheerful, healthy hearts"
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Cardiovascular disease is usually characterized by coronary artery disease, a condition of blood vessel damage due to a combination of plaque build-up, silent inflammation and endothelial dysfunction where the inner lining of the arterial vessel is damaged. When the integrity of blood vessels becomes compromised, arteries may start to harden, creating more pressure when blood is pumped through the body and blood pressure may rise. Chronic high blood pressure or hypertension is one of the major risk factors of CVD
There are numerous risk factors, however diet and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference for reducing these risks.
Stress is one major influence on the heart by activating the Sympathetic nervous system which then increases heart rate, constricts the blood vessels, causing salt and water retention in the kidneys which raises the blood pressure in preparation for a life threatening or perceived life threatening situation. The problem today is the stress button gets stuck in this pattern as we perceive daily events such as being stuck in a traffic jam or being late for a meeting, as life threatening, as opposed to the real life threats our ancestors faced being chased by a saber toothed tiger (bungy jumping off AJ Hacketts into the Kawerau gorge may be the equivalent today)
Your heart is also your emotional centre and directly communicates with your brain and the rest of your body. The electrical signals in your heart are approximately 50 times stronger than those of the brain. These electrical signals are influenced by electrolytes potassium, calcium and magnesium- all nutrients missing from modern devitalized diets.
Although men have traditionally been more at risk for cardiovascular or heart disease, women after menopause have a greater risk and are 6 times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer. Despite the estrogen factor which is supposedly protective, heart disease is largely a lifestyle matter. The cumulative effects of sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excess alcohol, stress and poor nutrition are at the roots of heart disease and therefore can be overcome with positive changes that are never too late to be implemented.
Foods that are devitalized such as refined, processed food overcooked in rancid trans fatty acids have lost any nutrient energy and vitality for nourishing our cells. In fact it directly damages the cells leading to inflammation and oxidative stress. Without living whole foods our brains, gut and heart fail to communicate and this then is a life threatening situation. A few basic eating rules then are:
1 EAT LESS REFINED CARBOHYDRATES Carbohydrates are digested into sugar. Insulin is released by the pancreas to help sugar enter the cells for energy. Overtime if there is excess sugar consumed, it can lead to INSULIN RESISTANCE- where the cells no longer respond to insulin and the carbohydrates then turn to fat. The liver converts excess carbohydrates into triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. By eating less refined carbohydrates you will feel less hungry, lose weight and improve blood fats.
Avoid high glycemic carbs such as white bread, refined flour products, lollies, sugar, any foods with high fructose syrup.
Fructose is a carbohydrate that acts as a fat and can lead to fatty liver and metabolic syndrome by increasing insulin levels. The high fructose corn syrup is found in many of the convenience comfort foods- commercial cakes, biscuits and other desserts.
Eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables that are antioxidants reducing oxidative damage to cells and arterial linings. - at least 8-9 servings per day; go technicolour with orange, red, blue, purple and green. RED- tomato, radish, beetroot, rhubarb, apple, cherries, red pepper GREEN-spinach, broccoli, cabbage, peas, beans, courgette, fresh herbs, kiwifruit YELLOW- ORANGE- pumpkin, kumara, yams, corn ,peach, melons, apricots BLUE-PURPLE-blueberries, boysenberries, eggplant, plums, raisins, prunes, grapes Drink green tea which is high in catechins that reduce oxidation and have a dilating effect on the arteries. Eat raw garlic to reduce infection, reduce blood clotting and lower cholesterol. Ginger is anti-inflammatory and lowers triglycerides (your storage form of fat which makes blood thick and sticky-major risk factor for heart disease- both excess carbohydrate and fat in our diet converts into triglycerides in the liver.) Turmeric inhibits accumulation of platelets and is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The best way to absorb turmeric is to use with black pepper and to use in oil. Saute onions and garlic in cold pressed olive oil or coconut oil at low heat or sauté in water and add oil later, then add turmeric.
A juice made from pineapple, ginger, carrot and celery is a healthy natural anti-inflammatory. Celery can also help lower blood pressure. Try to get organic celery if possible as celery tends to be heavily sprayed. If this is difficult then triple wash and soak in vinegar before using. Other foods high in antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory are grapes, blueberries, rosemary, blackcurrents, gogi, ,cranberry, strawberries and pomegranate.
2 AVOID HARMFUL FATS AND EAT HEALTHY FATS
Beneficial fats are the Omega 3, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties. These fats can benefit cardiovascular health, brain function and inflammatory conditions such as Arthritis. Found in the oily fishes such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, cod, sardines. Hoke, halibut and flax oil.
Avoid Trans Fatty Acids
Modern manufacturing process oils that expose them to high temperatures, light and chemical solvents. This damages the essential fatty acids and creates trans-fats which are toxic and inflammatory.
Avoid any foods that state vegetable oil or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. If you eat fried takeaway food you are consuming large amounts of rancid, oxidised, trans-fats.
Healthier options for cooking with oil are cold pressed virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil or ghee- saute at low temperatures- add water to lower the heat.
3 INCREASE PHYTOSTEROLS INTO DIET
Phytosterols in the diet inhibit intestinal absorption of cholesterol. The main therapeutic phytosterols are sitosterol and campesterol. Phytosterols are found in all plant based foods but are particularily abundant in unrefined oils such as sesame, wheatgerm, and rice bran. Also in whole foods such as sesame seeds, peanuts, soybeans, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, asparagus, beet greens, cucumber and fruits such as lemon, orange, fig, apricot, grapefruit, strawberries. Found in small amounts in cloves, sage, oregano, thyme and paprika.
4 MODERATE PROTEIN
Eat moderate amounts of quality protein such as fish, free range eggs, low fat meats, fermented foods such as tempeh and miso, sprouts and legumes. High proteins especially excessive consumption of saturated fatty meats increase homocysteine levels that damage the artery wall.
5 EAT FIBRE
Soluble fibres such as oat, barley, flax, pectin from (citrus, apple and onion), and psyllium slow absorption of sugar and bind cholesterol. Other healthy fibres are cucumber, tomato, broccoli, berries, pear and seaweeds.
5 IMPROVE LIVER FUNCTION
The liver converts excess calories from sugar into triglycerides and cholesterol. Too much sugar in the diet can lead to fatty liver. The liver is responsible for cleansing the bloodstream- if it is fatty it becomes a storage place for toxins. There are many raw foods and juices that are healthy for the liver such as natural organic sulphur contained in eggs, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, onions, leaks, garlic. Fresh vegetable juices with carrot, beetroot, leafy greens and plenty of raw vegetable salads.
6 VITAMIN C- supports collagen synthesis and strengthens capillaries and arteries as well as preventing cholesterol from oxidising. Low vitamin C increases Lpa (similar to LDL but carries a sticky repair protein and is a major risk factor because it thickens the walls of the arteries) Obtain vitamin C from fresh raw vegetables, kiwi fruit and citrus, berries, broccoli, spinach. Take a supplement if you have any cardiovascular risk- 2-6gm per day.
7 MAGNESIUM - Magnesium is vital to optimum cardiovascular health. Your cells require magnesium to maintain proper smooth muscle function in your blood vessels. It also helps maintain proper cellular fluid balance. Causes of deficiency are soil deficiency, the typical western style diet, chronic stress and use of diuretics. Magnesium can help prevent life threatening arrhythmias, lower high blood pressure, normalise insulin signalling- blood sugar regulation. Foods high in magnesium include: brown rice, fermented soy products, whole grains, fish, leafy green vegetables, bananas, kelp, figs, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
Finally don't forget to laugh. "A day without laughter is a day wasted"+