There’s no better time to talk about heart health than February: good ol’ National Heart Month. But wait, it’s March! Yes, yes. I realize this is coming at you a little behind schedule. Or is it? Because when I hear some of the old, outdated nutrition and medical advice still being given out for heart health, it might as well be years late… so in reality, I’m right on time! And as for the cutesy connection with Valentine’s Day, well, love never goes out of style.
This article is all about debunking outdated science regarding cardiovascular health and bringing you up to speed on what actually causes heart disease and what we can do to prevent it!
If you’re not aware, over the past few decades the health of our nation has not improved. In fact, it has progressively gotten worse, and the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, cancer and yes, heart disease has skyrocketed! All of this in spite of the fact that for years, doctors and dietitians have prescribed a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet for heart health.
The good news is the science is finally debunking all the old myths. (For example, we now know that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol are not linked to heart disease!)
An earlier article written by our very own Dr. Moday briefly explores why cholesterol is not the bad guy and may in fact be more of a superhero. Instead of demonizing cholesterol, let’s focus our attention on inflammation.
Inflammation (not cholesterol) is at the root of heart disease.
There are two main types of inflammation:
- Acute inflammation is something that we all (need to) experience. This inflammation is what happens when you get a cut or burn and feel a sense of warmth and see some redness around the inflicted area. This swelling is the body’s immune system doing its job to help protect and heal itself.
- Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is the one we really need to address. If the body is constantly trying to put out a continually burning fire, it’s not going to have time to focus its attention on regulating blood sugar, the thyroid and our weight. This kind of inflammation shows up differently from person to person, and the symptoms aren’t as obvious as they are with acute inflammation.
Chronic inflammation may manifest as weight loss resistance to one person, achy joints or asthma to another, migraines or even IBS to another. And yes, this chronic, low-grade systemic burn may not produce the outright feeling of inflammation, but it can lead to accumulation of plaque in the arteries and eventually present as heart disease.
And your body prioritizes reducing inflammation above everything else. That means if you’re struggling with fatigue, digestive issues, thyroid regulation or having a hard time dropping the weight, you won’t make much progress until the inflammation is addressed.
How to lower chronic inflammation
1. Embrace MACRO-trio eating at meals and snacks.
We need all three macronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) for our bodies to work optimally. This breakdown may look different from person to person depending on your health history and goals, but there will always be a need for all three of these!
- Proteins are meat, fish and eggs.
- Fats are olive oil, coconut oil, butter, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados and coconut milk.
- Carbs are fruits and veggies and possibly gluten-free, unprocessed grains like rice, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.
2. Eat less sugar and fewer processed carbohydrates.
This is where it can get confusing for most. Processed carbs and sugar don’t just come from those foods we all know we should eat less of (I’m looking at you junk food crackers, sugary cereals, desserts and baked goods). They also come from pasta, oatmeal, and most breads and grains in general. These are anything but “heart healthy,” especially in the amounts that are recommended in the Standard American Diet. They’re also by far the biggest contributors to inflammation, because all carbohydrates break down into sugar in the body – some faster than others – causing small abrasions in the vessels that lead to inflammation. The good news is that once we ditch the inflammatory sugars and processed carbs, healthy fats are just what the body needs to come in and sooth those irritated blood vessels.
3. Enjoy healthy fats at each meal.
As a nation we are still fighting the notion that fats are bad, especially when it comes to heart health. Bottom line: your heart needs healthy fat. What counts as a healthy fat?
- Load up on these healthy fats: avocado and avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and for some even heavy cream and butter. Please, please avoid “low-fat” and “fat free” labels WITH ONE EXCEPTION: healthy fats are only able to do their job in the ABSENCE of excessive sugar and processed carbs as mentioned above. If you add in healthy fats without removing sugar and processed carbs, that’s a recipe for diet backfire and yo-yo dieting.
- Avoid these inflammatory fats: “vegetable oil,” canola oil, hydrogenated oil, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and margarine.
4. Get control of that stress.
This is probably the hardest of these steps to do. I get it. But it doesn’t mean you can skip it. Find a way to make it happen. Start small with something like journaling or talking with a friend. Other strategies include finding a counselor, yoga, prayer, meditation or even taking a few moments to do some focused breathing throughout the day. Stress affects the entire body: it increases your blood pressure and can cause damage to your arteries, create irregular heart rhythms and cause weakened immunity.
5. Get moving!
Exercise doesn’t have to be killing yourself at the gym every day. Instead, just get moving more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, stand while typing out long papers/blogs (definitely just caught myself and stood up right there), or try a quick HIIT workout that can be done anywhere!
6. Supplement with essential nutrients.
Before I let you know the best supplements for your heart, you must know that quality of supplements is so, so important! That’s why we use *Xymogen supplements in our office. Xymogen is unavailable on any third-party selling sites (think Amazon) and only available with a practitioner code because it’s the ONLY way to shut down alteration of their products and continue to provide the highest-quality nutraceuticals available.
- OmegaPure 900EC. In addition to consuming approximately one pound of cold-water fatty fish per week, a high-quality fish oil will provide omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for heart health, as well as brain health, weight loss, and reducing muscle and joint pain.
- CoQMax. CoQ10 is one of the most important nutrients for your heart, helping the heart work more efficiently and protecting all tissues in the body from oxidative stress.
- CurcuPlex. Curcumin is a highly absorbable form of turmeric. When taken for 9-12 months along with necessary dietary and lifestyle changes, inflammation is lowered significantly.
Get free shipping on all orders over $50. Just head over to Xymogen’s “find a practitioner” webpage, enter in the zip code 19103 and click on Dr. Heather Moday.
*As an affiliate with Xymogen, The Moday Center makes 30% commission on all sales through Xymogen.com