A question on many people’s minds – especially if they have a family history of heart disease – is how do I know my heart is healthy?
We have all known someone who received a “clean bill of health” only to suffer a heart attack soon after. So how does heart disease happen in the first place, and what can we do to prevent it?
First of all, heart disease is very multi-faceted. The Mayo Clinic says you can have a genetic defect or a predisposition to it, but most heart issues come from poor diet and lifestyle choices. The Centers for Disease Control report that smoking, obesity, drinking alcohol to excess, a sedentary lifestyle and eating junk food increase our chances of poor heart health.
But why do these things cause heart problems to begin with?
Smoking and obesity, among others, all have one thing in common – they cause inflammation. Remember last month’s article about inflammation? How is inflammation affecting my life?
Inflammation is often the main issue in heart problems, too. Inflammation is defined as anything that causes irritation to the lining of your blood vessels, including the heart. Although LiveScience.com says that inflammation is the body’s natural response to a problem, the condition can prove to be problematic.
But what else can affect heart function? For you ladies out there, if you have a heavy monthly cycle and tend to be anemic, which means that you’re experiencing a reduction in red blood cells, long-term anemia can actually affect your heart, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports.
You might be short of breath after climbing a set of stairs and wonder, “Is it my heart”? But anemia can cause every bit of that problem.
If there is not enough oxygen (anemia is lack of oxygen in your blood) to the heart muscle, it will beat faster desperately looking for oxygen, and you get short of breath. It is very important to know if you are anemic, even borderline anemic. Anemia can also cause brain fog (lack of oxygen to the brain) and many other symptoms, according to HealthRemediesJournal.com.
Heart health depends on whole foods and, especially some raw foods, at least once a day (fruits or vegetables), the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition found in 2011. Your heart doesn’t need processed food that completely void of nutrients day after day.
That’s one of the reasons we have so many degenerative diseases today – people don’t eat real food anymore. Plenty of organic leafy greens keeps the folate level up which has been shown to help your heart function. NutritionFats.org reports that good fats like salmon, olive oil, flax, and walnuts, are very beneficial for your heart.
A low-fat diet should mean avoiding partially hydrogenated fats whenever possible. Those are known as trans-fats and cause -- here we go again! -- more inflammation.
But never choose a no-fat, low-fat diet that excludes the good fats previously mentioned. Your brain needs fat to work, too!
Moderate exercise is always a good idea, however, if you are anemic, you need all the oxygen you have to keep your system functioning, and excessive exercise would not be highly recommended, as TotalGymDirect.com says exercise allows for red blood cells to be delivered more efficiently to muscle tissue but results in an overall loss of hemoglobin. Eliminating anemia allows your body to have the oxygen it needs for a workout.
The Mayo Clinic advises that avoiding even second-hand smoke is always wise, as is keeping your weight where it needs to be. Diabetics are always at risk to become heart patients, so keep your blood sugar under control. The better your blood sugar readings, the less heart attack risk you have.
And if you have high blood pressure, avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup like the plague! That should decrease the likelihood of experiencing heart problems down the road.
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