Rejuvenate Your Heart in Nine Simple Steps
By Dr. Dana Myatt
Heart-Healthy Protocol Rejuvenates Youthful Function
Do you recall a time when you were younger and had absolutely no worries
about your heart? After all, it's not nearly so common for a person in their
20's or 30's to suffer from heart disease, and you probably knew that. Your
life wasn't focused around living close to a hospital, curtailing physical
activity because of fear, or even thinking at all about your heart, which just
ticked along perfectly from day to day, week to week, and year to year.
Would you like to return to that liberated, confident feeling, knowing that
your heart is healthy and immune to problems, and enjoying the physical and
emotional freedom that dependable heart function brings? Why not give yourself
the gift of heart-confidence by following these simple, proven, protective
measures that can lower your risk of heart disease to that of a 20-year-old?
Your heart is a very forgiving organ and can be rejuvenated. Here's how:
- Stop smoking. Smoking is one of the single biggest causes of heart
disease. If you need a good reason to quit, dramatically lowering your risk of
heart disease might be the impetus you need.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. High carbohydrate diets lead to
overweight and high blood sugar levels, and very often, to diabetes. As you
continue to read this list, you'll see that these factors are each independent
risk factors for heart disease. A VLC diet (Very Low Carbohydrate diet), high
in Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids, is the fastest, surest way to lower insulin
and blood sugar levels, lose weight, decrease inflammation and slash heart
disease risk at least four-fold. Diets higher in "good fats" (NOT
low-fat diets!) and low in carbs have proven to be the heart-healthiest.
- Get optimal doses of heart-healthy nutrients. Certain nutrients are
essential to healthy heart function and are often missing in the Standard
American Diet (S.A.D.). Nutrients needed by the heart include:
- B complex vitamins, needed
for normal nerve function and homocysteine levels.
the relaxing, anti-arrhythmic mineral that is absolutely necessary
for normal heart function. Unfortunately, magnesium is one of the most
common nutrient deficiencies in the SAD diet.
- antioxidant nutrients
(especially vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene). Studies have shown that
people with higher blood levels of antioxidants have a lower incidence of
heart disease. Among people who have a heart attack, higher levels of
antioxidants decrease free radical formation and reduce heart damage.
helps stabilize and lower blood sugar levels, thereby lowering
sugar-associated heart disease risk.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
(fish oils) are so well-known to decrease inflammation and heart arrhythmias
that the FDA now allows label claims for fish oil. We now also have an
over-the-top expensive prescription fish oil for heart patients (many of
whom would have less stress on their hearts if they bought fish oil for $20
instead of $200!).
- soluble fiber
helps keep blood fats, including cholesterol, at a happy level, although
high cholesterol is not the big heart disease risk factor it has been
- Increase physical activity.
If you don't use it, you lose it. Make your heart work harder than getting
up from your easy chair and going to the refrigerator once in a while. This
doesn't mean you need to train for a marathon. As little as ten minutes of
brisk walking per day, especially if this is more than you currently do,
will improve heart function.
- Lower body-wide inflammation. Subtle
inflammation, as measured by an hs-CRP test ("highly sensitive C-Reactive
Protein", a simple blood test), is a more sensitive measure of heart disease
risk than cholesterol or other elevated blood fats. This type of
inflammation, which is often so minor that you may not feel it but which
irritates the blood vessel lining and sets the atherosclerotic process in
motion, can be corrected by simple diet changes, nutritional supplements and
anti-inflammatory herbs. Decreasing inflammation also lowers your risk of
cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's and other "age related" diseases.
- Lower your blood pressure naturally. There's a
lot of evidence that higher blood pressures (especially systolic B.P.'s
consistently over 140) are associated with higher risk of heart disease.
Interestingly (at least to this physician!), there are a number of big,
long-range studies which show NO BENEFIT to lowering B.P. with drugs.
People with "normal" blood pressures who were only "normal" because of
medications are still at significantly higher risk of heart disease. As
naturopathic as this conclusion sounds, these studies point to the fact that
lowering blood pressure naturally, by correcting the cause of the
elevation, is life-saving where chemical control is not.
- Curb depression, anxiety and stress. The
emotional factor doesn't get much "press" or discussion in the cardiologists
office, but there are numerous studies showing that negative emotional
states increase subtle inflammation. Possibly because depression and stress
(or more accurately described as our reaction to stress) increase
inflammation, these emotional states are associated with higher risk of
heart disease and poorer prognosis in people with already-existing heart
disease or who are recovering from heart surgery. If you suffer from
depression, be sure to get help. And remember that depression isn't caused
by a Prozac deficiency!
- Lower high blood sugar levels. High blood
sugar levels, high insulin levels or outright type II diabetes are major
risk factors for heart disease. The pitiful part of this connection is that
type II diabetes is completely curable through diet alone, usually in
under three months. Sadly, I find that many diabetics would rather live with
the risk (and worry about their risks), rather than make a few
healthy diet changes that would erase this major danger. Go figure.
- Achieve and maintain a normal weight.
Overweight increases subtle inflammation, which as you should know by now
(if you've been paying attention!) is an important risk factor for not only
heart disease but also cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's and more. When an
overweight person loses weight, their hs-CRP (inflammatory marker) also
comes down, corresponding to a lower heart disease risk. Of course, the low-carb,
high Omega-3 fat diet that lowers blood sugar and corrects diabetes also
leads to weight loss, making it easy to correct several problems at once
through diet changes alone.
These same measures that dramatically lower your risk of
heart disease also increase natural immunity, slash your risk of cancer,
diabetes, arthritis, depression, Alzheimer's and senile dementia and a host
of other diseases that we fall prey to with age. Even at advanced age or
stages of disease, much improvement and protection is possible (in other
words, you can reclaim a lot of healthy ground), by turning a few habits
around in a healthier direction.