Tuesday, February 2, 2016

February Focus - Heart Health!

by Linda Loetell, R.Ph.

What could be a better time than the month containing Valentine’s Day to concentrate on keeping your heart healthy?  (Of course, in our area we also have Gasparilla and the State Fair to tempt us.)  It’s also a good month to enforce some of those New Year’s resolutions we haven’t yet started - like diet and exercise – which lead to good heart health.

Let’s start with some tips on a diet to prevent heart disease:
·         Eat more vegetables and fruits – they are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, while low in calories
·         Use whole grains instead of refined grains – more good fiber and other nutrients to lower blood pressure
·         Go low-fat – limiting saturated and trans fats helps to reduce cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease  (read those food labels! – “partially hydrogenated” is code for “it contains trans-fat”)
·         Select low-fat protein such as fish, poultry or lean meat, eggs and low-fat dairy  - avoid fried, fatty, and full fat dairy and (sorry, folks) – hot dogs, bacon, and sausage
·         Reduce sodium – it is a risk for high blood pressure – and, again, read those labels on prepared foods – healthy adults should have no more than 2300mg of sodium a day (approx.. 1 tsp)
·         Allow yourself an indulgence once in a while, – if you follow the above rules you deserve it! (But remember what your mother always told you about moderation) 

Once you are ready to shop for those “heart healthy” foods, it is time to head to the “green” areas of your grocery store.  Local stores such as Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market offer “heart healthy” recipes and foods and Publix now offers dietitian services that include personal shopping for your dietary needs.  To learn more  click here for diet details from the Mayo Clinic.

Just in case you are not obtaining all the necessary vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy heart from your diet (like me) or you just want to ensure that your heart is getting the most help it can get;  here is a list of some of the best supplements to keep it healthy:

1.       Fish Oil (Omega 3 Fatty Acids) – these amazing fatty acids decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias), decrease triglyceride levels, help prevent clot formation and plaque build-up in arteries, and lower blood pressure

2.       Co-Enzyme Q-10 – acts as an antioxidant and improves energy productions in cells, it is useful in preventing damage to the heart during periods of stress and it inhibits clot formation.  Patients who are taking cholesterol reducing “stating drugs” may have depleted levels of this enzyme, so supplementation may be advantageous.

3.       Garlic - Several studies have suggested that garlic and garlic extracts could lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides as well as slightly elevate “good” cholesterol (HDL) , it may also be effective in lowering blood pressure

4.       Niacin  (Vitamin B3) –  a recent study has shown niacin to lower bad blood cholesterol (LDL) more effectively than the prescription “statin” drug Zetia (ezetimibe), high LDL has been linked to cardiovascular disease, thus lowering LDL is good preventative medicine

5.       Vitamin D – studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk for high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes – all risk factors for heart disease.  The studies show that people with low vitamin D levels were twice as likely to have a heart attack, stroke or other heart-related event compared to those with higher vitamin D levels

6.       Magnesium – a deficiency of magnesium has been linked to high blood pressure and diabetes – both risk factors for heart disease

7.       Flaxseed – an excellent source of fiber and omega-3 acids, these seeds have been shown to lower cholesterol in some people.

Click here for more information on heart healthy supplements . Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any vitamins or supplements to be sure there is no interaction with any other medication or supplement you may be taking.

An excellent source to browse and possibly purchase any of these supplements is through the Emerson Ecologics link on our website (and you get 20% off!)

Don’t forget to add exercise to your “heart healthy” program.  The AHA suggests a combination of aerobic and strengthening activities.  Yoga is also a great de-stressor and relaxing for your heart and mind. 

As always, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program!