The statistics are alarming: An American has a coronary event (often a heart attack) every 25 seconds, and about one American dies from heart-related problems every minute, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
Prevention is key to avoiding heart disease. Dr. Holly Lucille, ND, RN, a licensed naturopathic physician, author and educator in Los Angeles, calls it “the cure.” February is American Heart Month, and there’s no time like now to adopt healthier habits to take care of your ticker.
1. Know your risk. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity are all major risk factors that call for medical monitoring. Family history, smoking, lack of exercise, stress and poor diet also play a role and may prompt a practitioner to recommend more sophisticated testing to measure homocysteine, C-reactive protein and other markers.
2. Eat well. A healthy diet is essential to maintaining a healthy heart. Lucille recommends increasing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish and lean proteins while decreasing sugar, saturated fats and cholesterol. Limit or avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which contain trans fats linked to increased heart-disease.
3. Up the omega-3s. Cold-water, fatty fishes are good sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but most people don’t get the levels of two varieties (DHA and EPA) that they need from diet alone. “Omega-3 fatty acids are lazy; they need to be picked up and carried,” Lucille explains. “In fish oil, what carries them are triglycerides, which are slow and inefficient. That’s why you have to take so much fish oil to get any benefits.”
4. Get moving. “Regular exercise lowers cholesterol levels, improves blood supply (and, therefore, oxygen) delivered to the heart, and increases the strength of the heart muscle, improving the volume of blood it can move,” Lucille explains. Exercise also helps reduce blood pressure, body fat and stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five to seven days a week.
OUR FAVORITE FISH OILS
Barlean’s Omega Swirl
12 oz., $19.99; barleans.com
naturally sweetened with a smoothie-like texture in three flavors
60 tablets, $36.76; vectomega.com
omega-3 fatty acids extracted from salmon and naturally bound to phospholipids
60 capsules, $21.99; genceutic.com
patented molecular distillation from wild-caught fish removes soaps, pesticides, pigments and heavy metals
Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Fortify
30 single-serve pouches, $29.95; nordicnaturals.com
neutral-tasting powder in single-serve packs that can be added to foods and beverages