February is Heart Month! Let’s review four steps that will help you prevent and even reverse heart disease.
FIRST, INCORPORATE FIVE HEART HEALING FOODS INTO YOUR DIET:
- Fabulous Fiber.
If you added only one nutrient, pick FIBER. It’s the roughage in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Fiber suppresses appetite–reducing weight, improves your blood sugar and cholesterol profile, decreases inflammation, and slows aging. Get 30 grams daily—meaning you need to eat at least five cups of fruit and veggies, 2 handfuls of nuts, ½ cup of beans, and one ounce of dark chocolate.
- Healthy Fats
No need to follow a low-fat diet, but do eat healthy fats. Research shows that fats from cold water seafood, virgin olive oil, and nuts decrease your risk for a heart attack and stroke, without adding weight. Enjoy avocado, seeds, and dark chocolate, too.
- Clean Protein
Avoid commercial meats and dairy loaded with saturated fat, hormones, and pesticides. Instead, eat free-range, organic animal protein like chicken fajitas and roasted Cornish game hens with herbs for flavor and health. Also, enjoy more vegetarian sources of protein.
Beans improve blood sugar and cholesterol and are the most powerful anti-aging food ever tested. Following my program, you’ll enjoy bean dips, turkey chili, and a lovely hummus.
- Beneficial Beverages
Start with 4 cups of pure water daily. Need caffeine? Green tea is best, though all unsweetened teas including mint are great. You can still enjoy 1-3 cups of coffee daily. In moderation, the pigments in those beverages are healthful.
My favorite breakfast: A fiber and protein-rich smoothie. It only takes only 2 minutes to make and includes protein powder, frozen organic cherries or blueberries, almond milk, and chia seeds. It’s delicious, and you’ll be satisfied and energized all morning!
- Fantastic Flavors
Nobody will eat healthy meals that taste like cardboard! Spices and herbs enhance flavor. Plus, Italian herbs, curry, garlic, and chili all block arterial plaque growth, slow aging, rev your metabolism, and lower inflammation.
Who would argue against chocolate? The fats in dark (at least 74% cocoa) chocolate act like olive oil—they’re awesome for your heart. But avoid milk chocolate. It’s just candy.
SECOND, OPTIMIZE YOUR FITNESS LEVEL:
It doesn’t matter how many minutes you spend per week exercising. What matters is how fit you are. In my book, The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up, I show you how to get fit, trim, and sexy in less time. The theme is combining aerobic and strength-training exercises that will strengthen your heart and arteries.
- burns fat
- improves blood sugar control
- lowers inflammation
- improves your cholesterol profile
- reduces stress
- builds stamina
THIRD, MANAGE YOUR STRESS:
Stress-induced spasms in coronary arteries can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or sudden death, especially in women. Reduce stress by:
- Good Quality Sleep
Sleep deprivation results in poor brain performance, increased appetite, low metabolism, and weight gain. Sleep increases growth hormone production, helping the body to repair itself. With inadequate sleep, your brain will be sluggish.
- Moments of Peace and Meditation
The grind of continuous stress will hurt your heart. So schedule 5-10 minutes of soul-calming activity daily. Gentle sounds, soft lighting, sweet fragrances, and massage bring sensory relief to different parts of the brain. Do yoga, have a massage, use your vacation days. Meditation lowers blood pressure, decreases heart rate, relaxes muscles, lowers stress hormone levels, and enhances sleep.
Unless you are a meditation expert, one way to make meditation easy and highly effective is to use an app that you can download to your phone, called HeartMath. It only takes 5-10 minutes daily to reduce your stress levels. HeartMath gives you bio-feedback on your attempts to relax and teaches you how to get calm.
- Loving Relationships Including Sex
Sex is good for your heart! Research has demonstrated that people who define their relationships as “loving” are much more likely to live into their nineties than those who do not. Couples who enjoy a loving bond and increased sexual frequency have greater longevity than those who are sexually inactive. Human touch, intimacy, love, and bonding reduce stress.
Daily exercise is the most powerful therapy for burning away stress. No drug is as effective!
FOURTH, FOLLOW A CUSTOMIZED SUPPLEMENT PLAN THAT SUPPORTS YOUR HEART:
Make sure at a minimum that you get the following nutrients from food or a supplement daily:
- Magnesium, 400 mg per day
- Zinc, 12-15 mg daily
- Fiber 30 grams per day
- Fish or fish oil (2-3 servings of cold water, small-mouth fish, or 1000 mg of good quality EPA and DHA) daily (for vegetarians, ensure that you get at least 400-500 mg of DHA daily).
- Vitamin K, 250-1000 mcg daily
- Vitamin D, at least 2000 IU daily
If you find it difficult to get the daily nutrient minimums above from food, you can find the supplements that I recommend here.
In The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up, I teach you how to meet your needs from each of these nutrients daily.
Following these four steps will help you to prevent heart disease, and if you or a loved one already have heart disease, these steps can help you shrink your arterial plaque load as well. At the Masley Optimal Health Center, we have hundreds of patients that have shrunk their artery plaque by at least 10% by following these guidelines, so I know for sure that this program works.
The good news is that when you follow a program that is good for your heart and circulation, you’ll find out that it will also tune up your energy, waistline, brain performance, and your romantic life, too.
I wish you the best of health!
Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP, CNS