4 Simple Ways to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
February is Hearth Awareness month. That makes it a great time for us to revisit heart-healthy habits and do our best to limit our risk of heart disease. It is by now well established that diet and lifestyle changes can reduce our risk of heart disease by up to 90%.1
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States with one in four deaths caused by heart disease every year. This is particularly alarming given that in 50% of cases, the first and only sign of a heart attack is death.2
But there is hope. According to the Center for Disease Control, by making a few simple diet and lifestyle changes we can effectively reduce our risk of heart attack, stroke and related cardiovascular disease by up to 90%. As Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. has said, “Heart Disease is nothing more than a toothless paper tiger that need never exist and if it does exist, it need never progress.”
Here are 4 simple ways to reduce and even reverse cardiovascular disease:
- Stop Smoking. The evidence is clear. Smoking is the single biggest modifiable risk factor for heart disease. “Smoking makes the blood thicker and more likely to clot, inflames the arteries and releases toxins that clamp down and constrict the arteries,” says Joseph Naoum, M.D., a cardiologist with Henry Ford Macomb Hospital. No one is saying quitting is easy, but it is non-negotiable for heart health.
- Exercise. Even if you only have ten spare minutes, those ten minutes, perhaps three times a day could save your life. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends thirty minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, 5 days a week for the average adult. You can do it. According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 3 U.S. adults report participating in no leisure time physical activity. Don’t be a statistic. Every little bit helps. Take the stairs. Park farther away from the store. Take the dog for an extra walk. It all adds up to a healthier heart.
- Eat Heart Healthy. This single change can eliminate most heart disease risk according to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, an account of a groundbreaking nutrition-based cure for heart disease. Eating a whole food, plant based diet high in leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains has been shown to lower LDL and total cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, increase blood flow, lower blood pressure, lower body fat and even reverse atherosclerosis.
- Lose Weight. If you’re adding exercise and a healthy diet into the mix, weight loss is likely to follow. And that’s probably a good thing. Most (nearly 70%) of us are carrying at least a couple extra pounds that we could stand to lose.3 Keeping our weight down through diet and exercise can make a huge difference in our heart health, Dr. Naoum says.
“You might be programmed for a heart attack because of your family history, but if you are physically active, watch your diet and maintain a healthy weight, it offsets a lot of genetic disposition,” Naoum adds.
If all of this sounds too daunting, choose just one area to focus on. And if that’s still too much, focus on it for just a week. Then focus just on one day at a time. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” according to the wisdom of Lao Tzu. Take that first step. You are worth it.
Yours in Health,
McGill, Henry C. Jr, MD; McMahan Alex C., PhD; Gidding, Samuel S., MD. Preventing Heart Disease in the 21st Century, Implications of the Pathobiological Determinants of Atherosclerosis in Youth (PDAY) Study. Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine. 2008; 117: 1216-1227.
Esselstyn, Rip. The Engine 2 Diet. New York, NY: Grand Central Life & Style; 2009: 44-45.
3. CDC/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlanta, GA; http://www.cdc.gov/nchs /fastats/obesity-overweight.htm. January 2015. Retrieved 2-12-15.