Officially, February is a Healthy Heart Month and having lost both mum and dad to heart disease, this is a topic very close to my own heart. Heart disease happens to be our leading cause of death and virtually everyone nowadays will know someone who either has suffered, or still is suffering from some form of heart disease.
Heart disease primarily comes from the build up of fatty deposits in our artery walls, which eventually block the blood flow, leading to a heart attack or a stroke.
Treatment of heart disease nowadays is merely through the prescription drugs. However, heart disease is a lifestyle disease and, as such, preventable and even reversible with the change in lifestyle, which could mean, for many, longer, quality life without prescription drugs, enjoying long, quality life with loved ones…
Whilst age, gender (men are more likely to develop Coronary Heart Disease), family history of heart disease and ethnicity are unmodifiable factors in developing a heart disease – risks factors that are known to influence development of CHD are smoking, diet, lack of physical activity and psychological stress and disease risk is particularly elevated in cases of stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, renal disease.
Science shows that exercise and what we eat and drink play the biggest part in heart health prevention as it helps us maintain healthy weight.
Say NO to Heart Disease: Nitric Oxide (NO) and Heart Health
So, you exercise, maintain a healthy diet, keep your weight down, manage stress, but there is one more component you should add to your healthy heart regimen… and that is increasing your levels of Nitric Oxide.
Nitric Oxide (NO) is a signalling molecule produced organically in our bodies by the intake of right kinds of foods and supplements and it helps to control blood flow to every part of our body.
It supports overall vascular health by helping blood vessels to dilate, which supports healthy blood pressure levels and healthy circulation.
NO was discovered by Dr Louis Ignarro, PhD, world renowned heart health expert, who I had a pleasure of meeting and being trained by on many occasions and who was awarded a prestigious Nobel Price for the discovery of Nitric Oxide and what it could mean to the humanity in reduction of heart disease.
Dr Louis Ignarro believes that Nitric Oxide, this single molecule that is produced by the body itself, may be the single factor that contributes to all major illnesses and, at the same time, the key to living a longer, healthier life…
In itself, Nitric Oxide is a gas that acts throughout the body as a messenger and influences the functioning of virtually every organ in the body, including the lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, genitals and, of course, heart by inactivating so-called “oxygen radicals” (free radicals) in the body that can contribute to cell damage.
- The cardiovascular system uses Nitric Oxide to control blood flow to every part of the body. Not only can Nitric Oxide relax and dilate (enlarge) the blood vessels, thus ensuring that blood can efficiently nourish the heart and tissues of the entire body, Nitric Oxide can also support healthy blood pressure levels.
- The immune system uses Nitric Oxide to combat toxins, providing a strong internal deffence system.
- The brain relies on Nitric Oxide to store and retrieve long-term memories and to transmit information within the nervous system.
A deficiency, therefore, of Nitric Oxide, can have a dramatic impact on our health. A total lifestyle approach to supporting Nitric Oxide levels including a healthy diet, exercise and nutritional supplementation, provides a wide range of benefits throughout the body at the cellular level which can improve circulatory, immune and nervous system function.
Here are just few things you can do to boost your Nitric Oxide production and support your Heart Health:
MANAGE YOUR WEIGHT:
If you are at least 15% heavier than you should be, than your excess fat is stressing your heart and blood vessels. Your endothelial Nitric Oxide production is diminished, and your susceptibility to a host of diseases is increased. Losing weight is not about vanity, but your health. Managing your weight is important, so is choosing a weight loss plan that will not damage further your health as many fad diets do, but will contribute towards your heart health.
DECREASE YOUR INTAKE OF SATURATED FATS AND ELIMINATE TRANS FAT INTAKE:
Whilst fat needs to form 30% of your daily calorie intake, it is important it comes from the right sources, so avoid Trans fats you will find in many off the shelf items like biscuits, cakes, ice creams, etc, but also avoid most of your fats coming from saturated fats from especially animal produce such as sausages and other processes meats… more about Healthy Fats
ADD QUALITY OMEGA 3 FISH OILS TO YOUR DIET:
Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oils help reduce total blood fats, reduce bad cholesterol and raise HDL good cholesterol. Also, fish oils benefit the heart by keeping arteries being clogged up, contributing to heart attack and stroke. The recommendation is to include oily fish in your diet at least twice per week, especially fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon and fresh tuna. Research shows that the production of Nitric Oxide increased within minutes after exposure to omega 3 fatty acids.
INCREASE YOUR DIETARY FIBRE CONSUMPTION & ANTIOXIDANT INTAKE:
Many associate fibre with healthy digestion, but actually, our heart benefits too. Studies have suggested that soluble fibre can perform a tasks of lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol – by binding with cholesterol particles in your digestive system and moving them out of the body before they’re absorbed – thereby protecting the endothelial cells where Nitric Oxide is manufactured.
Scientists now believe that it is not just eating fat that causes the build up on the inner surface of the arteries, but eating those fats that have been oxidised, which makes it more sticky therefore adhering to the inner artery walls more easily.
Antioxidants neutralise free radicals in the body and reduction in free radicals will also reduce the risk of the free radicals oxidising the fat and making it stick to the artery wall.
We are now coming to believe that fibre works through substances called phytonutrients, which seem to have the antioxidant advantage when it comes to guarding NO. Higher fibre foods, in particular vegetables and fruits, also tend to contain other nutrients like vitamin C and E, powerful antioxidants that stimulate your production of NO.
Daily recommended amount of fibre is minimum 25 grams per day and statistics show that many are struggling with achieving even half of this amount, which is affecting not just heart, but also digestive health of the population.
INCREASE INTAKE OF DIETARY SOY:
Soy has been a staple of the diet in Japan for many years and heart disease is amongst the lowest in Japan, and at least the part of the credit belongs to soy.
Soy is filled with phytonutrients that function as antioxidants and fight everything from cardiovascular disease to cancers of the breast and prostate. In particular, soy substance called isoflavones interfere with the oxidation of blood fats, preventing free radicals from being formed and from causing endothelial damage that interferes with Nitric Oxide production.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate soy into your diet such as through soy yogurt or milk or tofu as a substitute for meat dishes. I personally consume it through my Formula 1 Healthy Breakfast smoothie and it provides, apart from a complete plant protein, also all the vitamins, minerals my body needs as well as the fibre – up to 10 grams of it just per breakfast.
INCREASE CONSUMPTION OF GREEN TEA:
Green tea has been known in China as a powerful healing agent for at least 4000 years. Green tea contains powerful antioxidant, which appears to kill cancer cells without harming healthy ones and it combats oxidative stress and protects your endothelial cells from invading molecules, thereby safeguarding Nitric Oxide production and improving your cardiovascular health.
Green tea also seems to speed up the rate at which the body burns up fat, making its consumption supportive of weight loss. It is very important how tea is manufactured to ensure its potency once it reaches the consumer, so I have my own brand that I trust that will not go through alcohol during manufacturing process as most supermarket teas do.
BOOST YOUR FITNESS:
Last but not the least – increase your Nitric Oxide production by boosting your fitness… Benefits of exercise are tremendous in getting our overall health, in particular cardiovascular. So, get more active!
I hope this article has been of a benefit and wishing you all a Healthy Heart Month of February! Please do check out Dr Lou Ignarro’s superb book “NO More Heart Disease”, my clients borrow it from time to time and find it refreshing and packed with not just research but also advice that can be easily implemented.
CONSIDER OUR HEART HEALTH FRIENDLY NUTRITION
I dedicate this post to my mum…
Heart disease is a silent killer because there are no obvious signs or symptoms, and many people don’t realise they have it.
Yet, unless it was fatal, it is a totally reversible disease and our lifestyle has direct impact on its development in the first place.
Take care of your heart, because it is literally at the heart of your health.
I love you, mum, miss you every day and wish you were still with us. Rest in peace, you are forever in my heart…
If you would like to reach out and see how you can support your heart health through Herbalife Nutrition and making lifestyle changes, please do not hesitate to get in touch…