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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Keeping Your Heart Healthy for Life

As we roll into the second month of the New Year, resolutions may seem like a thing of the past. But if there’s one resolution worth sticking to, it’s taking care of your heart. Heart disease causes more than half of all deaths in the United States, yet it is one of the most preventable chronic degenerative diseases that exists. The risk of heart attacks and strokes can be greatly decreased with dietary changes, exercise, stress reduction and nutritional supplementation.

A study from McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, was released in December showing that a high-quality diet significantly lowers the risk of a repeat heart attack or stroke for those with heart disease. That reinforces what many people have known for years, now scientifically proven. Here are some of the best heart-healthy foods.

Oranges contain soluble fiber pectin that soaks up cholesterol in food and blocks its absorption. They also contain potassium, which helps to balance the high sodium content in many processed foods, helping to keep blood pressure at a healthy level. Enjoy oranges whole or juice them and drink with the pulp and fiber.

Kale is possibly the most nutritious food on Earth. This leafy green is full of antioxidants, omega-3s, fiber, folate, potassium and vitamin E. Known to protect against atherosclerosis (plaque buildup on the inner walls of the heart), kale is rich in lutein and glucoraphanin, a compound that activates the protective protein Nrf2.

Garlic lowers blood pressure by countering an enzyme (angiotensin) which constricts the blood vessels, and has a significant effect on reducing plaque buildup.

Almonds contain plant sterols that reduce the absorption of cholesterol from other dietary sources. The unsaturated oils in almonds encourage the liver to make less LDL (bad cholesterol) and more HDL (good cholesterol).

Flaxseed contains fiber, phytochemicals and ALA—an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. These are converted by the body to EPA and DHA, which are even more powerful health boosters than ALA.

Several herbs, including rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme, contain heart-healthy antioxidants. When a recipe calls for salt to season, use these fresh herbs instead to transform food into a gourmet, nutritious delight.

Raising blood or tissue levels of nutrients like vitamin B6 and magnesium, as well as antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, coenzyme Q10 and selenium has been shown to have a positive impact on heart disease.Herbal remedies such as hawthorn berries, ginkgo biloba and cayenne are also effective in treating heart disease.

Along with eating right for the heart, creating and sticking to an exercise routine can keep a heart healthy by reducing stress. Exercise reduces stress by releasing endorphins in the brain and redirecting the body to focus on just one thing—physical movement. Working out also increases a person’s sense of confidence, counters depression and anxiety and helps to improve quality of sleep (a common stressor).

Heart Healthy Salad

3 cups chopped kale 2 cups spinach 1 cup fresh basil 2 Tbsp fresh pumpkin seeds 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 2 Tbsp flaxseed oil 1 tsp Himalayan salt

Toss all the ingredients together and enjoy. 

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