More and more people are nowadays affected by cardiovascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis and hypertension. Both an excessive blood pressure and too much fat in the blood (especially cholesterol), which favors arteriosclerosis, leads to diseases of the heart.
Since these diseases do not present any symptoms before, they are usually recognized only by chance in the early stages and are not consistently treated. Among other factors such as smoking and overweight, both diseases often lead to heart attacks and strokes later.
Cardiovascular diseases belong to the so-called civilization diseases and they are a leading factor in the list of causes of death in the developing countries.
High blood pressures alone, as well as its consequences, are the leading cause of death worldwide. The occurrence and expression of hypertension, as well as arteriosclerosis, are strongly influenced by the “western lifestyle” (little exercise, unhealthy diet, overweight).
However, it is possible to reduce your own risk for a cardiovascular disease by natural means in a timely manner through a deliberate diet and a change in your lifestyle. This is useful even with an already elevated blood pressure or high cholesterol level.
Science has recognized this and there are now numerous recommendations for the maintenance of healthy heart.
- Reduce the Salt Intake
Less salt is good for the heart. In the 1980s, the INTERSALT study examined the relationship between blood pressure and salt consumption in 32 countries. It has been shown that a high salt intake via the diet is associated with higher blood pressure.
The current recommendation is a maximum daily salt intake of 6 g for an adult. If there is already an increased risk of heart disease, with existing hypertension, diabetes or a chronic renal disease, less than 6 g of salt per day should be taken.
The same applies to people who are very sensitive to eating salt. By way of comparison, the average salt consumption in the western world is 7 to 10 g per day.
Salt is now found in large quantities in further processed foods. A look at the nutritional value table on the packaging provides information. In addition to finished products (such as frozen dishes), there is also a lot of salt in bread and sausage.
Up to 80% of the daily salt intake is absorbed by our body over processed foods, so you should avoid the consumption of these foods. A much smaller percentage is taken over self-prepared food. To reduce the use of salt, you should take to seasoning herbs and other spices. So-called “diet salt” contains potassium chloride, instead of sodium chloride (the usual food salt). Potassium Chloridemight an antihypertensive action on the body.
Studies have shown that a reduction in salt intake to the recommended level can lower blood pressure by 5/3 mmHg (systolic/diastolic) with normal hypertension and by 2/1 mmHg with normal blood pressure. This relieves the heart. This additional effect also occurs when blood pressure lowering medications are already taken.
- Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet
There are peoples who are less likely to suffer from heart disease than others, which justifies researchers with their healthy diet: people in the Mediterranean, eat large amounts of fish, olives, fruit, vegetables, and nuts, and they have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Fruits and vegetables often contain potassium. The above-mentioned INTERSALT STUDY proves that potassium acts contrary to the salt and can lower the blood pressure somewhat.
Based on these findings, scientists have compiled a nutritional profile that shows the same protective effects for heart and vessels in studies as the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary approach to stop hypertension (DASH).
The aim is to minimize the consumption of saturated fats and trans fats (in fried or industrially processed products). On the other hand, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in high-quality oils (olive oil, linseed oil, walnut oil, etc.), are a large proportion of the fats taken.
It is not important to limit the fat consumption – you should only feed on healthy fats instead of unhealthy fats!
These foods help to lower cholesterol levels:
- Seeds and high-quality oils
- Green tea
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These foods help to lower blood pressure:
- Chocolate (dark with as little sugar and milk as possible)
Nuts: A study from the renowned New England Journal of Medicine has shown that nuts reduce the risk of dying from various ailments such as heart attack, colorectal cancer, and type II diabetes.
The American Heart Association’s recommendation is as follows:
- The total fat intake should be about 25-35% of the total calories in a day
- The content of unsaturated fatty acids should be less than 7% of the total calories
- Monounsaturated fats can account for up to 20% of the total calories
- Polyunsaturated fats may account for up to 10% of the total calories
- Trans fats should be less than 1% of the total calories, so they must be avoided
- The cholesterol intake should be below 300mg per day
- Carbohydrates are said to contribute 50-60 % of the total energy intake per day
- 20 – 30g of fiber should be absorbed per day
- Protein should contribute about 15% to the total energy intake
Overall, it is important that energy consumption and energy consumption are balanced. That is, you should keep your body weight constant in a healthy environment in the long term.
Obesity has a major, if not the largest share of the extreme extent of cardiovascular disease in the western world. Being overweight often leads to hypertension and an increased blood-fat level, thereby increasing the chances of cardiovascular diseases.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption increases the blood pressure and long-term alcohol abuse increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.Alcohol causes an increased stress reaction in the body, which contributes to an increase in the blood pressure.
Other factors, such as a higher weight due to increased alcohol consumption, are additionally responsible. The increased alcohol consumption is attributed to an increase in the blood pressure of 7 / 5mmHG (systolic/diastolic). The current consensus is that30g of alcohol per day in a man or 20g of alcohol per day in the woman’s blood pressure in the long term.
In the case of pre-existing hypertension, alcohol has very bad effect on the liver and the pancreas.
- Keep a healthy weight
Being overweight influences the processes in the body in a variety of ways. It is often associated with the so-called ‘metabolic syndrome’.
This is characterized by abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids (hyperlipidemia and especially hypercholesterolemia, in which often the LDL cholesterol is increased, and the more protective HDL cholesterol is lowered) and insulin resistance in the long run for type II diabetes leads.
All the symptoms of metabolic syndrome represent, in itself, risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis and the occurrence of heart disease. These often occur together with increasing weight, the risk of heart ailments increases.
In addition, overweight leads to chronic inflammation in the body. This inflammation accelerates the damage of the vessels and thus also the formation of an arteriosclerosis. This process is particularly favored by the so-called visceral fat, the fat that lies around the organs. In overweight people, this fat is increased. In contrast to the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat, inflammatory substances are produced by the visceral fat, which drives the chronic inflammation.
Am I overweight?
Methods of determining obesity
- The body mass index (BMI) is widely used to classify the weight. At this measure, the weight is related to the body size.
- Normal BMI – Between 18.5 and 25
- Up to 30- Moderately overweight
- Over 30- Overweight
The problem with the BMI is that the values are barely meaningful, especially among children, elders, and athletes. In addition, this value says nothing about the distribution of the adipose tissue.
- Determination of the abdominal circumference: The abdominal circumference should not exceed 102cm with men and 88cm with women. Often, the ratio between the circumference of the belly and the circumference of the hip is also used as a standard.
If this is below 0.8 in women and 0.9 in men, the weight is normal. If it is over 0.85 in women and over 1 in men, there is obesity.
- An accurate measurement of the body fat can be found by means of a so-called caliper. This is a device that measures the “size” of fat on legs, arms and the trunk. The body fat content can be calculated from these values.
- Measurement of electrical resistance: fat conducts current other than muscles and bones. By means of sensors on the feet (on a scale) and a hand-held measuring device, the body fat content can be determined relatively precisely.
- The most practical method among physicians is currently the determination of subcutaneous fat and visceral fat is by means of ultrasound.
How can I reduce my weight or maintain it at a healthy level?
This is not the answer you would like to hear: A general recommendation, which works for everyone, does not exist. However, the following quintessence applies to all people:
To lose weight you have to consume more energy than you take.
What sounds logical and simple is often a challenge in practice. If your own motivation is not immense, it is advisable to involve a trusted partner, such as your doctor or trainer, who supports you.
In order to implement the above-mentioned theory, one must know how high their own energy consumption and energy consumption is in everyday life. For the energy intake, one can orient itself well to nutritional tables on food. For natural products such as fruit and vegetables, such tables exist on the Internet, which indicates approximate nutritional values.
You can have your energy consumption determined exactly by a doctor or in some pharmacies.There are various methods that measure the resting and the energy consumption under load.
As a rough guide, there are tables on the Internet that list the energy consumption, differentiated according to everyday activities, age, and sex.
Researchers are still disagreeing whether the body’s response to food is dependent on the type and distribution of bacteria in the intestine. This is different in every human being. The bacteria are involved in the digestion of the food and determine how much of the food is consumed by the body and possibly stored as fat.
In practice, what has already been mentioned above in the nutritional recommendation has proven to be successful.
- Your diet should consist of as little processed foods as possible.
- A lot of fruit and vegetables (at least 5 servings per day) should be an essential component of your diet.
- Alcohol should be taken in moderation
- Diet should have fruit, vegetables, whole grain products. They provide the necessary fiber your body needs on a daily basis.
- For meat, you should prefer lean meat or fatty fish (which contains many omega-3 fatty acids). Nuts and seeds are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids
Keep in mind that a day of nutritional “sin” does not throw everything at the same time. It is important to look at the overall picture.
If your metabolism works well, you eat healthy and move, the sundae will hardly affect you on Sunday. It is important that the ice cream or chocolate bar is the exception and not the daily meal.
- Regular Exercise
Exercise has many advantages. Studies have shown that exercise, regardless of weight loss, lowers blood pressure and positively affects the metabolism.
In addition, it reduces movement stress, which is another risk factor for the occurrence of heart disease. In addition to the beneficial effects on the heart, Exerciseaffects many other areas of the body positively.
For example, you can mitigate a later osteoporosis with regular movement.
How should I integrate Exerciseinto my everyday life?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends taking 30 minutes of exercise daily. Do not spend your time every day. It is enough to walk for half an hour. Try to integrate fitness into your everyday life. For example, get off a bus earlier and leave the rest on foot, park your car a little farther away from your workplace, use the stairs instead of the elevator, go walking for shopping. If you work mainly in sitting, you will be up for an hour or two for up to five minutes and go through the office. You can also use your lunch break for a short walk.
If you want to do sports, it is important that you find something that is fun. There are so many sports that you will find the right one, whether it is running, dancing, cycling or yoga.
- Reduce stress
Various studies have shown that stress triggers many illnesses or aggravates the symptoms. The relationship between stress and hypertension, obesity and heart disease, especially myocardial infarction, has also been demonstrated.
Stress leads to a changed lifestyle and favours unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and poor diet, which are also risk factors for suffering a heart disease. Also, stress leads to increased susceptibility to heart disease as well as to a reduced blood flow to the heart, to rhythm disturbances and/or to an accumulated formation of blood clots.
All these factors influence the development of a hereditary disease. Stress does not only refer to a fully packed daily calendar. Sleeping sleep also means stress for the body. It leads to altered dietary habits and is associated with overweight. Sleep is essential for the body to regenerate.
We recommend a night sleep for adults of 6 – 9 hours (depending on age and activity).
Take the time for sufficient sleep and equalize your appointment calendar. Take time for yourself and for others. Especially if you already suffer from atherosclerosis, stress quickly leads to the onset of symptoms such as chest pain, which can be a warning sign for a heart attack.
- Stop smoking
Smoking has many negative consequences. It increases your risk of heart disease, increases your blood pressure, damages the vessels and increases the tendency of blood to clump together. It makes you less resilient and leads to reduced physical activity
Smoking in combination with the use of oral contraceptives greatly increases the risk of stroke. Even if there are prominent examples that cigarette smoke does not seem to have anything to do with, you cannot assume that all of these “resistance factors” are based on the available data.
For most people, cigarette smoking is very harmful and is now referred to as the leading preventable cause of the onset of disease and death. In addition to the damage to the heart and the vascular system, smoking is a risk factor for the development of various types of cancer and usually leads to irreparable lung damage when used for many years.
How can I stop smoking?
There are different methods to quit smoking. Everyone has to figure out what works for him. The tools can only provide a support system.
A strong will-power is the most important thing needed for quitting smoking.
- Folic acid, calcium, magnesium, caffeine and sweet drinks
For a long time, it was unclear whether the additional intake of folic acid can prevent the occurrence of heart attacks.
From previous studies, elevated homocysteine levels are associated with an increased rate of heart attacks, strokes, and circulatory disorders. Homocysteine is an amino acid, which can damage the vessels if it’s in excess.
Scientists have found that elevated homocysteine levels can be reduced very effectively with folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. In the studies, however, no effect on the rate of heart attacks and strokes was observed, although the homocysteine levels were reduced with vitamins.
This leads to the conclusion that presumed elevated levels of homocysteine are not the cause of the occurrence of these diseases, but rather that higher values are the result of other potential risk factors such as elevated blood fats. Increased homocysteine levels seem to indicate an increased risk of heart attacks. The long-term intake of vitamin preparations favors the development of tumors.
There are indications that the intake of calcium and magnesium can reduce the incidence of heart attacks. However, this has not been sufficiently documented.
Whether caffeine and sweetened drinks (soft drinks) increase the risk of a heart attack -This has also not been scientifically clarified until now. Soft drinks have high sugar content so their use is as it not recommended.
What are the key points for natural heart health?
- Reduce your salt consumption to below 5 g per day and avoid processed foods
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, high-quality oils, whole grain products, lean meat and sea fish.
- Drinking max. 2 glasses of beer (beer or wine) per day (women maximum 1 glass per day)
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Relax and sleep well enough
- Stop smoking
- Enjoy caffeine in moderation
There are also genetic factors that could lead to the development of a hereditary disease. Find the best way to maintain your health. It is important that you recognize in time if something is wrong. The longer you ignore the symptoms, the more damage you can cause to your heart. Start today to do something for yourself and keep your heart healthy for total fitness.