Prevention of Heart Disease and Stroke

Introduction.

Conventional and unorthodox doctors unanimously agree that foods such as seafood, fruits, vegetables, green tea, nuts, grains, legumes, onions, ginger, hot pepper, garlic, olive oil, alcohol in moderation, foods high in Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene preserve the arteries and prevent heart disease and stroke. Meats and dairy foods high in saturated fat, excessive alcohol and smoking, on the other hand, could damage arteries and the heart.

Indeed, simply eating meals that include all ingredients known to individually prevent heart disease could add years to life. According to an international group of experts’ calculations, if men aged 50 and older added almonds, garlic and other heart disease-fighting ingredients to their daily diets, they might increase their life expectancy by more than six years, and spend more time free of heart disease.

Among women, following the same recipe after age 50 could add almost five extra years of life, the authors’ report in the British Medical Journal.

They call their recommendation diet the ‘Poly-meal,’ playing off the ‘Polypill’ idea, which received substantial attention, on the idea of giving everyone a combination pill to prevent heart disease. The ‘Poly-meal’ contains those ingredients that research has consistently shown can decrease the risk of heart disease.

The menu includes wine, fish, dark chocolate, fruits, vegetables, garlic and almonds. All ingredients must be consumed daily in the recommended amounts, except for fish, which research suggests should be eaten four times per week.

Also, eating beans, including soya beans, kidney bean and chickpeas, has been shown to actually help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health.

1. What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat (lipid) in one’s blood. More so, one’s cell, as well as one’s body, makes all it needs. Cholesterol also can get from the food we eat.

If there are too much of cholesterol in the body. It starts to build up in one’s arteries (Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart). This is called atherosclerosis or arteries hardening. This is where some heart and blood flow problems started.

The arteries can be narrowed through this buildup and make it harder for blood to flow through them. The buildup can also lead to dangerous blood clots and inflammation that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

Many things can affect cholesterol levels, including:

i. The food one does eat. Eating too much-saturated fat, Trans fat and cholesterol can raise one’s cholesterol.

ii. Being overweight. This may lower HDL (“Good”) cholesterol.

iii. Being inactive. Not exercising may lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

iv. Age. Cholesterol starts to rise after age 20.

v. Family history. If family members have or had high cholesterol, you may also have it.

There are different types of cholesterol:

i. Low-Density Lipo-Protein Cholesterol. is the “bad” cholesterol. It’s the type that can raise the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

ii. High-Density Lipo-Protein Cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol. It’s the type that is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

2. High-Density Lipo-Protein Cholesterol and Low-Density Lipo-Protein Cholesterol.

The University of Western Ontario in London, Researchers found that flavonoids and limonoids present in orange juice increases the body’s HDL cholesterol (so-called ‘good’ cholesterol) level, which helps wash out the Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (‘the bad’ cholesterol) from the system. Other citrus juices, such as grapefruit, also contain this bio-chemical. Orange juice is also a good source of Vitamin C.

Researchers also suggest that drinking three glasses of orange juice a day increases the ‘good’ High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and lowers the chance of getting heart disease.

In this study, patients with high cholesterol began by drinking one glass of orange juice daily for four weeks, eventually consuming three glasses daily for four weeks. The patients that did not drink any juice for five weeks and had their cholesterol tested again.

The results showed that while LDL cholesterol did not go down, the average HDL cholesterol level rose by 21 percent and the ratio of HDL to total cholesterol decreased by 16 percent. The combination of raising HDL cholesterol and lowering the ratio is known to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre say beans increase blood levels of phytoestrogens or plant estrogens in women. According to Dr Bairey Merz. “A very significant relationship between increased phytoestrogen levels and lower cholesterol, this is the results of this study.”

There also may be “positive associations” with phytoestrogens and hormone replacement therapy for women during and after menopause.

3. Changes in diet and lifestyle have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.

The next challenge is whether the same benefits can be obtained by taking supplement capsules instead of eating beans themselves. Other studies show that artificial forms produce less positive results. This probably means people should be eating beans as opposed taking supplements in capsule form.

Even modest changes in diet and lifestyle have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.

In general, eating foods low in cholesterol, saturated fat and salt and taking vitamins and supplements or eating foods containing the essential vitamins and minerals is recommended.

Nutritionists also recommend eating oily fishes for better heart health. Fatty acids in fish contain Omega 3 that was shown to be effective in preventing heart diseases. Fish oil has been discovered some years ago by scientists to contain a kind of polyunsaturated oil that may be especially protective against heart attacks.

Indeed, scientists studying the health of different world population noticed an especially low incidence of coronary heart disease among the Eskimos of Greenland and Japanese people living in fishing villages on the sea. Though widely separated geographically, these two populations had at least one thing in common. Both groups consume the tremendous amount of fatty fish, fish oil, whale blubber and other marine life that fed on fish.

The scientists report that at first, their healthy hearts seemed incongruous since very high levels of fat in the diet-regardless of the source of that fat are considered a risk factor for heart disease.

Further studies revealed that both the maritime Japanese and Eskimos had the low level of triglycerides (a kind of blood fat), high levels of HDL cholesterol and reduced tendency for their blood to clot. All these things are classic signs suggesting a sound, healthy cardiovascular system.

Digging deeper the researchers found that the fish-loving people also had high levels of a class of fatty acid called Omega-3 fatty acids also known as Docosa Hexaenoic Acid (DHA), which comes from fish.

Cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring are reportedly the richest sources of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, but most other fish and seafood contain some as well. Dutch researchers found that those who eat fish regularly have a lower rate of heart disease and stroke than those who do not.

4. Garlic, Ginger prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and heart attack.

Many studies indicate that garlic prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, may prevent the liver from producing excess fat and cholesterol.

Based on one study, by adding to a fatty as little as two ounces of garlic juice, the cholesterol-laden meal was found to actually lower the cholesterol by up to seven percent. Another study found that a day 600-mg of garlic powder could push the total cholesterol down by some 10 percent. According to other research that corroborated these findings reporting that LDL cholesterol while raising the HDL (“good”) cholesterol can be lowered by garlic

Eating three cloves of garlic a day keeps the cholesterol down for extended periods. It is reported that because garlic contains ajoene and other substances, it also helps to keep the blood “thin” and free of potentially deadly blood clots.

Ayurvedic physicians suggest that eating a little bit of ginger every day will help to prevent the heart attack. It reduces cholesterol. It prevents blood clots and reduces blood pressure. Therefore for a healthy heart, ginger is an important herb

Ginger’s heart-helping attributes are reportedly similar to that of garlic. Ginger has been shown to interfere with the long sequence of events necessary for blood clots to form. This reportedly helps to prevent clots that can lodge in narrowed coronary arteries and set off a heart attack.

5. An increase in intake in the number of servings of fruits and vegetables per day decrease in stroke risk and heart attack.

Onions have been shown to contain adenosine and other ‘blood thinners’ that help to prevent the formation of blood clots. To thin the blood, onions reportedly help keep the coronary arteries open and clear by increasing the HDL. Eating half a raw onion every day has been shown to increase HDL by 20 to 30 percent.

In a study of 87,000 nurses conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University, compared with those who ate one serving a month or less, subjects who ate five or more servings of carrots every week had a 68-percent lower risk of suffering stroke. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene and other carotenoids, all members of the vitamin A family. Eating a lot of fruits and veggies that are rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C and E, can reduce the risk of having the stroke by as much as 54 percent if they enjoy carrots often.

Cayenne pepper improves circulation and heart function without raising blood pressure according to recent studies. It also enhances the power of other herbs taken at the same time.

The bromelain the enzyme that present in Pineapple is best known for its ability to break down proteins. It is a key ingredient in meat tenderizers. The bromelain action of anti-clotting might help prevent ischemic stroke and heart attack.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that fruits and vegetables are beneficial in combating stroke. It was conducted at Harvard’s School of Public Health where investigators studied the relationship between fruit intake and the rate of stroke in over 75,000 women.

There is a decrease in stroke risk in those who had an increase in intake in the number of servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

More so, the same Journal of the America Medical Association revealed that eating whole grain bread can drop stroke risk by 43 percent. Dr Simin Liu of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The USA conducted a study that followed the health and stroke frequency of nurses over a multi-year period. The dietary concern has been paid attention to and intake of whole grain bread. Liu said, “replacing refined grains with whole grains by even one serving a day may have significant benefits in reducing the risk of ischemic stroke’. The study concludes, “With a lower risk of ischemic stroke among women higher intake of whole grain foods was associated with this.”

Conclusion.

Nearly all legumes contain genistein, a cancer-preventive nutrient. I addition to guarding against cancer, genistein is also reported to have a significant anti-clotting effect. So, it is believed that it may also help prevent ischemic stroke and heart attack. Genistein according to reports can also be obtained from tofu and soy products. English peas or other beans and legumes.

Green tea has been shown to help keep blood pressure under control. It also may help keep cholesterol from clogging arteries. The herb tea reportedly contains Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) and other substances that help in the body protection against the dangers of oxidation, while helping to keep the harmful LDL cholesterol down and the helpful HDL cholesterol up. According to reports, they also assist in keeping blood pressure under control.

Aspirin and Your Heart

Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet drug, and is used to treat pain, fever, blood clots, heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Aspirin has been proven to prevent heart attacks and strokes, especially in men over fifty. Your doctor will advise you which dosage is best for you. It is typically 81 mg or 325 mg by mouth once a day.

The benefits of taking aspirin daily include if you:
Have had a heart attack or chest pain
Had open heart surgery
Had coronary angioplasty (a procedure where a balloon is inserted to open blocked arteries and veins of your heart)
Had a stroke or TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)
Have peripheral vascular disease (PVD)
Have heart rhythm problems, such as atrial fibrillation (A.Fib)

Risks of taking aspirin every day include minor bleeding or bruising, worsening of asthma, upset stomach, or allergic reaction. Children should not be given aspirin due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome (rapidly progressive brain dysfunction). Contraindications for use of aspirin include allergies to NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), peptic ulcers, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder) or gastritis, hemophilia, kidney disease, and gout. Make sure your doctor is aware if you are taking more than one blood thinner, such as Plavix, or Ibuprofen.

There are 2 forms of aspirin you can take. Please ask your doctor which is the best one for you. The first type is called non-enteric coated. This means the aspirin does not have a protective coating that keeps your stomach from being upset, but is best to take when having active chest pain. This type comes in a chewable form. The enteric coated aspirin has the protective covering that keeps your stomach safe. This type cannot be chewed or crushed. Do not take any aspirin with alcohol as it increases chance of bleeding and stomach distress.

Signs of heart attack may include chest pain, left arm, jaw, or shoulder pain, or upper abdominal symptoms, such as, pain, or nausea. Stoke symptoms include one sided weakness, confusion, slurred speech, and facial drooping. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 first, the operator might ask you to take the aspirin. If you think you are having a stroke do Not take an aspirin. Strokes can be caused by bleeding in the brain, and aspirin can worsen the bleeding.

Please seek immediate medical attention if you have an allergic reaction, stools are black or bloody, vomit or cough up blood, there if blood is in your urine or you feel shortness of breath.

Walk! It Is Good for Your Heart

Walking is an intrinsic human function that serves many roles. First of all, it helps clear the mind, pace the thoughts and calm us down. Second, it is a great exercise that helps tone the legs, shed extra weight, improve lung ventilation and overall health. It is also a great way to reduce the risk of heart disease. It temporarily quickens the heart rate, increasing blood circulation through the body and bringing more oxygen to other organs. At the same time, walking increases the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen from the air, lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Walking can help slow down the aging process and it works no matter what age you get started. It is low impact, requires no special equipment or skills and can be done at any time of the day and at your own pace. Moreover, you can walk without worrying about the risks usually associated with some vigorous forms of exercise.

When we walk, we carry our own body weight. It is called weight-bearing exercise and some of its benefits are:

  • Increased heart and lung fitness
  • Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Improved management of hypertension, diabetes, muscular and joint stiffness
  • Improved blood lipid profile
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Reduced body fat.

To get overall as well as the heart health benefits, it is necessary to walk at least 30 minutes per day as briskly as possible. Briskly means that you can still talk, but can be slightly puffing. It doesn’t even have to be non-stop; three ten-minute walks a day will work as efficiently too. You will help lower blood pressure and strengthen the heart just by walking regularly. Therefore, try to make walking your daily routine by:

  • Taking the stairs and avoiding elevator
  • Getting off public transport one or two stops earlier and walking to the final destination (home or work)
  • Walking, not driving, to the local shops
  • Walking your children to school
  • Parking your car further from your destination.

As it has been mentioned, regular walking triggers anti-aging processes and also helps repair old DNA. In order to stay motivated, walk with friends or co-workers at lunch, walk your or your neighbor’s dog, join a walking club, use a pedometer or your phone app to measure the number of steps made per day and start increasing it gradually. It is recommended to start off with 2, 000 steps and work toward the 5, 000-step goal. Once you’ve met the desired goal, you may just want to maintain your fitness level or set a goal of 10, 000 steps. Remember, even a little walking is good, but more is better.

However, put your safety first. If the weather is harsh and the streets are slippery, you’d better walk in a mall, down long hallways or on the stairs.

Is Running Good for Your Heart?

It is needless to say that running, as well as any other regular endurance exercise, changes the heart. Being a muscular organ, the heart, like all muscles in the body, adapts to the stress of exercise. The question is whether these adaptations are good for the heart or not.

The WHO recommends adults to moderately exercise for 150 minutes or intensely for 75 minutes weekly. They say running can help prevent obesity, high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes and stroke, and improve the quality of emotional and mental wellbeing. It also helps to live longer.

Of course, running regularly cannot make us immortal, but it is effective at extending life expectancy. Several studies found that a mere 5 to 10 minutes of running a day, reduces the risk of heart disease and premature mortality from all causes.

A routine of regular running is highly effective in prevention of many chronic conditions, cardiovascular diseases, and improves heart health. However, long-term excessive endurance exercise, such as running in marathons, can cause pathologic structural remodeling of the heart and large arteries.

Since human body is not meant for running long distances, excessive running can be dangerous for the heart. Instead of steady state movement, our bodies are made to do physical activity in bursts of exertion followed by recovery. In fact, almost most sports are based on stop-and-go movements, and statistics suggests that physical variability is one of the most important things to consider in running.

Physical variability is also important from the point of view of internal effects on the body. Excessive steady state endurance exercises increase the production of free radicals in the body, reduce immune function, degenerate joints, cause muscle wasting and pro-inflammatory response in the body that can result in heart attack and chronic diseases. Besides damage to all the organs in the body, free radicals damage the skin and make us look older.

Running is like a coin which has two sides, and if done improperly, it can have severe consequences. If you overdo high intensity exercise, engaging in prolonged sessions daily and over-working your body, you put yourself at risk of lowering immunity response and injuries. On the other hand, when we run, the heart beats faster as the activity strengthens it. With regular running, the resting heart rate gets lower, which extends the heart’s life.

So, how much running is good for the heart? Aim at daily exercise, performing different activities to maintain challenge and to dodge overuse injuries. Run several miles a week and aim at 9 minute per mile pace. Introduce running slowly, building up your muscles and speed gradually. Mind signals from your body. If you have any discomfort, back off and search medical evaluation.