In celebration of our annual “snuggle day” on the 14th, February is considered “Heart Health” month. However, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our hearts are in need of our loving attention all year through. Some dismal facts to report in this area are as follows:
- Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for our population, with more than half of deaths occurring in men.
- 1 in every 4 deaths a year in Americans is due to heart disease (about 600,000 Americans), with coronary heart disease the most common type (385,000 deaths a year)
- In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds.
- Coronary heart disease management costs $108.9 billion each year, which includes medical care, pharmaceuticals, and lost productivity (1,2).
There are two caveats to be taken into account with the above statistics:
- Some ethnic variations exist. Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders and American Indians or Alaska Natives are the only racial population where heart disease is second only to cancer (1, 2).
- It is also important to note that women have different symptoms for heart disease risk. For example, the Associated Press just released a report issued by the American Heart Disease Association stating that just as women differ in symptoms of heart attack, their risk of stroke is related to birth control use, pregnancy, depression and other unique female factors (3).
Ok, now the good news.
There is so much we can do to prevent heart disease and promote heart happiness. For example, lifestyle factors are the most effective means to support our cardiovascular system. (Remember, the statin commercials’ blurb: “when diet and lifestyle aren’t enough…..take this drug…”?)
In fact, you can control your risk for heart disease by:
1. Eating a healthy diet
3. Avoiding alcohol and smoking
These factors alone can ultimately prevent diabetes and obesity, the last of the factors related to cardiovascular disease.
Other major factors in heart health risk are:
1. Modulating the stress response
2. Healthy emotions
3. Our social connections- isolation is actually the number one predictor of cardiovascular death
Speaking of social connection, I have a new artist for my website posts. Do you like the drawing you see, it’s my niece’s creative genius. She’s only four!
Below I provided some updated information to further support the that what we choose to put on our fork and how choose to live our life has positive (or negative) effects on cardiovascular health.
Let’s focus on the positive though; it’s better for our heart!
Sweet Thoughts for Happy Hearts
According to Dr. Northrup,
Studies show that a happy person with a positive attitude and a rich, rewarding life will have better heart health than someone with the opposite personality traits—even if the happy, positive person eats a poor diet or has some unhealthy lifestyle habits.
She links this connection to an increase in nitric oxide, produced from these pleasurable thoughts. Higher nitric oxide modulates cardiovascular health and in turn increases serotonin and beta-endorphins.
Furthermore, if you up these feel good hormones naturally, then you won’t turn to sugar, which can trump heart happiness (4, 5). For example, an analysis of over 30,000 Americans’ diets from 1988 and 2010 reported that those who ate lots of added sugar had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, regardless of their weight (5).
Antioxidants and Heart Promotion
Now, here’s some yummy news about what to eat for heart health and lifespan. Consider consuming lots of flavonols, which are found in virtually all fruits and vegetables and sprinkling in lignans, found in flax seeds. Read why below.
Antioxidants and Heart Risk
Data from part of the international PREDIMED – Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranean – project (Tresserra-Rimbau A et al. 2014) that included 7,172 particpants found that:
1. The highest intake of flavonol-type antioxidants from the polyphenol family was linked to a 60 percent decrease risk of heart attack, stroke, or cardiac-related death.
2. The highest consumption of lignans had a 49 percent decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.
Antioxidants and Lifespan
A research study was done comparing urinary analysis and health records of polyphenol intake across 807 subjects who were aged 65 or over (Zamora-Ros R et al. 2013) over 12 years. Those with the highest polyphenol intakes had a 30 percent reduction in risk of death (6-8).
So, the good news is we have the power to choose to give our cardiovascular system some tender-lovin’ care. This can be done by replacing some of our not-so-healthy habits and thought patterns and substituting them with yummy, healthy foods, healthy relationships, and positive emotions.
Essential Oil Highlight Tip for Heart Health
Reduce stress and help lower blood pressure with ylang ylang essential oil.
In a study with forty volunteers, those who applied ylang ylang essential oil reported that they felt more relaxed and calmer than the comparison group. Their blood pressure also dropped more than the control group (9).
(1) Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heart Disease Facts. cdc.gov. Accessed February 10, 2014.
(2) Ibid: Heart Disease Fact Sheet
(3) Marchione, M. First Guidelines Issued to Prevent Stroke in Women. Associated Press. February 6, 2014.
(4) Dr. Christiane Northrup. Savoring the Sweet Life – Without the Sugar. drnorthrup.com. February 3, 2014.
(5) SFG.Sugar linked to fatal heart woes. Associated Press. February 3, 2014.
(6) Wetherby, C. Food Antioxidants May Help Hearts, Extend Lives. Vital Choice Newsletter.February 3, 2014.
(7) Tresserra-Rimbau, A et al. on behalf of the PREDIMED Study Investigators. Inverse association between habitual polyphenol intake and incidence of cardiovascular events in the PREDIMED study. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases (abstract). Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2013.12.014
(8) Zamora-Ros R, Rabassa M, Cherubini A, Urpí-Sardà M, Bandinelli S, Ferrucci L, Andres-Lacueva C. High concentrations of a urinary biomarker of polyphenol intake are associated with decreased mortality in older adults (abstract). J Nutr. 2013 Sep;143(9):1445-50. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.177121. Epub 2013 Jun 26.
(9) Hongratanaworakit, T & Buchbauer, G. Relaxing effect of ylang ylang oil on humans after transdermal absorption (abstract). Phytother Res. 2006 Sep;20(9):758-63.