There are still incredible statistics relating to poor heart health in Australia. One in six Australians are affected by cardiovascular health issues, accounting for more than 3.7 million Australians. This is astounding given the knowledge we have on nutrition, diet and lifestyle and the health support available to Australians.(1,2)
At the very core of reducing the risk of heart problems, it is crucial to consider the following lifestyle and supplement suggestions that may help you on the path to a healthier cardiovascular system:
Exercise regularly, participate in physical activity such as walking, jogging, swimming etc. for 30 minutes, 4 times a week.
Benefits of Regular Exercise on Cardiovascular Risk Factors include:(3)
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- It may help support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Is essential for the management of blood sugar levels
- There are also physiological benefits of exercise(3)
- Improvements in muscular function and strength
- Improvements in the body's ability to take in and use oxygen around the body, thereby enhancing circulation.
Eat healthy from a variety of fresh foods including fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish to provide the body with essential nutrients for cardiovascular health.Here are a few sites as a guide to making healthier eating choices.
- DASH Diet eating plan
- Heart Foundation, healthy eating
- Eat for Health, a government initiative for Dietary Guidelines in Australia
- CSIRO, total wellbeing diet
Eat a rainbow - ensure your plate for lunch and dinner includes colourful fresh fruits and vegetables www.nutritionaustralia.org
Include good fats in meals daily
- Reduce saturated and trans fats(4) from deep fried foods, cakes and pastries. Avocado, flaxseeds, linseeds as they are excellent sources of good fats.
- Omega 3 fats have been shown to be protective against heart disease as they help lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels, blood triglyceride levels and blood pressure. They contain nutrients EPA and DHA beneficial for heart health.(1) Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are good sources of Omega 3. Research has found that people who have a higher intake of fish have a lower risk of developing heart disease.(5)
Reduce Salt intake because high sodium intake has implications relating to elevated blood pressure.(6, 7)
Reduce Alcohol because it turns to glucose (sugar) in the body and contributes to blood sugar issues and weight gain.
DO NOT smoke as smoking is a major cause of heart problems, causing oxidative stress and inflammation. It also robs the body of essential nutrients needed for a healthy heart. (8,9)
Include a visit to your healthcare practitioner for regular blood pressure checks if you have a family history of heart problems.
What should my Blood Pressure be?
There is no firm rule about what defines high blood pressure (hypertension).
In general, the lower "normal" range in blood pressure is better. The information below is a useful guide.(1)
- Hypotension: below 90/60 mmHg
- Normal: Less than 120/80 mmHg (i.e. systolic blood pressure less than 120 and diastolic blood pressure less than 80 mmHg).
- Pre-hypertension: 120-139/ 80-89 mmHg
- Stage 1 hypertension: 140-159 / 90-99 mmHg
- Stage 2 hypertension: 160 and above / 100 and above
The following herbs have been used in traditional herbal medicine and may contribute to a healthy heart:
Hawthorn Berries - Crataegus laevigata has been used since ancient times to support and maintain the cardiovascular system.Hawthorn supports the flow of blood to the heart muscle, and assists the heart in its action. It also has an effect on the blood vessels of the body, allowing blood to flow more freely and easily. Hawthorn berries are naturally rich in antioxidants OPC and polyphenols helping protect the body against the effects of free radicals.(10)
Olive Leaf extract - Olea europaea has been used for thousands of years in the Mediterranean for medicinal and cooking purposes. The Mediterranean diet, researchers have concluded, incorporates antioxidant compounds such as polyphenols, found in olive leaf that can boost overall health.(10, 11, 12)
- Helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system
- Benefits the immune system
- Is protective against the effects of free radicals
- Contains polyphenols.
Garlic - Allium sativum is best known garlic and used in many cultures as a culinary herb, but it is also a great heart tonic.(10, 13)
- Has antioxidant qualities
- Has anti-inflammatory qualities
- Helps with blood circulation
When combining prescriptive medication with complementary medicines, always seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional.
Love your heart and live a healthier life.