A holistic nutritionist on managing risk of heart attack and heart disease
1. Mind your diet
Heart disease responds well to changes in your lifestyle and what you put in your body. I would ask you to begin a diary or journal of what you’re eating so we could look at what you’re overconsuming or what your diet is missing. To keep your heart healthy, you need to increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Try to work your way up to eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, seven of which should be veggies. Berries are a great option to include because they are full of fibre and antioxidants. Fibre is important because it cleans you from within; if you aren’t getting enough, I’d recommend adding ground flaxseed to your diet (be sure to keep it refrigerated). You’ll want to avoid trans fats and rancid fats (which means those that have oxidized, perhaps because they’ve been stored improperly or cooked at extremely high temperatures, causing them to develop free radicals). Instead, load up on omega-3s from foods like fatty fish, walnuts and organic eggs. Saturated fat shouldn’t be a problem in your diet if you’re eating enough fruits and vegetables — there won’t be room for you to overeat the animal products and processed foods that contain it. I recommend people consume no more than two tablespoons of saturated fat daily. Sugar, on the other hand, is a big concern: People often underestimate the role of sugar and starchy foods on heart disease, but sugar is a major culprit behind the hardening of the arteries.
And here’s what a cardiologist has to say on the same subject: managing heart attack and heart disease risk.
2. Consider supplements
After discussing eating habits, I would check for symptoms of nutrient deficiencies to see if you could benefit from certain supplements. A lot of people who have heart disease in their family have deficiencies in either chromium or choline. Chromium is important for the regulation of blood sugar and the production of insulin. Choline is a mineral that is helpful for splitting up fats. I think everyone should take a whole food multivitamin because most of us aren’t getting the nutrients we need.
3. Manage stress
Reducing stress in your life is also vital. Cortisol causes the heart to pump harder and it makes you hold onto fat in your midsection. Exercise and meditation are great ways to deal with stress, plus exercise is great for your arteries. Some people don’t realize how stressed they are — we’re all good at smiling and getting through the day — but if you often feel irritable or scattered, there’s a good chance you’re feeling pressure. Don’t forget that stress reduction often starts with adequate sleep — you need to be well-rested in order to be able to prioritize exercise and other stress-reducing practices that benefit the heart.
Emily Stott is a registered holistic nutritionist at Ottawa Holistic Wellness.