When you think about it, our hearts are remarkable: beating tirelessly throughout our lives, without our even being aware of it. As a medical student in anatomy lab, I remember being awed by the architecture of the human heart. The heart’s four chambers, specialized valves, and delicate chordae tendineae holding the valves in place are amazing to behold.
The fetal development of the human heart is a wondrous, complex process. The cardiovascular system is the first system to function in the embryo; blood begins to circulate by the end of the third week of pregnancy. By the ninth week of pregnancy the fetal heart beat is audible by ultrasound. Think of it! Our hearts all began this way. Given such a magnificent beginning, it is a pity some of us do not take better care of our hearts. Today heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. Are you taking care of your heart?
The seven major risks are:
- High blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm/Hg.
- High cholesterol. Total cholesterol should be 200 mg/dl with LDL cholesterol 130 mg/dl or less. If you have other risks factors, your LDL should be 100 mg/dl. The HDL cholesterol protects us by recycling cholesterol back to the liver for processing, so that number needs to be high: 65 mg/dl or more for females and 50 mg/dl or more for males.
- Inflammation, if it is chronic, is a risk. High sensitivity C-reactive protein is a laboratory measurement of chronic inflammation. It is even more important than cholesterol numbers in determining risk. Fifty percent of individuals who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol profiles. Inflammation is associated with abdominal fat.
- Diabetes is a risk. If you have gained weight and are having difficulty losing it, I suggest that you ask your doctor to measure fasting insulin and hemoglobin A1C, these tests will determine if you are in the pre-diabetes range. This is important because we can treat you so that you do not progress into the diabetes stage.
- Stress is part of life. But internalizing stress injures every system of the body. Stress lowers estrogen and testosterone and can inhibit LH in females, resulting in infertility. Stress impairs memory. The stress hormone, cortisol, raises insulin levels and blood pressure levels. Stress can bring about a heart attack.
- Weight. Health and weight are closely linked. As the Nurses Health Study showed adult weight gain increases risk proportionately; the more weight gained, the higher the risk.
- Waist size is even more important than weight. Your waist should be less than 40” for a male and less than 35” for a female. Landmarks for measuring are: on the side of your body, midway between the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your lowest rib. A larger waist size is indicative of visceral fat. Visceral fat causes inflammation within the body cavity.
What to do:
The good news is all the risks can be addressed through lifestyle changes. Daily exercise, a healthy diet, and weight loss are the answers. I promise you that these work, as hundreds of patients will attest. But I also realize that change can be difficult. That is where I can help you. Here is what you need to do:
- Plan ahead. Gaining weight is easy, what we must watch out for are easily digested sugary snacks. No more packaged junk! Plan ahead for the afternoon energy drop by bringing a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts to work or as your plane snack.
- Exercise every single day. Physical exercise causes the heart to pump blood, supplying blood to your exercising muscles. When you are exercising the heart will beat 2-3 times more than when you are just sitting quietly. And as you become conditioned by exercise, your heart muscle becomes stronger, enabling it to expel blood with more force. This is called “contractility” and refers to the force the heart expends. We measure this important feature of heart strength on the echo cardiogram. The Nurses Health Study followed 70,000 women aged 40-65 for 8 years and showed that the more active women had a lower body weight, lower blood pressure, better cholesterol profiles and lower rates of diabetes. Here’s the great part: Vigorous exercise was not necessary for lower heart disease rates. Walking lowered risk. Time spent walking but not the pace independently predicted lower risk. My recommendation is 1 hour daily, but even 30 minutes is good; but do it daily.
- Eat a lean plant-based diet with protein at each meal. Be sure to include leafy greens daily as a salad or cooked. Start your day with protein. The AHA recommends fish twice per week.
- Omega 3 fat is crucial for heart health. Omega 3 is found in the bodies of fish. If you do not like fish, I suggest that you take omega 3 capsules of DHA and EPA daily. Everyday Nutrition shakes contain 700 mg of omega 3.
To encourage you to eat better and lose weight I would like to offer you a 20% discount on Everyday Nutrition shakes for Valentines Day.
Enter Coupon Code: VALENTINE
Please place your order before February 16. Give your heart and the hearts of your loved ones Everyday Nutrition shakes.