Written by celebrity Doctor, Ross Walker.
Your heart is the most important muscle of the body and it is absolutely crucial you take care of it. Because with without it…well… let’s not go there! We all know that prevention is better than cure and even though there have been many advances in pharmaceutical agents and procedures to treat many aspects of cardiovascular health, the foundation of management is prevention.
There is now a large body of evidence that clearly shows that following lifestyle modification and using other natural supplements can help support and maintain cardiovascular health in the vicinity of 60-70%.
My top ten tips for maintaining heart health.
1. Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. This statement, commonly attributed to the father of medicine, Hippocrates, is as true today as it was 2500 years ago. Nutrition is actually very simple to explain but following good nutritional principles seems very difficult for the vast majority of our population as 70% of males and 50% of females are either overweight or obese.
The most important principle of good nutrition is to cut back on your calories. If you carry more weight than you feel you need to, I would suggest you try to estimate a reduction in calories by about a third.
The foods to avoid most of the time are takeaway foods, processed packaged foods, many bakery items and what I call ‘white death’ – sugar, salt, white bread, rice, pasta and potatoes. The foods to encourage are 2 to 3 pieces of fruit per day and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables per day (a serving is around ½ a carrot as an example). Supplement your fruit and vegetable intake with modest amounts of meat, eggs, dairy, chicken, fish, nuts and olive oil.
Basically, nutrition is eat less and eat more naturally.
2. Movement, movement and more movement. It is my opinion that exercise is the second best drug on the planet. The Walker suggested dose of exercise is 3 to 5 hours of testing exercise per week. Testing exercise is exercise where you feel somewhat hot and short of breath. I would suggest 2/3rds aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, cycling or swimming and 1/3rd strength training.
3. Quit all addictions. You cannot be healthy and smoke, drink too much alcohol or use any illegal drugs. Two to three cups of good quality coffee per day (caffeinated or decaffeinated) - the world’s most common addiction - has been shown to have significant health benefits but any more than regularly ingesting more than four cups of coffee per day has been shown to have no health benefits but can certainly cause marked cardiac irregularities.
4. Low dose alcohol. I would never encourage anyone to drink alcohol but if you do enjoy one to two glasses per day, there is a strong body of evidence showing around a 30% reduction in cardiovascular disease. The best evidence comes from combining red wine with good quality eating such as a Mediterranean diet.
5. Seven to eight hours of good quality sleep every night. In our modern world many people are cutting back on sleep and sleep is a vital part of good health. Recent studies have shown that 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night is as good for your body as not smoking. It is extremely important to develop good, regular sleep habits. Another strong tip is to remove all electronics such as televisions, mobile phones and computers out of the bedroom. The electromagnetic energy transmitted by these devices can certainly be a big sleep disrupter.
6. Happiness – this is what I describe as the best drug on the planet. Numerous studies have clearly demonstrated the benefits of choosing and obtaining happiness on a daily basis. Interestingly, a recent large study known as the UK Million Women study looked at a sub-group of just under ¾ million women followed for ten years with an average age of around 60 that suggested that there was no link between being unhappy, experiencing stress and death from all causes. This flies in the face of numerous other studies which completely disagree with this suggestion. Also, as a clinician, I have been practicing medicine for 35 years and I clearly see a strong link between chronic stress, unhappiness and a variety of different diseases.
7. Depression, anxiety and other related disorders. Many people suffer from these conditions and early recognition and appropriate management is a key step in preventing all forms of cardiovascular disease. There is a very strong link between depression, anxiety states and cardiovascular disease and having appropriate management for these conditions can markedly reduce the risk of associated cardiovascular issues.
8. Learn meditation. There is now a large body of work showing that a regular practice of meditation can reduce cardiovascular risk and death by up to 50%. There are many different forms of meditation and many meditation teachers ready to get you started. The best studied meditation is transcendental meditation.
9. Take daily supplements. My favourite cardiac supplements are a good quality multivitamin containing at least 400mcgs of folic acid, some form of fish or krill oil, a relatively new supplement from Calabrian oranges known as Bergamot and the active form of Coenzyme Q10 – Ubiquinol.
10. Vitamin K2. The new kid on the block which has a growing body of evidence as a significant cardiovascular preventative agent is Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is not only showing promise as an arterial de-calcifier but it may also help in improving osteoporosis.
Maintaining cardiovascular health is not just about taking a pill to lower your cholesterol, blood pressure or taking a daily blood thinner, it’s also about incorporating the regular practice of the above ten tips which gives you the best chance of living a long and healthy life.