Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US with about 92 million people being treated for some form of heart/cardiovascular disease. That’s about 29 percent of the population. The good news? Heart disease can often be prevented when healthy choices are made to manage behaviors, factors and symptoms. Heart health is attainable with the right choices!
Heart Attack Symptoms
Not all heart problems give you clear signals that something may be wrong. That is why it is important to know your body and not ignore these symptoms — especially if you are over 60, overweight, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or postmenopausal women.
- Chest Discomfort
It’s the most common sign of heart danger. If you have a blocked artery or are having a heart attack, you may feel pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest.
- Left Arm Pain
Another classic heart attack symptom is pain that radiates down the left side of the body which usually starts from the chest and moves outwards.
- Loss of Balance
Sometimes we lose our balance for a moment but if you suddenly feel unsteady and feel chest discomfort or shortness of breath, this could be a sign of a blood pressure drop because your heart isn’t able to pump effectively.
- Irregular Heart Beat
A racing heart is normal when you are nervous or excited. But if you feel your heart is beating out of time often and for more than a few seconds, this could be a sign of a condition known as atrial fibrillation, a leading cause of stroke and heart disease and you’ll need treatment. Over time, atrial fibrillation can cause the heart to weaken and malfunction.
What is ideal heart health?
Several lifestyle factors and behavior need to be looked at to determine whether you are taking good care of your heart. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), ideal cardiovascular health is defined by the absence of disease and positive health markers in several key areas of your body chemistry and lifestyle. [1,2]
Below are some measurements used to determine cardiovascular health.
Heart Healthy Factors
1. Total cholesterol level below 200 (untreated)
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found in every cell of our bodies and has important natural functions like cognition, digestion and producing hormones but having too much in your body puts you at risk for having a heart attack or stroke. If your body can’t use it, cholesterol builds up in the blood vessels, and causes blockages in the arteries. LDL (low-density lipoproteins) or “bad” cholesterol blocks your blood vessels and increases your risk of heart disease. HDL (high-density lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol helps protect you from heart disease. The higher your HDL, the better and the two together should be below 200.
2. Blood pressure below 120/80 (untreated)
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke by damaging and weakening your brain’s blood vessels, causing them to narrow, rupture or leak. High blood pressure can also cause blood clots to form in the arteries leading to your brain, blocking blood flow and potentially causing a stroke. Maintaining blood pressure around 120/80 without prescription drugs is optimal.
3. Fasting blood sugar below 100
The connection between diabetes and heart disease starts with high blood sugar levels which over time can damage your arteries making them stiff and hard. Your risk of heart disease with diabetes is even higher if you also have a family history of cardiovascular disease or stroke.
Heart Healthy Behaviors
1. Be Smoke-Free
Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health. Smoking increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, which includes coronary heart disease and stroke.
2. Check your BMI (Body Mass Index)
If your BMI is over 30, you are in a physically unhealthy condition, which puts you at risk for not only heart disease but also diabetes, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, and some cancers.
3. Get Enough Exercise
The most effective way to increase heart health is to do some kind of aerobic exercise, which uses large muscle groups in a rhythmic way like walking or bicycling.
4. Manage Stress
Don’t fret over the little things. Learn go of your stressors and what you can’t control. If you let things get the best of you, you may find yourself eating too fast or unhealthy foods, drinking or smoking too much which can all lead to a heart attack.
5. Find quiet time
Slowing things down a notch in every aspect of your life will bring a sense of calmness to your body, mind and spirit. It is helpful to be aware of the physical activities that are driving you, even behaviors such as your eating schedule. Adding some form of meditation or journaling will help rejuvenate your mind and spirit by addressing levels of anxiety and depression, improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.
6. Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
A heart-healthy diet is one that can help lower cholesterol, control your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and maintain a healthy weight—while simultaneously improving your mood and outlook. Instead of saturated fats and fried foods, processed foods, packaged meals, and sugary snacks build your diet around fresh, natural whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and fiber. 
Heart Healthy Diet
Eating whole foods that are closer to their natural form can make a huge difference. Read on to see what heart-healthy foods you should aim to eat to stay healthy and improve your heart health.
- fish high in omega-3’s and wild caught, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and trout.
- vegetables that include all the colors of the rainbow such as the red, yellow veggies like tomatoes, broccoli, and spinach.
- fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, and cantaloupe are high in antioxidants, beta-carotene, potassium and magnesium.
- nuts like as walnuts and almonds
- berries such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries.
- dark chocolate
- red grapes
- olive oil
- oatmeal (the slow cooking kind)
- flaxseeds and chia seeds
- olive oil (the real stuff that is extra-virgin)
- red wine
- green tea
Check out this online site to get a complete shopping list of foods to keep your ticker happy. 
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Heart Health Supplements
I’d like to share some unique supplements that have lots of science backing their effectiveness. First, it is important to understand the connection between Homocysteine and B Vitamins.
What is homocysteine?
Homocysteine, a substance we all produce from an amino acid (a building block of protein) in food was linked to heart disease as far back as 1969 when a study found that high levels cause premature hardening of the arteries and inflammation. But the studies also show that the cause of heart attack or stroke is not because of the homocysteine itself.
If you are healthy, the homocysteine made in your body is converted into amino acids that do no harm. This is accomplished with the help of the B vitamins–B-6, B-12 and, probably most important, natural folate. If the conversion does not take place quickly enough, due to a genetic defect or vitamin deficiency, elevated levels of homocysteine may damage arterial walls and promote the buildup of cholesterol, potentially leading to arterial blockage and a heart attack.
So, clearly maintaining a healthy homocysteine level and conversion pathway is important. I often recommend Homocysteine Supreme™ which contains synergistic nutrients‚ including a blend of naturally-occurring folates‚ known to facilitate the efficient metabolism of homocysteine.
Next — Have you heard of taurine? Surprisingly many of my patients have not when I mention it. Taurine is an amino acid that is absolutely essential for heart function. Low taurine levels might be a sign that your homocysteine is too high. Taking Taurine capsules is a great way to get effective doses usually found in mainly in meat and seafood. If you are a vegetarian, you may not be getting enough taurine.
Coenzyme Q10 also known as CoQ10 is beneficial for heart health by helping maintain the normal oxidative state of LDL cholesterol, helping assure good circulation, and supporting optimal functioning of the heart muscle. It is found in high concentration in heart muscle cells and a deficiency has been noted in cardiovascular problems including angina, arrhythmia, heart failure and high blood pressure. Not all CoQ10 products are the same. My favorite choice is Q-Evail™ which offers 100mg of highly bioavailable ubiquinone coenzyme in easy-to-swallow softgels.
Another interesting formula I am excited about for heart health is HTN Complex™ created to help maintain normal blood pressure levels. It contains Hawthorn Extract and Pomegranate which are both important ingredients included for their antioxidant activity, cardioprotective properties and promotion of normal vascular tone.
Keep in mind that only a comprehensive program of all the things I have mentioned can prevent heart disease. Regular checkups for blood pressure and blood cholesterol are important, too as is taking time out for self-care and some fun with family and friends.
Don’t wait to become a statistic and get started on your path to a healthy heart which in turn will reflect some wonderful and positive effects on the rest of your body. I am here to help so CONTACT me today.
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1. Harvard.edu: Heart Health.
2. American Heart Association: Definition of Cardiovascular Health.
3. Healthgov.com: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 Edition.
4. Health Finder.gov: Heart-Healthy Foods: Shopping list.
5. American Heart Association: The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.
6. Heart Foundation: Your heart.