The past year my mother has gone through quite a few cardiovascular issues. It has definitely opened my eyes to my own health path. Why is this important? Genetics play an important role in how your personal health plan may work out. As they say, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! Knowing what your predecessors experienced can give you an indication of certain dis-ease that can be waiting for you AND what you can do to avoid this path!
With my recent blood test of high cholesterol + my mother’s fight with myocardial infarction = HEART HEALTH ALERT!
If you think heart disease is something that only happens to older people.
Heart disease isn’t even just ONE condition, but is a group of conditions with many different root causes. Let's take a quick look!
There are 4 major types of of heart disease:
Coronary Artery and Vascular disease
Due to the hardening of the arteries, caused by high cholesterol and plaque build up on the arteries. This is the most common type of heart disease and the cause of most heart attacks. Vascular disease restricts the amount of blood flow through the arteries and can lead to other symptoms like poor circulation, headaches, water retention, and fatigue.
Heart Rhythm disorders
Also know as arrhythmias, this causes the heart to beat irregularly - too fast, too slow or irregular, which disrupt blood flow and can be a sudden type of heart failure.
Structural Heart disease
Abnormalities of the heart’s physical structure including the valves, walls, muscles or vessels of the heart. These can be present at birth, can be acquired through infection or wear and tear. Heart defects are serious and requires regular medical attention.
A serious condition that develops when the heart has been damaged or weakened. The two most common types of heart failure are heart attacks and high blood pressure. There is no known cure, but early detection and life style changes can help for a long, healthy life.
There are several lifestyle causes of heart disease, which you can change if you want to have a healthy heart.
Some of these are:
High blood pressure
I never liked to run. When I was a child, running laps was my nightmare! So when I use the term “cardiovascular” it brings a little bit of anxiety for me. As an adult, I have pushed myself to increase my cardio. I run 10k races, hike, climb the stairs when I can. It seems like I was constantly out of breath. I would blame it on my VO2 max, but it’s not just that. It is a bit of genetics and a lot of grit.
Getting your heart rate up doesn’t equate to running, but it is one of the easiest activities to do. The important thing here is to have heart rate variability. Making sure that you are going from a stable to a high heart rate (120-140 bpm) is ideal.
Here are some other things you can do:
Callisthenics - jumping jacks, walking lunges, air squats, skipping rope are all great ways to get your heart rate up
Walking uphill/hiking - the incline works different muscle groups and you can easily increase your heart rate. Watch out if you have bad knees. If using a treadmill, put it on max incline and walk for 10 minutes, varying your pace and watch the sweat come.
Sure, I’m a nutritionist but that doesn’t mean I have a perfect diet 100% of the time. I work almost every day, for long hours at a time and it can be challenging to get in the right foods at the right time. So even I end up making bad choices every now and again.
When looking at a heart healthy diet you are really looking at one thing: SATURATED FATS.
Here are my tips to a heart healthy diet:
Avoid packaged food! And that means almost anything that comes in a package. Crackers, cookies, chips, some pastas, any of those “ready to eat” dishes like mac and cheese, side dishes, frozen entrees, things like that. The reason why? All of these “foods” are pre-made with vegetable oils which can increase your cholesterol levels. Don’t look at any of the labels on the front and get reading the back ingredient list! Avoid anything with vegetable oils on the list.