Tuesday, 22 September 2009
BBRAeNEWS No.238 - BBRA's A Doctor's Corner - Final Part 5.
This is the final part 5 of Heart Health.
Supplementing Your Heart Health: Omega-3, Plant Sterols, and More 5
If you have high cholesterol, or if you're at high risk for heart disease and heart attack, some supplements can help lower your cholesterol.
Lifestyle Solutions for Healthy Hearts
Supplements are no panacea. If you use them, use them in connection with proven lifestyle habits that benefit the heart -- and with medications prescribed by your doctor.
After all, a bad diet and an inactive lifestyle are the biggest risk factors for heart disease. Making changes to improve your lifestyle can make a big difference.
Food is medicine: "Food comes first," says Guarneri. "There are reams of research showing that the Mediterranean diet -- high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, wine, and fatty fish -- help decrease blood pressure and stroke." It's possible to reduce heart-related events (like heart attack) by 50% to 60% by following this type of diet, she adds.
One long-term study of 15,700 adults found these four factors were the most important:
· Eating five fruits and vegetables daily
· Walking or getting other exercise for at least 2.5 hours weekly
· Keeping BMI (body mass index) out of the obese range
· Don't smoke
Salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and other omega-3 fatty fish should be staples, she says.
Daily exercise is a must: The Clinical Council on Cardiology advises 40 minutes to one hour of aerobic activity every day and strength training three days a week.
A 2002 study showed that more intense exercise works better than moderate exercise in reducing cholesterol. The study involved sedentary, overweight men and women -- all with mild-to-moderately high cholesterol -- who did not change their diet. Researchers found that those who got moderate exercise (12 miles of walking or jogging a week) lowered their LDL levels, but those who did more vigorous exercise -- jogging 20 miles a week -- got even better LDL results.
Stress reduction is key: Stress increases cortisol (a hormone), which puts fat on the midline -- which increases heart risks. Stress also produces inflammation that leads to increased plaque in blood vessels, Guarneri explains. Two stress hormones -- adrenaline and norepinephrine -- raise cholesterol, blood pressure, and cause heart rhythm problems. They also constrict coronary arteries, cause blood pressure to go up. When we're under stress, our ability to fight infection is reduced.
"We have to factor in true mind-body-spirit approaches -- eating right, exercising, taking steps to reduce stress and anger," she says.
While any type of meditation is helpful, Guarneri advises using transcendental meditation. "It is well studied; there is a lot of research showing that it decreases blood pressure and improves insulin resistance. I also encourage people to look into computer programs that teach biofeedback -- helping people control their autonomic nervous system. Healing Rhythms and HeartMath are two biofeedback programs."
"It's all about lifestyle," she says. "It's not only what you eat, but who you're eating with. If you're in a bad relationship, you can eat all the Brussels sprouts in the world and it won't help your heart."