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  • Niki Randolph MS, CISSN

Is Heart Health on Your Mind?

It’s American Heart Month, making February the perfect time to raise awareness about heart health.

Did you know that 1 in 4 people die of heart disease each year? That’s approximately 610,000 people! Yet, despite these grim statistics there is a silver lining - heart disease is largely preventable.


Our everyday diet and lifestyle choices help shape our heart health outcome.


When it comes to nutrition, a heart healthy dietary pattern encompasses more than just a single nutrient or particular food group. Whole-foods rich in fiber, healthy fat, lean protein, un-refined complex carbohydrates, and powerful antioxidants work together to create a heart healthy foundation.



A Closer Look:

Heart Healthy Foods and Nutrients


Cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and tuna are packed full of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association, consuming 2 servings of fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, per week, can reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack. The cardiovascular benefits of omega-3's are attributed to their anti-inflammatory properties, their ability to reduce triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, and reduce cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). Walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds are excellent plant-based sources of healthy fatty acids like omega-3's.


Nitrates found in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and chard enhance nitric oxide production that improves endothelial function and lowers blood pressure. Better still, leafy greens are loaded with antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress and DNA damage.

Vibrant colored berries contain potent antioxidants called anthocyanins. They have the ability to change markers of health and function of the vascular endothelium (the cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels). In one study researchers found that after 8 weeks of consuming a freeze-dried blueberry powder, 48 post-menopausal women had lower blood pressure and improved arterial stiffness.


High-fiber foods like beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains help fuel a high-fiber diet that can significantly lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.


Combined with an active lifestyle, adequate rest, proper hydration, and enjoying meals with family and friends, the combinations of these healthy foods and nutrients can make a big impact on your heart health!


Give your heart a little love this month and every month.


References:

American Heart Association. (2017). Fish and omega-3 fatty acids. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids


Anderson, J. W., Baird, P., Davis, R. H., Ferreri, S., Knudtson, M, Koraym, A., et al. (2009). Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition Reviews, 67(4), 188-205.


Bondonno, C. P., Yang, X., Croft, K. D., Considine, M. J., Ward, N. C., Rich, L., et al. (2012). Flavonoid-rich apples and nitrate-rich spinach augment nitric oxide status and improve endothelial function in healthy men and women: a randomized controlled trial. Free Radical Biology & Medicine, 52(1), 95-102.


Fairlie-Jones, L., Davison, K., Fromentin, E., & Hill, A. M. (2017). The effect of anthocyanin-rich foods or extracts on vascular function in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Nutrients, 9 (908), 2 of 23.


Johnson, S. A., Figueroa, A., Navaei, N., Wong, A., Kalfon, R., Ormsbee L. T., et al. (2015). Daily blueberry consumption improves blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(3), 369-377.


von Schacky, C., & Harris, W. S. (2007). Cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Cardiovascular Research, 73(2), 310-315.



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