Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the leading causes of death in Canadians. The risk of developing CVD can be significantly reduced or even prevented if we educate ourselves and others to recognize the warning signs and follow the right footsteps towards a healthier life.
In order to understand how to prevent CVD, we first must understand what it is and how it affects our body.
4 Categories of CVD:
1. Atherosclerosis: an accumulation of cholesterol and platelets which form plaques that plug arteries and prevent blood flow.
2. Arteriosclerosis: calcification and hardening of the arteries.
3. Myocardial infarction: death of heart tissue due to insufficient oxygen flow to the heart (often related to atherosclerosis and usually preceded by angina or pain in the chest).
4. Cerebrovascular Accident or Stroke: loss of brain function due to either ischemia (no blood flow) or hemorrhage (bleeding) in the brain.
There are large influential factors that can contribute to the development of CVD. The best part is, you can control and reverse these effects, before its too late. Here are two of the largest contributors:
Excess simple carbohydrates (refined sugar, packaged snacks and deserts) act like razor blades on the arteries creating microscopic tears which need to be repaired. As fat floats through your body it binds to these areas to heal them. Unfortunately, with many tears comes many fat molecules and over time, these can build up and lead to atherosclerosis. Diets high in excess fats such as saturated, trans, and “animal fats” have been shown to increase LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and stick to the arteries better than good fats, such as Omega 3 fatty acids.
It is important to increase your vegetable protein consumption and reduce animal protein intake by replacing saturated and trans fats with essential fatty acids from cold water fish (such as Omega 3’s, nuts and seeds). Replace simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, sprouted grains and avoid candy and excess sugar. Choose bright coloured fruits and veggies, which are high in flavonoids and keep harmful oxidation low in your blood vessels.
Some heart healthy foods include:
- Walnuts: decrease inflammation in arteries of the heart.
- Black beans: high in folate and antioxidants that lower blood pressure and are also high in fiber that lower cholesterol and maintain blood sugar
- Almonds: high in plant sterols, calcium, and fiber and may reduce bad LDL cholesterol.
Sedentary lifestyle, as well as exposure to environmental toxins and heavy metals also increase your risk. Smoking greatly increases your risk of developing CVD.
Tip: Avoid smoking and exposure to environmental toxins, reduce stress levels and exercise regularly 3-5 times a week
Make sure to discuss these factors with your doctor, as heart disease is largely preventable and it is important to find the right program for you.