According to the CDC, heart disease was the number one killer in the USA in 2020. To be more precise, of the top three killers for that year ischemic heart disease (coronary artery disease) was the world’s biggest killer and was responsible for 16% of the world’s total deaths Besides keeping your LDL cholesterol within the recommended limits, watching your weight, and not smoking, what else can you do to preserve your heart’s health?
Enjoy a Well-Balanced, Plant-Based Diet
A previous meta-analysis of 20 studies found that consumption of processed meats is associated with a 42% increased risk for coronary disease and a 19% increased risk for diabetes.1.
Other studies showed that people who consumed the Prudent diet of more fruits and vegetables had a 30 percent lower risk of heart attack compared to people who ate little or no fruits and vegetables. People who consumed the Western diet had a 35 percent greater risk of having a heart attack compared to people who consumed little or no fried foods and meat. The Oriental pattern (higher intake of tofu, soy, and sauces) showed no relationship with heart attack risk. 2
Similarly, other researchers showed that compared with a control group, the plant-based diet group had a 73% decrease in coronary events and a 70% decrease in all-cause mortality.3
Watch Your Vitamins B-12 & D Levels
Be sure to keep your vitamin B-12 and vitamin D levels in the normal range, not low or low normal range. Why? Deficiency in these vitamins pushes inflammation inside the arteries including the coronary arteries. Vitamin B-12 and vitamin D deficiencies are common in vegans and vegetarians. Therefore, vegans and vegetarians are at risk for cardiovascular disease if their B12 is not in a good range.4 5
Seriously Restrict Sugar & Refined Carbs
A vegetarian diet that is high in sugar, saturated or hydrogenated fats, and refined carbohydrates does not confer any cardiovascular benefit. Not all carbs are bad for the heart. A high intake of whole grains has been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and obesity.6.
Added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup, have been found to cause a 3-fold increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.7 Liberal sugar consumption, even for a few weeks, has been shown to cause numerous abnormalities found in patients with coronary artery disease, elevated total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, oxidized LDL, uric acid, insulin resistance and abnormal glucose tolerance, low HDL, and altered platelet function. 8 Each one of these is a risk factor for coronary artery disease.
Use dried fruits or a little honey to replace sugar. Eliminate soft drinks. Remember, fruit juice is a refined carb, so go easy on the juice. The whole fruit is much better than juice because it has useful phytochemicals and more fiber.
Love Your Heart Through Exercise!
Regular exercise increases the number of mitochondria in the heart muscle and slows the resting heart rate. Two-thirds of nourishment to the heart occurs between beats. Moderate, daily exercise helps prevent undesirable clot formation by reducing fibrinogen and increasing fibrinolysin. Fibrinogen is a protein involved in clotting. Fibrinolysin breaks apart tiny clots so that they don’t get bigger. 80% of heart attacks occur due to clots clogging the arteries (usually with atherosclerosis present).
Moderation is important. Extreme (exhaustive) exercise depletes antioxidants in the myocardium (especially in untrained individuals) and increases one’s chance for undesirable clotting. 9 Moderate and vigorous exercise serves as an antioxidant to the heart muscle as well as to the lungs and kidneys.10 Regular moderate-to-high-intensity exercise in brief intervals also helps to improve the antioxidant status of a person.11 12.
During exercise, it is especially important for physically unfit persons to always balance oxygen demand with oxygen supply. If a person is short of breath or is unable to carry on a conversation while he walks, he needs to slow down or stop until his breathing is normal. Exercise increases oxygen demand and coronary artery disease decreases the oxygen supply to the myocardium. When oxygen demands exceed oxygen supply, serious problems can result. Therefore, when walking fast or uphill, those with this disease will likely experience ischemic pain. Ischemic pain is caused by insufficient blood going to a muscle.
Get Some Sunshine Exposure
Get enough vitamin D. Recent studies also show that vitamin D deficiency is linked to more serious health risks such as coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and strokes. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is an independent risk factor for heart disease. Lower levels of vitamin D have been linked with greater severity of coronary artery disease.13
Morning exposure to sunlight and total darkness in the night increase the level of melatonin. This valuable hormone acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and helps to protect our cardiovascular system. There is some evidence that melatonin decreases cholesterol levels by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis and accumulation.14
Get Enough Quality Sleep
Too little sleep takes a toll on your heart. Short-term sleep deprivation (even without caffeine and in the context of 24-hour shifts) can lead to a significant increase in cardiac contractility, blood pressure, and heart rate in healthy adults. Sleep deprivation increases cortisol levels. When the cortisol level goes up, the body’s ability to make protein goes down. 15
Peace of Mind, Not Pieces of Your Mind!
Anger makes the heart work harder. Researchers from the University of Sydney showed that the risk of a heart attack is 8.5 times higher in the two hours following a burst of intense anger.1617 Impatience is a shade of anger. Time urgency impatience is a definite risk factor for developing hypertension. One study found that young adults who scored highest on the impatience scale had an 84 percent higher risk of developing high blood pressure than those who scored the lowest. Remember this caveat: Cardiovascular disease also lowers a person’s threshold for irritability and anger.18 For helpful information on anger management, see the following links:
Get Help for Depression
Depression is an independent factor for heart disease. A Danish study showed a highly significant 70% increase in myocardial infarction (heart attack) and a 60% increase in all-cause mortality at a follow-up study 17 years later.19 Major depression disorder increases pro-inflammatory and pro-clotting agents in the body, increasing the risk for cardiovascular diseases.20
Many of the lifestyle practices that improve heart health will also effectively help mild depression. For serious or reoccurring depression, cognitive behavioral therapy from a mental health professional can help.
You can improve your heart health:
- Eating a well-balanced diet.
- Predominately whole food, plant-based diet.
- Seriously limiting refined carbs.
- Engaging in regular vigorous exercise and good quality of sleep.
- Getting adequate sun exposure.
- Taking care of your mental health.
- Keeping in contact with your health care provider who will prescribe additional evaluation, interventions, and counseling.
The Wildwood Lifestyle Center specializes in Reversing Type 2 Diabetes, reducing elevated cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, and other chronic conditions. Check us out at https://wildwoodhealth.com/programs/disease-reversal/ .
© 2023, Wildwood Sanitarium. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
- Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Circulation. 2010 Jun 1; 121(21): 2271–2283. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2885952/
- American Heart Association. “‘Western’ Diet Increases Heart Attack Risk Globally.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2008.((Micha, Renata et al. “Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Circulation vol. 121,21 (2010): 2271-83. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2885952/
- Tuso P, Stoll SR, Li WW. A plant-based diet, atherogenesis, and coronary artery disease prevention. Perm J. 2015;19(1):62-67. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315380/
- Ibrahim Elmadfa, Ingrid Singer, Vitamin B-12 and homocysteine status among vegetarians: a global perspective, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 5, May 2009, Pages 1693S–1698S, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736Y
- Kapoor A, Serum homocysteine level in vegetarians in District Tharparker, Sindh. Pak J Med Sci. 2015;31(1):127-130. doi:10.12669/pjms.311.6111
- Aune, Dagfinn et al. “Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 353 i2716. 14 Jun. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4908315/
- DiNicolantonio JJ. The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar-Related to Coronary Heart Disease. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 2015; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4856550/
- Elsevier. “Sugar consumption plays a greater role in heart disease than saturated fat.” ScienceDaily, 13 January 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160113103318.htm↩
- Tofas T, Exercise-Induced Regulation of Redox Status in Cardiovascular Diseases: The Role of Exercise Training and Detraining. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;9(1):13. Published 2019 Dec 23. doi:10.3390/antiox9010013
- Narasimhan M, R. Exercise, Nrf2 and Antioxidant Signaling in Cardiac Aging. Front Physiol. 2016; 7:241. Published 2016 Jun 17. doi:10.3389/fphys.2016.00241
- Paes L. Effects of moderate and high intensity isocaloric aerobic training upon microvascular reactivity and myocardial oxidative stress in rats. Plos One. February 7, 2020
- Parker L., Influence of exercise intensity on systemic oxidative stress and antioxidant capacity. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2014 Sep;34(5):377-83
- Intermountain Medical Center. “Specific vitamin D levels linked to heart problems.” ScienceDaily. 9 November 2015.
- Ozkalayci F. Relationship Between Melatonin and Cardiovascular Disease. Cureus. January 27. 2021. https://www.cureus.com/articles/47653-relationship-between-melatonin-and-cardiovascular-disease
- Radiological Society of North America. “Short-term sleep deprivation affects heart function.” Science Daily, 2 December 2016. IA) study. JAMA. 2003 Oct 22; 290(16):2138-48.
- The activation of sympathetic nerves and the acute surge of epinephrine contribute to this elevated risk.((Tofler GH et al. Triggering of acute coronary occlusion by episodes of anger. European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care. February 2015 DOI: 10.1177/2048872615568969
- Buckley, T., et al. (2015). Triggering of acute coronary occlusion by episodes of anger. Eur Heart J Acute Cardiovasc Care, 4 (6), pp. 493-8.
- Yan LL. Psychosocial factors and risk of hypertension: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. JAMA. 2003 Oct 22; 290(16):2138-48.
- Barefoot JC, Schroll M. Symptoms of depression, acute myocardial infarction, and total mortality in a community sample. Circulation. 1996 Jun 1;93(11):1976-80.
- Brouwers C. Positive affect dimensions and their association with inflammatory biomarkers in patients with chronic heart failure. Biol Psychol. 2013 Feb;92(2):220-6.