Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are our nation’s No. 1 killer. Heart disease has probably already touched you or someone you know. Since 1963, Congress has established February as “American Heart Month.” From arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, high cholesterol, congenital heart defects, heart attack and heart failure, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, peripheral artery disease, and even stroke, cardiovascular diseases may be prevented.
Smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight or obese and physical inactivity are some of the risk factors associated with heart disease. Go to http://bit.ly/aXyxwU for a free heart attack risk assessment from the American Heart Association.
What can you do to prevent heart disease? Sure, so-called “heart healthy” foods can help. Hours and hours of cardio and losing weight also help. But these are only the tip of the prevention iceberg and don’t come close to truly controlling, stopping or preventing heart disease.
Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, recently suggested five strategies to help prevent heart disease, based on his research. These five tips may seem extreme, but heart disease is a killer. Here’s what Dr. Davis suggests:
1. Eliminate wheat from your diet. That is, eliminate wheat if you want to reduce LDL, triglycerides, increase HDL, reduce inflammation measures such as C-reactive protein, lose weight, decrease blood sugar and lower blood pressure. This is the peak dietary strategy with more positive consequence than almost anything else you can do.
2. Achieve a desirable 25-hydroxy level of vitamin D. Without side effects, vitamin D supplementation increases HDL, reduces LDL, can help normalize insulin, reduce blood sugar, reduce blood pressure and also has very potent anti-inflammatory effects.
3. Supplement omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce triglycerides, accelerate postprandial (after-meal) clearance of lipoprotein byproducts like chylomicron remnants, and have a physical stabilizing effect on atherosclerotic plaque. ?
4. Normalize thyroid function. Get sufficient iodine in your diet to protect the thyroid from the many thyroid disrupters in our daily environment. Thyroid dysfunction is epidemic; correction of subtle degrees of hypothyroidism reduces LDL, reduces triglycerides, reduces small LDL, facilitates weight loss, reduces blood pressure, normalizes endothelial responses, and reduces oxidized LDL particles.
5. Make exercise fun. Dr. Davis suggests that exercise ought to be a good time, not simply a boring 30 minutes on a treadmill. Find an activity in or out of the gym that you enjoy and look forward to. I recently wrote, for sandiegomagazine.com (“Dr. San Diego) about the games of the 50’s and 60’s as fun activities for adults. Hula hoops, tag, double-dutch, dodgeball, spud, hide-and-seek, hopscotch, red rover, get the idea? Dancing, walking, Zumba, the many classes at The Sporting Club, also provide opportunities to make exercise fun. Remember that exercise is a prescription. You can fill it at The Sporting Club.
I’d add that drinking in moderation, knowing your health numbers (total and specific cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, fasting glucose, body mass index, and waist circumference are some of the key numbers everyone should know.
Of course, there’s another heart related issue in February and one that I cannot leave off of this list. Valentine’s Day comes right in the middle of the month to remind us that our loving relationships also contribute to our health and wellness.
Research tells us that long-term, committed relationships leave us healthier in mind and body. Ignore your relationship at your health’s peril. Heart disease, immune system dysfunction, depression, mood swings, elevated stress hormones, elevated risk of diabetes, and even the amount of time it takes for wounds to heal are all related to marital discord. So much so that in 1858 a British epidemiologist, William Farr, said, “Marriage is a healthy estate.”
Our diet, our exercise and our love life all contribute to our heart’s health. We at The Sporting Club are fortunate to have the region’s finest training staff, Sports Medicine Team, nutrition staff and all we need to do is simply ask for assistance.
Happy, healthy February