American Heart Month – The Other February Holiday
February 13, 2013 | Published by Dr. Lise Naugle
February is American Heart Month, and it doesn’t refer to the chocolate-filled hearts you give your sweetie on the 14th. American Heart Month was designed to increase awareness about heart disease—the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Many different things can increase your risk of heart disease, including stress. One study found that employees with chronic work stress had more than double the odds of metabolic syndrome than those without that stress.1 Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors (abdominal obesity, unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance) that increases risk of heart disease. High LDL cholesterol levels, inflammation, and smoking can increase your risk too.
However, there are many things you can do to keep your heart and cardiovascular system healthy, and unlike most Valentine’s Day options, you don’t need a date to do these.
- Eat a healthy diet with low saturated fat, 3-4 servings of fruit, and 4-5 servings of vegetables per day2
- Get regular exercise (see my previous blog Have Fun Moving for recommendations)
- Keep your blood pressure under control (AHA recommends less than 120/80)3
- Choose not to smoke. Smoking causes heart disease.4
- Limit your alcohol intake (1-2 drinks per day for men or 1 for women, and don’t start drinking if you don’t already)5
- Maintain a healthy body weight. The American Heart Association has a body mass index calculator here
- Get 25-38 grams of fiber per day6
Fiber is the indigestible part of carbohydrates. Soluble fiber is the kind that makes a thick gel-like sludge if you stir it into hot water and then leave it there. It is found in things like psyllium, oat bran, apples, and prunes. Soluble fiber has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels, including levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.7 Other studies have also shown that fiber supports healthy blood pressure8 and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. CRP is used to measure inflammation in the body, and high CRP levels have been linked to heart disease. Fiber has been shown to promote healthy normal CRP levels.9
This February, remember to take care of your heart and the hearts of those you love.
Image Credits: Happy heart by Flickr user JoePhillipson; fruits and vegetables by Flickr user karimian; scale by Flickr user puuikibeach
About the Author: Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.
1. Chandola T, Brunner E, Marmot M. Chronic stress at work and the metabolic syndrome: prospective study. BMJ. 2006 Mar 4;332(7540):521-5. Epub 2006 Jan 20.
3. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure /AboutHighBloodPressure/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp
6. Institute of Medicine. Dietary, Functional, and Total Fiber. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, D. C.: National Academies Press; 2002:265-334.
7. Anderson JW, Davidson MH, Blonde L, Brown WV, Howard WJ, Ginsberg H, Allgood LD, Weingand KW.
Long-term cholesterol-lowering effects of psyllium as an adjunct to diet therapy in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jun;71(6):1433-8.
8. Whelton SP, Hyre AD, Pedersen B, Yi Y, Whelton PK, He JEffect of dietary fiber intake on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. J Hypertens. 2005 Mar;23(3):475-81.
9. Butcher JL, Beckstrand RL.Fiber’s impact on high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels in cardiovascular disease. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2010 Nov;22(11):566-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2010.00555.x. Epub 2010 Oct 19.
Categorised in: Heart Health