Top 5 Natural Ways to Prevent Heart Disease
"Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S... so we need to focus on doing everything we can to avoid it."
Today’s show is the last installment in Dr. Nancy’s Lin, PhD’s prevention series. Today Dr. Nancy is talking about the number one cause of death among adults in the U.S. — heart disease. Dr. Nancy will talk about what heart disease is, common names for heart disease, what causes it, and most importantly how we can prevent it!
She’ll also share her top natural tips for preventing heart disease — including one that is quite controversial, but is very effective.
- 02:10: Top 10 Causes of Death in the U.S.
- 04:55: What is Heart Disease?
- 07:54: Heart Disease Terms
- 11:10: Coronary Heart Disease Symptoms
- 15:01: Most Common Risk Factors For Developing Coronary Heart Disease
- 18:32: One Thing You Should Stop Doing
- 24:50: Top 5 Natural Ways to Prevent Heart Disease
- 24:55: Quit Smoking
- 29:31: Eating a Heart-Healthy Diet
- 35:19: Take These Heart-Healthy Supplements
- 40:46: Exercise
- 43:14: Reduce Your Stress
- 47:17: Wrap-Up
Before we get started, some sobering statistics. We’re looking at the top 10 leading causes of death in America.
10. Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173
9. Kidney Disease: 50,633
8. Influenza and pneumonia: 55,672
7. Diabetes: 83,564
6. Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
5. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
3. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
2. Cancer: 599,108
1. Heart disease: 647,457
Shockingly, these top 10 causes of death accounted for 75% of the deaths in America last year! But the winner, or in this case it’s the really the loser, is Coronary Heart Disease (CDH). It is currently the leading cause of death among adults in the U.S and preventing it is the topic of today’s show. Heart disease is responsible for 1 out of every 4 deaths in the US and it has maintained its ranking as the number 1 killer since 1921 — Nearly 100 years!
What is Heart Disease?
Coronary heart disease is a condition caused by the buildup of waxy plaque in the arteries. CHD often goes by several other names, including coronary artery disease, heart disease and arteriosclerotic heart disease.
There are several contributors to heart disease, which we’ll talk about in a minute, but most cardiovascular disorders are related to elevated inflammation levels — our regulars know that if you can reduce inflammation, which is the root of many diseases, then you can place your body in a state that is much more conducive to healing and supportive of good health. In other words…
Less Inflammation In + More Inflammation Out = A Healthier You
Here’s the good news — heart disease is both treatable and preventable through all-natural methods, including adjusting your diet, reducing stress levels and regularly exercising — all effective ways you can naturally control inflammation, and treat and prevent coronary heart disease.
So we know that heart disease can lead to heart attacks and strokes, but do you know what coronary heart disease actually is? Heart disease occurs when the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart narrow and harden, which over time can cause ruptures, heart attacks, and other fatal conditions.
Heart Disease Terms
As we discussed, many people use the names coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease interchangeably. But they aren’t actually the same — it’s important to know the difference.
Coronary artery disease is considered the most common type of heart disease. It occurs when there’s a blockage of one or more arteries that supply blood to the heart. Let’s review some other important terms commonly used when talking about heart disease. Angina, for example, is the first stage of heart disease, in which blood flow to the heart starts to become restricted. It’s characterized by discomfort, pressure, or a “squeezing” sensation in the chest.
Myocardial infarction occurs when the blood flow to the heart stops. This is more commonly known as a heart attack.
The combination of these two conditions (angina and heart attack), is what most doctors are referring to when they say “coronary heart disease”.
You’ve probably also heard of atherosclerosis — that’s an important part of heart disease too. Atherosclerosis is the actual build-up in your arteries; it’s considered a disease and causes your arteries to harden and thicken over time. That’s a result of fatty acids, calcium, and cholesterol building up on the walls of the arteries, which can lead to a blockage or a swelling known as an atheroma. Atheromas are really dangerous because they can burst and cause a blood clot — which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Coronary Heart Disease Symptoms
Let’s talk about symptoms of heart disease. Not everyone who has CHD even knows it — it’s often referred to as a silent killer, because of its lack of symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. However, that is not the case for everyone, some symptoms of CHD can be very noticeable — but coronary artery disease symptoms tend to vary a lot from person to person.
The most common noticeable sign of CHD is chest pain or discomfort, which is caused when the heart is not getting enough blood or oxygen. That is a key symptom of heart disease, so please do not ignore chest pain or discomfort, which some people write off as acid reflux. Please don’t ignore discomfort in your chest — doing so could actually be a fatal decision. Get to a doctor and have that checked out!
Other symptoms of heart disease can include:
- Feeling a “heaviness” like someone is squeezing your heart — this is probably the most common blocked artery symptom.
- You might also experience various forms of chest discomfort including tightness, pressure, aching, burning, numbness, or fullness in the area around your heart.
- Pains or numbness in your neck, arms, stomach, or upper back
- Shortness of breath and fatigue with activity
- General weakness
- Indigestion or heartburn
Heart disease is ultimately a result of inflammation from fatty material, cholesterol, and other substances forming a buildup of plaque that accumulates within the walls of your arteries. Because these arteries have the crucial role of bringing blood and oxygen to your heart, reduced blood flow can slow down or stop your heartbeat, causing cardiac arrest.
Most Common Risk Factors For Developing Coronary Heart Disease
High amounts of free radical damage, known as oxidative stress, and low antioxidant levels can result in chronic inflammation in your body. When antioxidant levels are lower than those of free radicals due to poor nutrition and other lifestyle factors, oxidation wreaks havoc in the body — damaging cells, breaking down tissue, mutating DNA, and overloading the immune system. This is the leading preventable risk factor of heart disease.
Other risk factors for heart disease include:
- Being over the age of 65
- High consumption of alcohol
- Eating a poor diet with unhealthy fats and processed foods
- Family history of coronary heart disease or stroke
- Having high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels
- Lack of physical activity or exercise
- Not getting enough sleep
- High stress levels
- Exposure to environmental pollutants and toxic chemicals
One Thing You Should Stop Doing
So, we’ve established that heart disease is a serious, serious, health issue in the US, right? We’ve also made it clear that it is preventable and you can make changes today that will immediately reduce your risk for developing heart disease — let’s talk about what steps we can take to prevent heart disease. Most of these recommendations are things that are in your immediate control. They are built around lifestyle changes including exercising, eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and grains and not smoking.
In fact, a 2016 study found that living a healthy lifestyle — including exercising, eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and grains and not smoking — can lower your risk of heart disease, even if you are genetically predisposed to developing it. The study actually showed that genetics can double the risk of heart disease, but a healthy lifestyle literally cuts your of heart disease risk in half! So even if you didn’t win the genetic lottery, you’ve got this!
Lifestyle choices — it all comes down to lifestyle choices! We also want to share a bit of news that might shock you. In fact, your doctor might have told you to do this one thing for years in order to prevent heart disease, but we’re going to tell you to STOP right now… and it’s not just Dr. Nancy’s opinion: this advice is also being supported and recommended by top researchers at Harvard University.
How many of you have been told to take an aspirin a day for your heart health? Well, guess what? If you do not have heart disease, if you are over the age of 40, and if you are taking an aspirin a day to support heart health, you might actually be doing more harm than good! Aspirin can cause side effects, including stomach or brain bleeding, kidney failure and certain kinds of stroke. That being the case, it should be taken every day with caution and only under the care of a doctor.
Daily low-dose aspirin is still recommended by doctors for those with heart disease, or those who have already had a heart attack or stroke, but if you haven’t, and your doctor isn’t telling you to take an aspirin a day, then stop doing that right now!
Now let’s talk about what you should be doing to prevent heart disease.
Top 5 Natural Ways to Prevent Heart Disease
Smoking causes heart disease, plain and simple. You need to quit smoking or you will eventually develop a serious disease, whether it is heart disease, lung cancer, or emphysema — eventually smoking will catch up with you.
When you smoke, your arteries tighten, which makes your heart work harder; smoking also raises blood pressure, and both are leading causes of stroke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking:
- Causes thickening and narrowing of blood vessels
- Raises triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood)
- Lowers HDL or "good" cholesterol
- Makes blood sticky and more likely to clot, which can block blood flow to the heart and brain
- Damages the cells that line the blood vessels; the cells become swollen and inflamed
- Promotes the buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances) in the blood vessels, resulting in a heart attack
A recent study found that smoking is also associated with a thickening of the heart and lowers the heart's pumping ability, both of which are associated with heart failure. The longer and more heavily people without heart disease smoked, the greater the damage to their hearts' structure and function.
On the other hand, people who quit smoking had similar heart structure and function compared to people who had never smoked — which points to the importance of quitting smoking; you can sometimes actually reverse any damage if you do. It’s not too late. Quit now; do whatever it takes!
We’ll have a series on breaking the cycle of addition coming up next week. If you are a smoker, you are not going to want to miss the episode on breaking tobacco and nicotine addiction.
Eating a Heart-Healthy Diet
Following a healthy, natural whole-foods–based diet reduces inflammation, high blood pressure, and unhealthy high cholesterol. Eating well will also help you maintain a healthy weight and have more energy to be active, both of which are important for preventing coronary heart disease.
The healthiest anti-inflammatory foods for fighting coronary heart disease are those natural, unprocessed foods loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients that lower your immune system’s overactive inflammatory response. These foods help fight free radical damage and target the problem where it starts by lowering oxidative stress and reducing or preventing inflammation.
How do you know what the top antioxidant foods are? Anything loaded with fiber, grown directly from the earth and brightly colored is a good place to start!
Foods that help reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease include:
- Fiber-rich and antioxidant-rich foods of all kinds
- Vegetables (all kinds, including beets, carrots, cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale, dark leafy greens, artichokes, onions, peas, salad greens, and squashes)
- Fruits (all kinds, especially berries and citrus)
- Herbs and spices, especially turmeric and garlic, basil, cinnamon, curry powder, ginger, rosemary and thyme.
- Traditional teas like green tea, oolong or white tea
- Legumes and beans
- Healthy fats found in nuts, seeds, avocados, wild-caught fish and extra virgin olive oil
The Mediterranean diet is a popular and effective anti-inflammatory diet for preventing heart disease. Foods commonly eaten in the Mediterranean region include fresh fish, vegetables, beans, fruits, and olive oil, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides and reduce symptoms of numerous chronic diseases, including heart disease.
However, a more updated version of the Mediterranean diet is the Anti-Inflammatory diet. And that is the one we recommend you follow. It’s designed to reduce chronic inflammation and protect your heart throughout your body through a diet of organic, whole, and inflammation-fighting foods.
The good news is that inflammation is mostly reversible, treatable, and preventable and Dr. Nancy’s diet plan is specifically designed to help you do just that by using natural, organic foods, avoiding some of the most inflammatory natural and processed foods, removing harmful chemicals and toxins, getting more rest, and getting regular exercise — all essential in preventing heart disease!
Take Heart-Healthy Supplements
You’ll get the most benefits from a healthy diet when you consume real, unprocessed foods that provide natural, absorbable nutrients. However, there are certain specific nutrients that can help protect your heart, so we need to make sure we are getting enough of them.
We always recommend getting your nutrients from whole food sources whenever you can, but that is often easier said than done. So adding specific supplements to your diet is helpful for treating and preventing heart disease.
We recommend the following supplements for controlling inflammation and supporting heart health:
Cucurmin is found in turmeric and is one of the most powerful inflammation fighters found in nature. Many studies show that curcumin can help reduce joint pain and swelling, modifies immune system responses, and protects against the heart by fighting inflammation. Dr. Nancy recommends Smarter Curcumin, a formula that includes curcumin in its most active form, along with great inflammation-fighting support ingredients, like black cumin seed oil, and ginger.
A growing number of studies point to vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), strokes, and the conditions associated with heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. In fact, many patients who have had a heart attack were also found to be deficient in Vitamin of D3.
Vitamin K2 is frequently linked to better heart health. A 2014 study showed that diets rich in vitamin K helped reduce the risk of death due to heart problems in people who were at high risk for the disease.
K2 is important for your heart health because it helps prevent calcium in the bloodstream from depositing in the arteries and blood vessels, where it can calcify. People who don't get enough vitamin K2 have more calcium deposits in their arteries and a higher risk for heart disease. The Smarter Vitamin D supplement includes Vitamin K2 in its formula.
Inadequate magnesium intake, or a deficiency in total body magnesium, increases your risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, and arrhythmias, as well as metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.
We are learning more and more about the importance of magnesium in preventing heart health — in fact, a study that reviewed cardiovascular disease research extending over more than 70 years found low magnesium levels contributed more to heart disease than did cholesterol, or even saturated fat — magnesium is that important!
So, in addition to Curcumin and Vitamin D with K2, Magnesium is also essential to supplement for preventing heart health, so you should supplement with these each day. One way to do that is the Smarter Multivitamin, which has Magnesium derived from natural food sources.
There are so many benefits of exercise that we can’t review all here, just know that exercise helps restore and maintain cardiovascular health by improving blood flow, bringing more oxygen to your cells, managing hormones and blood sugar levels and helping reduce stress.
Exercise is one of the most important and effective things you can to do prevent clogged arteries. In fact, studies suggest that exercise can benefit your heart just as much as certain medications. A meta-review of more than 305 clinical trials focusing on exercise benefits found that, amazingly, no statistically detectable differences existed between those who were given medications to prevent coronary heart disease, and those that did not take the medications but exercised instead. Exercise is that powerful!
We’ve done a ton of shows and articles on exercise. Try some of our recommendations and stick with whichever type works best for you and your current level of fitness, whether it’s strength training, yoga, Tai Chi, cardio like swimming or riding a bike or simply walking more than you normally do. Please make sure you are doing some type of exercise on a regular basis!
Reduce Your Stress
Stress raises cortisol levels and increases the body’s inflammatory responses when left unmanaged. Chronic stress caused by our modern, fast-paced lifestyles affects just about every bodily system — suppressing the immune system, slowing metabolism, disrupting digestion, detoxification and cell regeneration and increasing cholesterol and blood pressure — all of which significantly increase your risk of heart disease.
Research shows that, without question, chronic stress is a leading predictor of future coronary heart disease. People experiencing work-related stress, and individuals who are socially isolated or lonely have an increased risk of a first CHD event, like heart attack or stroke. And patients with heart disease who suffer from chronic stress have also been shown to have further reduced blood flow to the heart and increased risk of recurrent CHD events and death. So stress can literally kill us — it’s that serious!
Some of the best natural stress relievers include cutting out caffeine, smoking and alcohol, getting proper sleep, working out, deep breathing, journaling, doing something creative, cooking or spending time with family and pets. We have a number of shows and articles on reducing stress and anxiety. Do everything you can to get your stress levels under control!
So let’s review — we know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and has been the number one cause for nearly 100 years. So we need to focus on doing everything we can to avoid it. Just know that by making sound lifestyle choices, including quitting smoking, reducing inflammation, exercising, reducing stress levels, eating well, and supplementing smartly, are all essential steps to preventing heart disease.
So, let’s start making the right choices to improve our health and reduce our risk of heart disease — let’s commit today. Make sure you share all of this important information with your family and friends and let’s see if we can’t end Heart Disease’s reign as the leading cause of death in our country!