Heart disease is a leading cause of death. Although you cannot control certain factors like age and family history, you can use food and nutrition to help you prevent heart disease.
Apples are full of antioxidant compounds which help inhibit inflammation and lower levels of cholesterol and two other markers associated with plaque and inflammation in artery walls. Apples are also high in fiber which has been shown to lower cholesterol level. Studies have shown that frequent apple eaters have reduced risk of suffering from heart attacks and strokes compared with non-apple eaters.
Blackberries may help to prevent heart disease by inactivating the enzymes that damage the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels. They contain high amounts of fiber, are rich in polyphenols, vitamin C, and contain a bit of iron, calcium, and vitamin A. The antioxidants in blackberries also protect the cells of the cardiovascular system from harmful effects of unstable oxygen radicals.
Blueberries have a high anthocyanin content. Anthocyanin has been shown to dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque, and provide other cardiovascular benefits. Blueberries are also rich in fiber and antioxidants which also help reduce the likelihood of heart attacks. A Harvard School of Public Health study published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that eating three or more servings of blueberries per week may reduce a woman’s risk of heart attack by as much as 33%.
Diets high in carrots are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Carrots are high in fiber and beta-carotene, nutrients which help keep blood pressure down and reduce cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Studies indicate that consuming about 2 baby carrots daily can lower the risk of coronary heart disease by approximately 32%.
Many people can’t imagine how a food high in saturated fat, like coconut, can be beneficial for the heart. Coconut oil is beneficial for the heart because it contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in preventing various heart problems including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. In addition, the saturated fats present in coconut oil are Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) which do not lead to an increase in LDL levels. Coconut actually protects against heart disease by increasing good cholesterol and lowering the ratio of bad to good cholesterol.
Kiwis can be considered a superfood for your heart. The Cleveland Clinic has recommended kiwis as one of the most powerful foods for the heart. Kiwis help to lower triglyceride levels and reduce platelet hyperactivity which plays a role in the development and stability of atherosclerotic vascular plaques and limits the tendency of blood to form clots. The vitamin C and E in kiwis, combined with the polyphenols and magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and copper, act to protect the cardiovascular system.
Hot peppers are a heart healthy food. The compounds in hot peppers, including capsaicin, have been found to lower blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk for dangerous blood clots.
The accumulation of cholesterol is implicated in many types of cardiovascular disease. Oatmeal and oat bran are significant sources of soluble and insoluble fiber. One component of the soluble fiber found in oats is beta-glucans, which has proven effective in lowering blood cholesterol. Oats are also one of the best sources of compounds called tocotrienols which inhibit cholesterol synthesis and have been found to lower blood cholesterol. Research also indicates that the antioxidants found in oats reduce cholesterol by reducing the ability of blood cells to stick to the inside of artery walls. A daily bowl of oatmeal can lower cholesterol by up to 23 percent and reduce the risk of heart disease by almost half.
Oleuropein is found exclusively in olives and has been shown to decrease oxidation of LDL cholesterol. In addition, the high monounsaturated fat content of olives has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and decreased blood pressure. The oleic acid found in olives affects changes at cell membrane levels which result in decreased blood pressure.
The potent antioxidant compounds in pomegranates have been shown to reduce platelet aggregation, reduce atherosclerosis, and lower blood pressure. A recent medical study published in the journal of Clinical Nutrition found that patients with severe carotid artery blockages who drank a glass a pomegranate juice every day for a year saw a 12% reduction in blood pressure and a 30% reduction in atherosclerotic plaque. Pomegranates contain high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols, potent antioxidants that protect against heart disease.