I recently listened to a healthy heart masterclass sponsored by the Food Revolution Network where Dr. Mimi Guarneri, a holistic cardiologist, shares tips on how to prevent or reverse heart disease without relying solely on drugs, surgeries or stents. So, in this blog, I’ll highlight the top myths along with health tips to keep your blood pumping machine in optimal condition.
- Your genes are not your destiny. Did you know that 90% of heart disease is related to lifestyle? And because these lifestyle and environmental factors are passed down from previous generations, you see family histories of heart disease.
- And according to Dr. Dean Ornish who is a proponent of a plant-based diet, four out of five cases of coronary atherosclerosis can be reversed using diet, exercise, meditation and group support. I’m personally a fan of the pegan or flexitarian diet (mostly vegetables and fruits but occasional meat and fish consumption) which is considered mostly plant-based.
- Age and genetics do not seal your fate. You’re never too old to adopt new habits in spite of what all the old, ‘not-so-wise’ sayings indicate. Based on this Johns Hopkins study, conducted on 6,000 atherosclerosis patients aged from 44-84 years old, healthy lifestyle changes decreased risk of death by 80% no matter what age group they were in.
- There is more evidence pointing to the lack of evidence on dietary cholesterol as the main risk factor in heart disease. In fact, up to 75% of people who experience heart attacks have what’s considered normal cholesterol levels.
- Read my earlier blog on the role that cholesterol has in heart disease: https://community.wholistics.health/heart-disease-and-the-role-of-cholesterol/
- In order to avoid or reverse heart disease, you need to consider all pillars of health (nutrition, exercise, mind and sleep) and stop focusing on just a number that is not even a good predictor of heart disease.
- According to Dr. Guarneri, if medicine took care of heart disease, it wouldn’t be killing eight million people every year. She states that 92% of first heart attacks are totally preventable.
- Medications can decrease heart disease risk but they are almost never as effective as sustainable and lasting lifestyle changes.
- Addressing root causes of heart disease is what’s important, not reducing symptoms with medications.
Heart Health Tips #1:
- Eat more of the right omega oils (omega 3) like oily fish and fish oil to get the right balance.
- You need omega-6 oils but we consume way too much with oils like corn, safflower, soy, sunflower and canola and these processed vegetable oils create a pro-inflammatory response in our bodies.
- The best vegetarian sources of omega-3 oils are flax seeds and chia seeds which should be ground up prior to consumption so they are digested properly.
- Of the three types of Omega 3s (ALA, EPA, DHA), ALA is found in flax and chia seeds but EPA and DHA are mainly found in fish and algae. And your body needs all three, so if you don’t like the idea of consuming oily fish, you can opt for algae. Here’s my favorite that’s been tested to be free of heavy-metals:
Heart Health Tip #2
- White flour, sugar and other processed foods cause inflammation and increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- When consuming grains, opt for whole grain to ensure you’re also getting the soluble fiber and the phytonutrients.
- Pseudo-grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth are good options.
- I’m personally not a fan of a lot of whole grain consumption – eating a bowl of whole grain pasta will make my glucose monitor sing but when eaten sparingly, it’s fine.
Heart Health Tip #3
- Dr. Guarneri suggests to NOT eat red or processed meat. Although I agree with avoiding processed meat which is high in salt, nitrates and other additives, I think eating clean, grass-fed meat in small portions should be ok if you are generally healthy and want to avoid heart disease.
Heart Health Tip #4
- If you don’t visit the dentist regularly for oral check-ups and cleaning, you should know that periodontal (gum) disease is related to heart disease. Evidence has shown that bacteria in the mouth that causes gum disease travels to the heart and triggers inflammation in the blood vessels and increases your cardiovascular disease risk.
- So keep up the daily flossing, Waterpik (which I love) and the bi-annual visits to the dentist.
Heart Health Tip #5
- Did you know that evidence shows that emotional intelligence plays a significant role in the occurrence of coronary heart disease? When you experience feelings like anger and hostility, you can increase your risk of heart attack by more than 200%!
- It’s important to be in loving relationships with family and friends as it will have a physical impact on your heart health.
- Make sure to take actions to support your emotional well-being with mind care (yoga, meditation, etc.) and positive social interactions.
Heart Health Tip #6
- Proper sleep is important as less than seven hours per night of shuteye has been linked to higher risk of heart disease.
- Read more about sleep here: https://community.wholistics.health/why-we-sleep-matthew-walker-podcast-review/
Heart Health Tip #7
- Dr. Guarneri suggests dancing as an excellent form of exercise as it’s not only great physical movement but the music and the rhythms elicit positive emotional responses which are great for the heart.
- If you prefer regular exercise over dance, keep it up 3-5x per week and make sure to include aerobics, strength training and stretching into the regimen.
- Remember – variety, frequency and FUN are key to a sustainable program of movement.
Heart Health Tip #8
- Did you know that more than 70% of all visits to the doctor are related to stress? And research shows that chronic stress can raise your blood pressure, cause inflammation and increase your risk of a heart attack.
- Engaging in activities like yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises can calm your heart and your brain.
- I like Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing exercise to shift the energy balance to a peaceful state: https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/
Heart Health Tips #9
- The journey is as important as the destination so focus on progress with small, tangible steps that you CAN do that will become a habit over the long term.
To learn more about this masterclass visit: https://heart.foodrevolution.org/masterclass/?orid=174172&opid=364