By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
May 11, 2020
I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables to support my heart health.
In fact, one of my favorite kinds of green smoothies is filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables. I start with some nut milk followed by a generous bunch of spinach or kale.
Then, I’ll stick in some blueberries or my banana along with four pitted dates to get that sweet flavor. I’ll top it off with a tablespoon of chia or hemp seeds and some almond butter. Then, I’ll blend it until it’s smooth and creamy.
This delicious meal doesn’t just satisfy my craving for something sweet. It also goes a long way in providing my body with enough fruits and vegetables for the day.
I share this story because I recently read a report that estimates one in every seven cardiovascular deaths can be blamed on low fruit intake. Yikes! It went on to blame one in 12 cardiovascular deaths from not eating enough vegetables.
Yes, fruits and vegetables really do have that much of an impact on your heart health.
I believe these stats. In fact, I’d even wager they are understated.
After all, only 12% of U.S. adults eat the recommended one and a half to two cups of fruit each day. Even fewer – only 9% – meet the vegetable guidelines of two to three cups a day.
So, stop right now and take a good hard look at your diet. Are you eating a wide variety of organic fruits of vegetables – and a lot of them – every single day?
And I’m not talking about an apple beside an iceberg salad heaped with dressing… Instead, consider the wide array of fruits and vegetables in all the colors of the rainbow.
Check out the berries, melons, citrus fruits, plums, pears and avocadoes. Think of those leafy greens (spinach, kale, cabbage, etc.), carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, asparagus, squash, cauliflower, peppers, celery, mushrooms or squash. Keep them organic and keep them crunchy, so as not to cook out the nutrients you need.
Regular and abundant amounts of these foods will do your body a world of good. It’s the number one way you can help your heart health.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about four lesser-known ways you can help keep your heart healthy.
4 Heart Threats Your Doctor Never Told You About
Keep your emotions under control. I have several patients who are going through hard times in the emotional sense. They are depressed, dissatisfied or dealing with feelings of anger and aggression. And it’s no coincidence they are also dealing with heart problems.
When these types of emotions drive you, it puts your entire body into overdrive. Your blood pressure rises, stress takes a toll, your immune response gets compromised and inflammation sets in.
Two of the most harmful inflammatory markers associated with negative emotions are inflammatory C-reactive protein (CRP) and (IL-6). Both of these compounds are linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. And they increase dramatically when you are stressed out.
Just as importantly, your risk of a heart attack rises by about five times in the two hours after an angry outburst. And your chance of a stroke is more than three-fold during that same time period. The more often you have these outbursts, the higher the risk.
So when you start feeling overwhelmed or have hostile thoughts, work on pushing them away. Try deep breathing exercises and meditation techniques to re-gain mental clarity.
I also suggest trying a local yoga class. This practice encourages a strong mind-body connection. It can be very effective in developing a peaceful state of mind.
And by the way… there is nothing wrong with visiting a certified mental health professional if you are having a hard time overcoming these feelings on your own. They can help.
Stop avoiding the sun. While you’ve always been taught to shield yourself from the sun, avoiding it completely can deplete your stores of vitamin D. This is very bad news for your heart health.
Compared to people with the highest levels of vitamin D, those with the lowest are shown to have…
- 40% higher risk of ischemic heart disease
- 64% higher risk of heart attack
- 57% higher risk of early death
- No less than an 81% higher risk of death from heart disease
Plus, when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it increases the levels of nitric oxide (NO) in your skin and blood. NO is absolutely crucial to ensure blood flow to your heart, brain and other organs.
So get a little sunshine every day
– without sunscreen. Try going for a walk early in the morning when the sun is still low in the sky. I also recommend taking a vitamin D supplement in the form of cholecalciferol, especially if you live north of Atlanta.
Watch out for gum disease. As it turns out, all of those nasty, gum-destroying bacteria (P. gingivalis and others) don’t just stay in your mouth. They also escape into your bloodstream. Once there, they are bad news for your circulatory health.
These bacteria damage the walls of your blood vessels, contribute to the buildup of arterial plaque and can even cause blood clots.
Brush, floss, rinse and keep up with our regular dental checkups. If you tend to run into gum issues, try supplementing with 100 mg of CoQ10 daily.
I also recommend taking an oral probiotic regularly. They are similar to a mint and you just roll them around in your mouth until they dissolve.
Constipation takes a toll on your cardiovascular system. If you evacuate your bowels less than once every day, it could be affecting your cardiovascular health. In particular, having a bowel movements only once every two or three days increases your risk of cardiovascular death by about 21%. Going only once every four days kicks that risk up to 39%.
Not only that, but straining to go can cause an abrupt increase in blood pressure that increases your risk of suffering a stroke shortly afterward. Thus, it’s important not to strain while on the toilet.
Eating plenty fruits and vegetables, drinking enough water and getting your daily exercise are the three best ways to ensure regular, healthy bowel movements.
Additionally, I often suggest that my patients invest in a “Squatty Potty”. It allows you to squat over the toilet bowl, which helps straighten out your colon and reduce strain while you empty your bowels.
Eating better is a no brainer; getting outside, working on oral health and better bowel movements unfortunately are not on the top of most peoples lists of things to do to stay healthy. Put them there and see the difference after a short period of time.
Millions of cardiovascular deaths attributed to not eating enough fruits and vegetables. News Release. American Society for Nutrition. June 2019.
Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables. News Release. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nov 2017.
Suarez EC. C-reactive protein is associated with psychological risk factors of cardiovascular disease in apparently healthy adults. Psychosom Med. 2004 Sep-Oct;66(5):684-91.
Suarez EC. Joint effect of hostility and severity of depressive symptoms on plasma interleukin-6 concentration. Psychosom Med. 2003 Jul-Aug;65(4):523-7.
Mostofsky E, et al. Relation of outbursts of anger and risk of acute myocardial infarction. Am J Cardiol. 2013 Aug 1;112(3):343-8.
Brøndum-Jacobsen P, et al. 25-hydroxyvitamin d levels and risk of ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, and early death: population-based study and meta-analyses of 18 and 17 studies. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2012 Nov;32(11):2794-802.
“Here comes the sun to lower your blood pressure.” Univ of Southampton. News Release, Jan 2014.
Kim J, et al. Periodontal disease and systemic conditions: a bidirectional relationship. Odontology. 2006 Sep; 94(1): 10–21.
Honkura K, et al. Defecation frequency and cardiovascular disease mortality in Japan: The Ohsaki cohort study. Atherosclerosis. 2016 Mar;246:251-6.
Ma W, et al. Associations of Bowel Movement Frequency with Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality among US Women. Sci Rep. 2016; 6: 33005.