Heart : Getting to the heart of heart health.
Your choices matter!

Jolie Root LPN, LNC Jan 2012

Given that heart disease is still the leading cause of death in North America, we need to put heart health at the top of our list of priorities when deciding which foods to eat or which supplements to take.

If you want to live to a ripe old age, your best bet is to follow the Mediterranean diet. That diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil, has consistently been linked to longevity and reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The recently published Northern Manhattan Study found that higher consumption of a Mediterranean style diet was associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular events including stroke, heart attack, and deadly blood clots in the legs.

A large Italian study involving 30,000 women found that those who consumed more leafy green vegetables and olive oil were much less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. One possible reason is the high folate content of the leafy greens. In a recent meta analysis of 14 studies assessing blood folate, those with the highest folate intake had a 31% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Don’t be afraid to go nuts – for walnuts, that is! Walnuts are loaded with the highest amount of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. These compounds are believed to reduce heart disease risk by lowering levels of blood cholesterol, improving blood flow, and cooling the inflammation that’s been linked to heart disease.

The leader among heart smart supplements is fish oil omega-3. Scores of studies have looked at the association of intake of the omega-3 fats found in fish, EPA and DHA, and the risk of heart disease. This year began with another finding that supports taking fish oils. In a group of 48,627 women, low intake of EPA and DHA was linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In this group of women, those who never ate fish had triple the risk of cardiovascular disease compared with women who ate fish. Even eating fish once a week was protective. Another study found that in young healthy adults omega-3 supplements reduced cardiovascular reactivity to stress. Participants took 1400 mg of combined EPA/DHA for three weeks, and when tests were given to induce stress, blood vessel reactivity was significantly reduced. For best results, shoot for 1000-2000 mg daily of combined EPA and DHA to protect your heart and to keep your blood vessels healthy. Supplementing at that level has the potential to reduce your risk of heart disease up to 90%!

The sunshine vitamin should be on your list, too, because vitamin D may reduce risk of heart disease. In a new study, researchers evaluated data on 44,592 men who were initially heart disease and cancer-free from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The researchers determined that men who consumed larger amounts of vitamin D had a decreased risk of heart disease. And, be sure to take your vitamin C. The Japan Collaborative Cohort Study determined that high vitamin C intake was linked to a reduced risk of dying from heart disease. 1000 to 3000 mg daily should be the perfect amount to protect your ticker.


Mediterranean-style diet and risk of ischemic stroke, myocardial infarction, and vascular death: the Northern Manhattan Study Am J Clin Nutr December 2011 vol. 94 no. 6 1458-1464

Fruit, vegetables, and olive oil and risk of coronary heart disease in Italian women: the EPICOR Study Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.000521.

Folate and risk of coronary heart disease: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Wang ZM, et al; Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011 Sep 14.

Fish, n-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Diseases in Women of Reproductive Age: A Prospective Study in a Large National Cohort. Hypertension, 2011; DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.111.179382

Preliminary evidence that acute long-chain omega-3 supplementation reduces cardiovascular reactivity to mental stress: A randomized and placebo controlled trial. Biol Psychol. 2011 October

Dietary intakes of antioxidant vitamins and mortality from cardiovascular disease: the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study (JACC) study. Stroke. 2011 Jun;42(6):1665-72.
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