February was Heart Month in Canada, an all-important opportunity to give our hearts some TLC and learn how to keep them healthy.
Heart disease affects approximately 2.4 million Canadian adults. In fact, it’s the second leading cause of death in Canada.
Yet we all too often ignore our heart health, which puts our overall health in jeopardy. So what are some of the best ways to keep them healthy and reduce our risk of developing heart disease?
THE KEY TO A HEALTHY HEART
Blood pressure is where it all starts. This is the force of your blood against your artery walls as your heart pumps your blood around your body.
If your blood pressure is too high, the force of it can damage the insides of your arteries, making them more vulnerable to the most common form of cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease.
Another common heart problem is ischaemic heart disease, which is caused by the hardening of the arteries when these vital blood vessels become lined with plaque, particularly in areas damaged by high blood pressure.
The plaque that lines the arteries is made up of fat, calcium, and other substances, including cholesterol, a waxy substance found in all cells. Over time, if cholesterol, fat, and other substances build up inside your arteries, what doctors often call artherosclerosis, there is less space for blood to pass through, increasing your risk of a heart attack.
Even if you don’t suffer a heart attack, if you have atherosclerosis, your heart has to work harder to send blood around your body and supply oxygen and nutrients to your cells. Like heart damage due to a heart attack, this takes its toll on the heart and can lead to heart failure.
KEEPING YOUR HEART HEALTHY
Armed with all this knowledge, how can we help keep our hearts healthy?
There are three important things we can do and all of them can be achieved through diet and exercise
* Lower our blood pressure;
* Reduce the risk of plaque lining our arteries: and
* Make our heart muscle stronger and more resilient.
Moderate to vigorous exercise every day makes your heart more resilient, raising your blood pressure while you exercise, but lowering your blood pressure overall. Think of it as future-proofing your internal organs.
Meanwhile, eating a heart-healthy diet means avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fats, salt, added sugars, and alcohol, because all these foods can increase the LDL or “bad cholesterol” in your body.
Instead, choose foods containing polyunsaturated fat, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, oily fish (such as sardines or mackerel), lean red meats, skinless poultry, eggs, soy, nuts, and seeds.
You know, all of the good stuff doctors and nutritionists have been telling us to eat for years.
A HELPING HAND
Once you’ve got an exercise regime and a good diet in place, you might also want to consider taking some herbal supplements to help keep your heart healthy.
Research published in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology has shown that these six herbal options could help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Flaxseed oil, also known as linseed oil, is rich in polyunsaturated fat, and has been shown to reduce your blood pressure (The Journal of Nutrition), as well as reduce the amount of bad cholesterol (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) in your body. In fact, Health Canada has ruled that ground whole flaxseed has been shown to actively lower cholesterol.
GRAPE SEED EXTRACT
Grape seed extract contains oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (naturally occurring plant metabolites), as well as vitamin E, flavonoids, and linoleic acid. Research published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association has proven that grape seed extract can not only lower blood pressure, but also decrease your heart rate.
Psyllium husk, also known as Plantago psyllium, is a soluble fibre extracted from the blond plantain or desert Indianwheat plant, grown in India. Research published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases shows psyllium husk helps lower your blood pressure.
Black and green tea are both full of flavonoids, plant metabolites which are thought to have heart healthy properties. A Cochrane Library systematic review showed both black and green tea do significantly lower both LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels and blood pressure.
Wasabi and other cruciferous plants, including broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, all contain a type of phytonutrient called glucosinolates, more so than any other vegetables.
When broken down, these glucosinolates produce something called sulforaphane. Research published in Diabetes, shows sulforaphane reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the cardiovascular system.
As well, research published in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows eating cruciferous plants lowers cholesterol. While studies published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research show it also reduces risk of death from heart disease.
Usually, sulforaphane is locked away in the wasabi plant, and is only released through chewing or grating fresh wasabi. But at our family-owned and operated farm, we use modern technology to dry and powder our real, organic wasabi, so it can be made into easily consumable capsules.
We hope you’ll join us in doing more exercise, adopting a heart-healthy diet, and getting all the benefits of real, organic wasabi. Together, let’s take action to improve our heart health.
With studies identifying its powerful antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy properties, wasabi is becoming the supplement of choice for today’s active, health-conscious, won’t-be-slowed-down people just like you. Click here to find out how you can improve your overall wellness with our premium wasabi products.