Before David faced Goliath, he went to a brook and found five smooth stones rounded over time by water. No matter how old you are, now is the time to address the Goliath of cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease, or CVD, includes coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and heart failure. Together, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, accounting for more than one in three deaths annually. In addition, more than 80 million Americans live with some form of CVD and its often debilitating effects, with stroke being the leading cause of serious, long-term disability.
But CVD is largely preventable. You can lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of stroke, and prevent a heart attack, naturally.
So gather your five smooth stones for slaying the giant that is cardiovascular disease. The stones are smooth because they may take a period of time to work; they are part of long-term lifestyle, not a one-time fix. However, unlike David, you will need most, if not all of the stones to protect yourself against CVD
1. Stop Smoking And Avoid Second-Hand Smoke
Smoking is a primary indicator of CVD. It increases bad cholesterol, heart rate and blood pressure; damages blood vessels, increases and constricts the arteries; creates free radicals; and hampers the flow of oxygen and other nutrients throughout the body. Consistent exposure to smoke can have equally devastating effects.
2. Exercise and Control Weight
Being overweight contributes to high blood pressure and atherosclerosis as well as to diabetes – in itself a risk factor for heart disease. Lack of exercise over time weakens the heart and other muscles, allows the blood vessel lining to harden, weakens blood flow, and contributes to obesity.
On the other hand, cardiovascular exercise builds the aerobic capacity of your heart and lungs, and returns elasticity to arterial walls. It spurs your body to produce more antioxidants, and increases your ability to use them to combat free radicals. Exercise also helps in coping with stress, another CVD risk factor.
Walking, swimming, biking, tennis, running or any aerobic exercise for 30 minutes at least five days a week will bring about cardiovascular benefits. See Be Active Your Way for more on exercise guidelines.
3. Adopt the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is low in red meat, hydrogenated oils, sodium and processed foods, and high in fiber, nuts, fish, fruits, vegetables and olive oil. It features foods mentioned in the Bible that are staples in countries such as Israel, Greece and Italy. See Dr. Cherry's Mediterranean Diet video for more guidelines on following this healthy way of eating.
In addition to the foods in the Mediterranean Diet, adding soy to your diet has several benefits. It can substitute for red meats (often high in fat) because it is a complete protein, and is has plant antioxidants that appear to slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and reduces the chance of blood clot formation.
Switching from the typical American diet of processed, starchy and fatty foods to one made up of whole grains, fruits and vegetables may be the hardest of the five steps, but it could also be the difference between being satisfied with a long life and suffering at the hands of cardiovascular disease.
4. Begin a Daily Nutritional Supplement Program
While eating right is a major key to preventing CVD, it is important to realize that due to modern farming and food production techniques, the nutritional value of our foods is not what it used to be. Even those who eat a healthy diet are not getting optimal levels of all the nutrients, and those whose diets are not as wholesome are at even more of a nutritional deficit.
An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated, "Insufficient vitamin intake is the cause of chronic disease…Evidence shows that suboptimal levels, even those well above levels for sufficiency syndromes, are risk factors for chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis….A large portion of the general population is at increased risk for this reason." It goes onto say, "We recommend that all adults take a multivitamin daily. This practice is justified mainly by the known and suspected benefits of supplemental folate, vitamins B6 and B12 and vitamin D in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis, and because multi-vitamins at that dose are safe and inexpensive." In addition, the American Heart Association suggests that those who have had coronary heart disease events should take essential fatty acids daily.
See Dr. Cherry's Importance of Supplements video for more on why you should supplement.
A complete "basic" program should include a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals; fruit, vegetable and herbal extracts; digestive enzymes; omega-3 fatty acids; flavonoids and enhanced levels of antioxidants. Basic Nutrient Support provides all of these and more in its seven nutrient complexes.
5. Use Other Natural Compounds That Specifically Address Cardiovascular Disease
There are also specific natural compounds that address cardiovascular health that can be taken in addition to a basic nutritional program. As well, certain nutrients contained in a daily supplement, such as vitamins B6, B 12 and folate, can be taken in higher amounts when there is a risk of cardiovascular disease.
These compounds will be looked at in more detail in the next article, Nutrients Your Heart Will Love.
Because of the awareness focused on heart health, death rates from CVD have actually declined in the past decade. By combining the "five stones" on this list, you can protect your heart as well. God's guidelines for healthy eating, exercise and the compounds God provided for our health in His natural creation are all signposts on the way to the fulfillment of /his promises for a long and satisfying full life.