Deepak Chopra, MDHealth Blog - Wellness

Weekly Health Tip: The Path from Heart Disease to Heart Health

Published on 2011-09-15 by Deepak Chopra, MD

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You might have heard the expression “You’re as young as your arteries”—and it’s true. But understanding how to keep arteries young and our heart healthy is   a mystery for  many. The cardiovascular continuum is a way of thinking about cardiovascular disease, like heart attacks and atherosclerosis, as later complications in a long chain of events. These events begin with risk factors for cv disease, such as smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure. They can start early—even in childhood. If these risk factors aren’t addressed, you’re your cardiovascular health gets progressively worse over a period of decades.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that cardiovascular disease is mostly a result of having an unhealthy lifestyle. Usually it can be prevented—and the earlier in the continuum it’s caught and treated, the better your outlook.

Danger Signals . Most of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease involve damage to your arteries. Some risk factors can be modified, and some can’t. The more cardiovascular risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop cardiovascular disease.

  • Unmanaged high blood pressure causes your arteries to stiffen and thicken to defend against the abnormally high pressure inside them.
  • Poor diet, like eating too many refined carbs, trans fats, and processed foods, wreaks havoc with your blood glucose levels and creates inflammation in your arteries.
  • Unmanaged diabetes creates high levels of blood glucose (blood sugar). At high levels, glucose is toxic to your arteries and capillaries.
  • Smoking allows toxins like carbon monoxide and nicotine into your delicate lung tissue and bloodstream, damaging your arteries and all the tissues of your body.
  • Being physically inactive causes you to lose muscle tone, promotes weight gain, weakens your heart and lungs, and makes your joints stiff and prone to injury.
  • Obesity increases the workload of your heart and creates systemic inflammation. Childhood obesity has become an epidemic .

Healthy Heart Steps As you can see, it’s a good idea to take your cardiovascular health seriously. If you do, the chances are excellent that your heart and blood vessels will last you a long, healthy lifetime.

Here’s what you can do to prevent cardiovascular disease or stop it in its tracks:

Lose weight. When your weight is at a healthy level, you have a lowered risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, some forms of cancer, and many other disorders and diseases.

Eat whole foods. Avoid eating “white foods”—white sugar, white flour, potatoes, white rice—and trans fats, found in commercial baked goods and fried fast foods. Instead, eat whole grains and lots of whole fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber and keep carbohydrates from breaking down too fast in your body. Choose lean proteins, like fish, lean meat, and soy products such as tempeh. Use olive oil for cooking and dressings. Nuts and seeds aren’t low calorie, but they contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation and improve your blood lipid profile.

Quit smoking. Just 1 year after quitting, risk of coronary heart disease is reduced to half that of a smoker. You’ll feel better, look better, smell better—and you’ll regain your sense of smell, too.

Be active. Exercise not only lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease, it also reduces stress and helps prevent many other diseases, including cancer. Being physically active also regulates your metabolism, improves your body’s use of insulin, helps keep your weight normal, and benefits blood pressure.  If you really don’t like to exercise, there are plenty of others ways to get moving, like playing sports, dancing, or taking the stairs.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.