My stepmother is a nurse. She has been telling my father and I that we eat too much red meat and too much salt for what seems like ages. She always followed up her warnings with anecdotal information about heart disease.
On the other hand, my Russian grandparents, and great aunts and uncles, “appreciated” red meat. Each meal with them seemed meat-centric. There was never any dogma attached to eating a healthy portion of meat. Heart disease seemed non-existent in their family and many lived into their 90’s.
And while I’d love to say that I have genetics on my side, it’s just not that simple. Sure, Babushka and Jedishka consumed a lot of meat, but they ate and lived simply. There was always plenty of vegetables and an absence of processed foods. Added salt and other chemicals were just not present. Everything was fresh and hand picked (even the meat) and while surprisingly simple, pretty darned good. In addition, they were very active throughout their lives.
In today’s environment, we tend to substitute brand names for healthy. And, for the most part, we are hyper focused on diet and tend to forget about all that other lifestyle stuff.
Which is really the crux of the matter. How does what I eat combined with my lifestyle impact my chances for heart disease?
As the leading killer in America, it’s something to be aware of.
Heart disease is a term that seems all encompassing of every heart ailment. Take a look at this description from The Mayo Clinic:
“Heart disease is a broad term used to describe a range of diseases that affect your heart. The various diseases that fall under the umbrella of heart disease include diseases of your blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); heart infections; and heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects).
The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with “cardiovascular disease.” Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as infections and conditions that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or beating rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.”(http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120)
What is easier to understand are its symptoms. In short, they include Chest pain (angina), Shortness of breath,Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms.
The most common cause of heart disease is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This is called coronary artery disease and happens slowly over time. It’s the major reason people have heart attacks.
Or maybe the major reason is that we only adjust one thing – like diet – without addressing the rest. The objectives are well documented:
Control your blood pressure
Lower your cholesterol
Get enough exercise
While there are some causes that are beyond our control, there are many things we can do to lessen the risks. Some of the “controllable” risk factors include:
High LDL, or “bad” cholesterol and low HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
Uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure).
Obesity (more than 20% over one’s ideal body weight).
High C-reactive protein.
Uncontrolled stress and anger.
Even if you think that you are not susceptible, if you experience any of the symptoms, especially repeatedly, it’s good to check in with your health professional.
Get your blood pumping with this easy smoothie recipe. It’s chockfull of ingredients with antioxidants that boost blood flow and can help to keep your arteries clear.
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup yogurt
Put all ingredients in a blender, and blend until desired consistency is reached. Enjoy!