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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

5 Best Nutrients for Heart Health

Healthy Heart
Love is in the air. On this particular day, pretty much everything – from chocolates to balloons - is in the shape of the universal symbol of love: the heart. And, February has more to do with hearts than just being home to Valentine’s Day. February is also American Heart Month. So, how ‘bout showing your heart some love?
In honor of a month filled with reasons to take care of your heart, here are 5 nutrients that will keep your ticker lovable:
  1. Fiber: From helping you control your blood sugar to being a big player in weight loss, fiber is a key part of a healthy diet. One study found that a diet high in fiber decreases your risk for developing heart disease. This is especially true of soluble fiber, which is found in apples, blueberries, nuts, beans, & oatmeal. The average person needs to consume 20-35g of fiber per day, which is almost double what most people get on a daily basis!
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids: Eating fish is a great way to get your fill of heart healthy fats. Many studies have shown that a diet rich in omega-3’s can decrease your risk for developing heart disease. A 2011 study found that a consuming fish oils might protect people against the harmful side effects of obesity, including decreasing the obesity-related risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Some good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, trout, anchovies, sardines, and cod.
  3. Vitamin D: This vitamin has been getting a lot of buzz lately for its role in health, with deficiencies being linked to all kinds of health problems from depression to arthritis and heart disease. One study examined people who were running low on vitamin D. After consuming more vitamin D, 47% of the study participants reduced their risk for heart disease. If you’re going the dietary route, it’s best to work with your doctor to monitor your vitamin D levels and prescribe appropriate supplementation. But, one thing you can do is to make sure you’re soaking up the sunlight! Before I go on, let me emphasize that many consider me the sunscreen drill-sergeant, as I won't let anyone in my family go outside without at least 60 SPF from head-to-toe. A study I recently discovered has me considering giving my body just a few minutes of “un-screened” time in the sun each day. Researchers found that, for people with heart disease, a lack of sun exposure could result in a 30-50% increase in the rates of severe disease or death. Some experts recommend spending 10 minutes of your day soaking in the rays of the sun.
  4. Potassium: A banana per day may keep heart disease at bay! One study found that consuming twice as much potassium as sodium could decrease your risk of heart disease related death. So, to put this a little more simply: eat less sodium, eat more potassium rich fruits & veggies, and you’re less likely to die. That’s a pretty simple recipe for a longer, healthier life if you ask me.
  5. Love: Ok, ok, I know, it sounds corny. But, being one half of a loving, supportive relationship can have some serious benefits for your cardiovascular health, according to one cardiologist. This goes along with findings from a study in which researchers found that happily married people have lower blood pressure than their single counterparts. And, we all know that blood pressure control is a key to heart health. So, you might want to consider love a key nutrient and plan to get and give lots of it on a daily basis.

It’s time to give your heart some much-needed TLC, and not just today or during heart month, but all year long. We hope your heart is all a-flutter for heart-healthy living! Happy Valentine’s Day!