Heart disease is a term which covers a range of conditions that affects the heart. Heart disease (most commonly referred to as cardiovascular disease) is a condition in which the blood vessels become narrowed or blocked. Statistics from the American Heart Association (AHA) show that about half of American adults have some type of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in the US- about 647,000 of Americans die annually. Research by the AHA, indicates that there are currently 121.5 million people who have cardiovascular disease- with this number said to increase in the coming years.

Cardiovascular disease describes complications with blood vessels, circulatory system as well as the heart. This can include a number of conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart beat/rhythm)
  • Coronary heart disease (the build up of plaque in the arteries, limiting flow of blood to the heart)
  • Heart attack
  • Congenital heart disease (heart defects present at birth)

Our lifestyle choices highly affect the health of our hearts. There are also some choices can increase the risk of heart diseases like; smoking, diabetes, family history, being overweight, amongst others. The risk factor of age is inevitable. Adults age 65 and older are more likely to develop heart diseases. But heart disease can be modified and treated through changes in your lifestyle.

There are several ways in which the heart can be strengthened to ensure a long lasting life with less heart complications and to ensure we are aging gracefully and healthily:

  • Spend more time moving than sitting. Park a bit further than usual, take the stairs, or dance the night away.
  • Quit smoking. There are a number of harmful chemicals in cigarettes that can decrease the amount of oxygen in the body and clog your arteries over time.
  • Lose excess body fat to prevent buildup of plaque in the arteries which may lead to heart attack
  • Prevent or control diabetes and glucose levels
  • Lower triglyceride levels (fats in the blood)
  • Aim for resting blood pressure to be lowered to around 120/80
  • Lower your stress levels

As we age, adapting to a healthy lifestyle will help in strengthening our heart and to see that we live a happy life. Eating nutritious foods and a healthy diet are part of making good lifestyle choices. Here are a few foods that can improve heart health:

  • Fish rich in omega 3: salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and herring which help reduce the build up of plaque in the arteries.
  • Berries are rich in antioxidants: blueberry, strawberry, blackberries or raspberries
  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and collard. They carry vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  • Whole grain like oats, whole wheat, brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa- are high in fiber which helps in reduction of bad cholesterol.
  • Avocados: they are high in monounsaturated fats and potassium- help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of metabolic syndrome.
  • Dark chocolate! It is high in antioxidants like flavonoids, lowers the risk of calcified plaque in the arteries
  • Almonds contain lots of healthy fats, fiber, protein and magnesium that helps to lower blood pressure levels.
  • Green tea is a an anti-inflammatory agent that lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Tomatoes is a powerful antioxidant that also lowers cholesterol and keeps blood from clotting.

What we put on our plates influences almost every aspect of our wellbeing. Including these heart-healthy foods in our diet, can and will help to keep your heart in good shape and minimize the risk of heart disease.

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