Your heart is an astounding and powerful organ. It is the body’s engine room, constantly pumps oxygen & nutrient-rich blood right through your body to keep you going, and enjoying life!
Most of us already know that aerobic and resistance training exercises have been shown in many studies to improve cardiovascular and respiratory health, and that exercise helps lower blood pressure, reduce resting heart rates, and lower cholesterol.
However, recent studies now show that regular stretching exercise and trunk flexibility training cannot be overlooked either, as it has a direct connection to improving your arterial elasticity.
Knowledge is power, so understanding the risks, remedies, and rewards is a first step to your overall healthy and happy heart!
What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease, and What Can You Do to Optimize Your Heart’s Health?
1. Cholesterol – There has been much hype about cholesterol since the big Pharma needed to create a problem in order to promote their solution – the Statin drugs, while subsidizing junk food. Even my own father, a renowned MD PhD, dismissed my criticism against the Statin drugs, which he relied on heavily to control his high cholesterol, until it was almost too late. Yes, I was the one, the only non MD in the family, but rather the attorney, the wellness advocate, and a personal trainer, who alerted him of a severe Statin toxicity which robbed his otherwise formidable and robust body of the ability to perform even the most simple daily tasks.
Among the many side effects, Statin drugs can cause life-threatening muscle damage called rhabdomyolysis (rab-doe-my-OL-ih-sis). Rhabdomyolysis can cause severe muscle pain, liver damage, kidney failure and death.
The Pharma companies would like you to believe that these occurrences are rather rare, but in fact, they are more common than we are lead to believe!
Just like with so many other drugs, the fine print and the warnings are rather lengthy and latent, and many of the side affects are not even reported. Yet, so many patients are quick to rely and depend on these prescription drugs rather than taking reasonable steps to change lifestyle habits which in many cases are the root cause of the problem.
So before you start on relying on the easy “pill for every ill” formula, learn what you can do to modify your current lifestyle in order to optimize your health, without experiencing the negative side effects of the drugs.
Is Cholesterol Really That Bad?!?
For years cholesterol was arguably the source of all evil in the health world, and the root cause of heart attacks, and therefore, It was to be avoided at all costs.
As nutrition science advanced, however, it became more and more clear that eating cholesterol actually doesn’t really impact your cholesterol levels by any significant levels, , and it might not be such a great indicator of heart health at all!
Cholesterol is a type of fat made by your liver — it plays a role in creating vitamin D, and maintains cell membrane health. Basically, you really need cholesterol if you want to be a functioning human, and your body does a fine job producing it.
You can also find cholesterol in food, but eating high-cholesterol foods doesn’t necessarily mean your blood cholesterol levels will increase. And some people simply make more cholesterol than others. “Everyone’s body is different, and you don’t know how much cholesterol your body is going to make,” says cardiologist Dr. Nicole Weinberg.
Heart disease isn’t caused by high cholesterol levels, but by inflammation in the body, Dr. Weinberg says. Inflammation can be caused by diet, infection, and diseases.
A. Lousy Cholesterol, aka LDL is produced by your body as some of the cells need it for proper function. However consuming animal based fats on a regular basis will often push it overboard.
B. Healthy Cholesterol, aka HDL is the body’s janitor, which sweeps away the LDL and hauls it off for disposal by the liver.
4. Plaque – damaged LDL and other debris turns into a gunk and junk, coating the arteries. When plaque raptures, cells rush to repair the damage, forming a clot, which if breaks lose can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
5. Inflammation – once LDL sets in the arteries, the immune system prepares to attack the invaders. All sorts of inflammatory compounds rush rush in, which increases the hunky deposits, and can make the plaque rapture. The number of the inflammatory compounds increases with consumption of junk food and excess belly fat.
6. High Blood Pressure is like sandblasting on a delicate artery walls, damaging the tissue which then becomes the breeding ground for plaque and inflammation.
What Can You Do?!?
In order to increase the levels of HDL, one must engage in regular exercise, and consume the LDL fighting foods (HDL friendly foods).
Make certain your daily diet includes a broad variety of these: olive oil, beans and legumes, whole grains, high-fiber fruits (especially pears and plums), oats, barely, bulgur wheat, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, winter squash, pumpkin, flax, chia seeds, nuts, avocado, tofu, probiotics, and a glass of red wine.
However, great foods alone, is only part of the effort. In order to maximize and optimize your heart’s health You Must Get Moving!
Daily exercise is one of the best natural ways to boost your HDL. If you’re new to exercise, start slow. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes of walking a few times a week. Slowly build up to at least 30 minutes of vigorous walking at least five times per week.
Trunk flexibility and stretching does wonders not only for optimizing range of motion, but it is also responsible for increasing the arteries’ flexibility and elasticity by about 20%, as well as reducing high blood pressure!
In one study of 28 women, eight weeks of full body dynamic stretching exercise, reduced blood pressure by 4-7 points.
For people older than 40 — even if they’re a little overweight — a new study shows that trunk flexibility may be a good indicator of arterial flexibility. Conversely, the study found, stiffness at the midsection seems to reflect arteries that have begun to lose their elasticity as well.
Elastic blood vessels help moderate blood pressure. Not surprisingly, then, researchers found that those who could not reach to or beyond their toes in the sit-and-stretch test were more likely than their flexible peers to have higher systolic blood pressure — the peak pressure reading taken as the heart contracts. Although midsection stiffness predicted arterial stiffness, the Japanese researchers found that subjects’ muscle strength and cardio-respiratory fitness, as measured by their performance on a stationary bicycle, did not yield any clues as to the shape of their vessels.
Another recent study found that middle-age and older adults who undertook a stretching exercise regimen significantly improved the flexibility of their carotid artery, which carries oxygen-rich blood to the brain (and which, when blocked, is the cause of an ischemic stroke).
Furthermore, shedding the extra pounds is essential for your heart, body, and soul! One of the benefits of exercise could be weight loss. Reducing your weight can help raise your HDL and lower your LDL.
Stop smoking, excessive drinking, find some “me time” and relax, eat “clean” – organic, non-GMO whole food, get adequate sleep, and exercise regularly to boost your immune system and heart health.
Start your day with a brief stretching routine, calm music, healthy breakfast, and a cup of organic coffee, with a spoon full of turmeric-ginger-cinnamon paste (see recipe in my previous blogs), which will add a dose of the essential potassium and magnesium into your diet, another blood pressure controlling mineral.
I have had an opportunity to work with many clients who were on prescription drugs for high cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension.
Once there were ready to make a commitment to themselves and to love their heart more than the poor diet and exercise habits, they were able to reverse much of the damage, stop ” living better through chemistry”, and start enjoying their optimal heart health!
Be Fit, Healthy, & Thrive!