Preventing Heart Disease
Heart health should be the number one health priority for most people. The fact is that the leading cause of death for people in the US and worldwide - is heart disease.
There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding lifestyle and dietary choices and even the basic mechanisms of heart disease.
First, let's talk about the basics of heart health. A healthy lifestyle is your first step in preventing heart disease. A ‘healthy lifestyle’ is not putting yourself on a rigorously strict diet that you are falling off of all the time. It is not working out until exhaustion 6 or 7 days a week.
A healthy lifestyle will make you feel good, allow you to have the energy to do the things you want and not feel like your starving, overwhelmed or overworked.
Culture Impacts Heart Health
We can learn a lot about cultures around the world who are long-lived and have a very low disease rate.
If you look at these cultures, there is a huge emphasis on family and friend relationships, a sense of community, a clean diet and emotional support of the individual - which all amount to a nourishing lifestyle in general.
The ‘wellness’ trend is drawing attention to the importance of a healthy lifestyle, but it is also competing with daily articles outlining ‘5 Ways your Sleep Patterns Will Kill You’ and ‘If You Have This Symptom it Means...’.
Much of our work and social culture in this country is anathema to good health. The good news is that there is a lot you can do.
Here are a few ways you can build sustainable health while protecting your heart. We will start with diet since it is something you can do at least three times a day.
What to Eat
Heart Healthy Diet
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
Organic, preferably local produce in a wide range of colors
Aim for at least 3 colors of fruits/veggies daily
FIBER & HYDRATION
Plenty of organic whole grains and legumes
Drink plenty of water with lemon throughout the day
Use grass-fed butter, organic coconut oil or high-quality olive oil for cooking
Wild-caught fish or plant source of omega 3's
Dr. Brian Lum
The Importance of Hydration in Heart Function
One of the most important recommendations I make to patients whose priority is heart health is to tell them to stay hydrated. Usually, patients respond by saying "Oh, I know I should drink more" - they think it is one of those extraneous recommendations that does not really matter.
I really cannot stress enough how chronic dehydration puts a strain on the heart and other organs of the body. Make it a priority, start out the day with a large glass of water with lemon in it and make your mind up to keep refilling it all day long.
Many people feel that they feel less tired and more alert just by this one change.
What to Avoid
Heart Healthy Diet
Fast food and packaged food loaded with dyes, chemicals, preservatives, and additives
Eliminate food with refined and 'added sugars'
Your primary source of sugars should be whole fruit
High intake of non-organic red meat, chicken, pork, and farmed fish
Fried foods and low-quality vegetable oil
Dr. Brian Lum
Building Foundational Health
These general recommendations are a good starting point but in order to support your heart health, you will have to pay attention to more things than just diet. I want you to not be swayed by marketing which promises to 'heal' with one 'superfood' or supplement.
Longterm health is not achieved by quick fixes and no superfood can outrun an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
If you have or are at risk for heart disease it is a good idea to get a functional medicine evaluation. Biochemical imbalances can make heart disease worse.
Chemical and heavy metal toxicity, bacterial infection, viral infection, and hormone imbalances can place a strain on the function of your body and cause a multitude of other symptoms.
Diagnostic Testing For Heart Health
Working with a doctor to lower your risk of heart disease is very important especially if you have a higher risk due to genetics, family history, testing or if you have been diagnosed with a high risk of stroke or heart attack.
Make sure you are working with a doctor who is testing the right markers to determine your risk for heart disease. The panel listed below is what I use at my clinic in addition to any other testing that we determine is necessary.
Advanced Cardiovascular Risk Assessment Panel
The common lipid panel is not accurate in determining the true risk of a heart attack or stroke. More complete than a standard cholesterol panel, we test 4 factors in determining your heart health.
- Complete lipid assessment: In addition to the standard cholesterol markers, we evaluate lipoproteins and apolipoproteins - markers 3x more accurate than traditional biomarkers.
Inflammation: Plaque and heart disease begin with inflammation. Detecting cardiovascular specific inflammation is vital for the prevention and management of heart conditions.
Oxidation: Oxidation in combination with inflammation spell bad news for you and your heart. High cholesterol is usually only a major problem when oxidation and inflammation levels are elevated.
Heart Stress: We can detect stress on the heart itself.