This idea of using good nutrition to beat Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) is not new.
It’s recycled information that, unheeded, caused the deaths of 610,000 people last year from heart attacks and related complications.
I know I spend a lot of time preaching about lifestyle changes…but people, really? Isn’t that 610,000 disturbing to you? You are not immune.
Imagine this scenario:
➡ Hundreds of cars zooming down an eight-lane highway.
➡ One lane disappears, and then another until the same cars crawl bumper-to-bumper along a one-lane country road.
That’s sort of what happens when you have atherosclerosis.
Your arteries, the highways of your blood, harden and narrow, and the same amount of blood has to make its way through a much tighter space.
This traffic jam in your arteries leads to all sorts of trouble, including heart attacks and strokes.
Atherosclerosis occurs when cholesterol, fat, and other substances in your blood build up in the walls of your arteries.
Although the process can begin when you’re a child, it may not become a problem until you’re in your 50s or 60s.
As this muck gathers in your arteries, it forms plaque.
Plaque can clog or completely block arteries, cutting off blood flow to your heart or brain.
That’s when you have a heart attack or stroke.
So, using good nutrition makes sense.
➡ The greatest damage to your arteries is caused by
- Too much cholesterol and triglycerides (types of fat in the blood)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
➡ Other risk factors for atherosclerosis include having a family history of it, diabetes, stress, obesity, and an inactive lifestyle.
But you can fight it. You do it by learning to make better food choices:
➡ Cutting back on saturated fats and cholesterol from meat and whole-milk dairy products
➡ Look for the following foods (nutritional blockbusters) that lower cholesterol, bring down blood pressure, and keep your blood flowing smoothly.
Omega-3 fatty acids, the polyunsaturated kinds found in fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon, protect your arteries from damage.
- First, omega-3 takes out triglycerides (the fats that build up on your artery walls).
- Then, it stops your blood’s platelets from clumping together. That way, your blood remains smooth instead of sticky. Sticky blood can clot and block blood flow.
- Lastly, omega-3 has been shown to lower blood pressure.
This is why The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two meals containing fish every week.
➡ Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
You can also find a form of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid in:
- walnuts, which lower cholesterol.
- wheat germ
- green, leafy vegetables, like kale, spinach, and arugula.
The sulfur compounds in this amazing herb not only lower cholesterol and triglycerides, but they also go after only the LDL or “bad” cholesterol and leave the HDL or “good” cholesterol alone.
Garlic can also lower blood pressure so your arteries don’t take as much of a pounding.
- Thanks to a substance called ajoene, garlic keeps your blood from clumping and clotting.
One study even showed garlic helps your aorta, the body’s main artery, remain elastic as you age.
- Experts recommend getting 4 grams of garlic – about one clove – into your diet each day.
Fiber: During the course of a day, you should eat about 25 to 35 grams of fiber. It boosts your general health and gives atherosclerosis a good battle.
- Certain types of soluble fiber, such as is found in oats, barley, apples, and other fruits, shrink your cholesterol levels.
It works by slowing down your food as it passes through your stomach and small intestine so that your “good” cholesterol (HDL) has more time to take the bad cholesterol (LDL) to your liver and out of your body.
- Fiber comes with an added bonus – it fills you up.
After a fiber-rich meal, you feel full, so you’re less likely to overeat and put on unwanted pounds.
Because being overweight increases your risk of atherosclerosis and other heart problems, eating fiber could be part of an effective strategy to guard your arteries.
- You’ll find fiber in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain bread and cereals.
Sources of natural vitamins keep you healthy:
➡ Sources of vitamin C include peppers, oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe, and broccoli
➡ Beta Carotene is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, mangoes, and collard greens.
➡ Vitamin E is plentiful in wheat germ, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.
And…while you munch on those fruits and vegetables, you’ll get the added benefit of antioxidant substances called flavonoids that help your heart and arteries.
- They’re found in grapes, cranberry juice, onions, apples, and tea
To keep your blood running smoothly, maybe you need an oil change.
- Olive oil, the main source of fat in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, has mostly monounsaturated fat.
This type of fat slashes the “bad” cholesterol without harming the “good” cholesterol. It also prevents clotting, giving your arteries even more protection.
Like fiber, monounsaturated fat also fills you up so you’re less likely to overeat.
Think about switching from soybean or corn oil to olive oil. After all, the Greeks – even while enjoying a rather high-fat diet – rarely develop atherosclerosis.
- Besides olive oil, sources of monounsaturated fat include avocados, nuts, and canola oil.
Ginger contains phytochemicals called gingerol and shogaol, which give it its antioxidant power.
➡ Animal studies show that ginger lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and triglycerides.
➡ In addition, ginger keeps your blood from clotting by reducing the stickiness of your platelets.
You get the idea…Basically, you become what you eat, and your heart pays the price. Ultimately, however, it is you who pays the most. Be kind to your heart, it really is the boss.