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Healthy Habits to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

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Overview

Cardiovascular disease is the number killer worldwide, with a death toll of over 17.9 million lives each year.

In the medical community, cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that’s used to describe a wide range of illnesses, including coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, and stroke.

All of these ailments are caused by the irreversible clogging of a main artery, which deprives different tissues of oxygen and nutrients.

Depending on the affected organ, the patient could develop:

  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Stroke
  • Ischemic limb

The main culprit behind the vascular obstruction is the oxidation of cholesterol that occurs in the lumen of those vessels.

In this article, we will discuss the primary measures you can take to prevent cardiovascular disease and counter the oxidative stress that occurs in your blood vessels.

We should note that many of the tips listed below were based on pieces of writings done by Dr. Irfan Siddiqui, who’s a board-certified cardiologist practicing in Florida.

Healthy habits to promote cardiovascular health

Making dietary changes

Diet is the main factor that determines the health of your heart and vessels. After years of research, scientists identified numerous foods that optimize cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of vessel obstruction.

Some of these foods include:

Omega 3

Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that reduces blood pressure and optimizes the metabolism of lipids (e.g., triglycerides).

Since high blood pressure and dyslipidemia are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, consuming healthy fats could reduce the strain on your heart, as well as the risk of myocardial infarction (insert the link of the MI article).

Foods that contain omega-3:

  • Herring
  • Oysters
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Cod liver oil

Omega 6

According to several scientific studies, omega-6 fatty acids are especially effective at reducing the levels of LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol.

Similar to omega-3, this fatty acid focuses on the metabolism of other lipids to protect your vessels from obstruction.

Foods that contain omega-6:

  • Hemp seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Tofu

Vitamin K

Calcium build-up inside blood vessels is an important risk factor for heart disease.

Therefore, foods and medications that can prevent the accumulation of calcium could potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The primary way that vitamin K2 helps with this condition is by preventing the deposition of calcium inside the arteries.

In a 2004 study, researchers analyzed the effects of taking high amounts of vitamin K2 over the course of 7-10 years.

The results showed that individuals with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had a 52% reduction in the risk of intravascular calcification and a 57% risk reduction of dying from myocardial infarction.

In another study, 16,057 women had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease after ramping up their vitamin K2 intake.

When comparing these findings to the effects of vitamin K1, researchers found a negligible impact of the latter.

With that being said, the two studies mentioned above are observational studies, which means they could only be used to find a correlation between vitamin K2 intake and heart disease. And as you may know, correlation does not equal causation.

To simply this concept, here’s an analogy:

Drowning-related deaths are highest when people consume a lot of ice cream.

Obviously, ice cream consumption does not cause people to drown; this is merely a correlation that occurs because both swimming activity and ice cream intake peak during the summer season.

The same thing applies to vitamin K2 intake and cardiovascular disease.

However, the example given in the analogy is on the extreme side of things since there is no mechanism that could potentially connect the two events.

On the other hand, vitamin K2 has a documented biological mechanism that explains its effectiveness in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Practicing yoga

Yoga promotes numerous functions of the body, including cardiovascular health.

Here are some of the potential mechanisms that could explain this effect:

It reduces stress

Yoga is an incredibly effective anxiolytic practice that controls levels of stress and anxiety.

You see, chronic psychological stress triggers complex biochemical pathways that lead to the massive release of stress hormones in the blood (e.g., cortisol, epinephrine).

Eventually, these hormones constrict the diameter of blood vessels and increase the risk of high blood pressure.

Furthermore, chronic stress makes people prone to heart attacks (insert the link of the MI article) and congestive heart failure.

The good news is that yoga exercises are the perfect antidotes to all stress-induced problems.

It promotes heart function

Scientists concluded that yoga helps regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate.

Abnormal events of these parameters predispose to cardiovascular disease.

In one study, researchers inspected the effects of 3 months of yoga practice on blood pressure and waist circumference.

At the end of the study, all participants had a lower waist circumference and improved blood pressure measurements.

Another study noted that practicing yoga twice a week lowers the chances of developing atrial fibrillation (A-fib).

A-fib is a common cardiac arrhythmia that messes the electrical system of the heart.

It helps with smoking cessation

Smoking is a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Unfortunately, the addictive properties of nicotine make it very difficult to abandon this devastating habit. According to statists, millions of people die every year from lung cancer.

Fortunately, researchers linked yoga to smoking cessation. The underlying mechanisms that explain this phenomenon are still unclear.

According to Dr. Irfan Siddiqui, discontinuing smoking reduces your risk of heart disease significantly.

It serves as an exercise

Most people consider yoga to be a light activity that doesn’t qualify as an exercise. However, and depending on the type of poses you practice, yoga can be very demanding on your body.

Yoga improves flexibility and balance while promoting muscle hypertrophy.

Note that yoga is not considered an aerobic exercise, which is why Dr. Irfan Siddiqui advises his patients to get 30–60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.

Takeaway message

Cardiovascular disease is a public health problem that takes millions of lives annually. The world health organization (WHO) and centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) spend billions of dollars to educate people about this illness and ways to prevent it.

Hopefully, this article managed to shed some light on the preventive measures highlighted by Dr. Irfan Siddiqui that could reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

If you still have any questions about heart disease, feel free to ask in the comment section below.

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