The Lifestyle of a Healthy Heart
What do you do to protect your heart? In this article, I will cover diet, supplements, and lifestyle techniques that your heart will love, along with the most important blood test you should ask your doctor for every year.
A healthy diet, regular exercise, and the quality and duration of sleep are the lifestyle hallmarks of a healthy heart. But sadly, many who follow a heart-healthy lifestyle are not immune to heart disease. To get this right, the devil is in the details.
One cause that can undermine a heart-healthy lifestyle is genetics. If one of your parents had heart disease, then each child will have a 50% chance of inheriting the abnormal copy of that gene and getting heart disease.1 Read on for ways to mitigate this risk.
Are Cholesterol + LDLs to Blame?
Over a century ago, the high-cholesterol theory of heart disease was introduced.3 For decades, cholesterol was identified as the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But today, cholesterol alone has been found NOT to be an independent risk factor for heart disease. Low density lipoproteins (LDLs) were also linked to increased heart disease risk, but critics cite studies that heart attacks occurred in some people who did not have high LDL levels.2
Get the Right Blood Test: Apolipoprotein B
On the surface of the LDL cholesterol is a protein called apolipoprotein B, which has been identified as a leading factor in heart disease and atherosclerosis. In one study, those who had the lowest lifelong levels of apolipoprotein B in the blood saw a 90% decreased risk of coronary heart disease.4
Make sure you ask your doctor to include an apolipoprotein B test during your next annual blood test.
In a study of over 2,000 volunteers between 45-76, those who had high apolipoprotein B levels, along with total cholesterol and HDL (good cholesterol) in normal range, had a 60% increased risk of coronary heart disease. Those who had high apolipoprotein B levels, along high total cholesterol and lower HDL levels, saw a 160% increase in coronary artery disease.5
These studies and others conclude that elevated levels of apolipoprotein B is a more reliable marker for cardiovascular disease than LDL, total cholesterol, and HDL levels. Other risk factors that should be evaluated on a blood test are triglycerides, fasting glucose, insulin, homocysteine, C-reactive protein levels, and a hormonal evaluation.2-5
The Lifestyle of a Healthy Heart
Studies suggest following a Mediterranean diet will lower apolipoprotein B levels, decreasing cardiovascular risk. In one study, a low-fat diet was compared to a traditional Mediterranean diet with added nuts or olive oil. Those who ate the enhanced Mediterranean diet saw a significant reduction in apolipoprotein levels and cardiovascular risk.6
Mediterranean Diet Basics
- Decrease saturated fats from meat, vegetable oils, butter, palm oil, and coconut oils
- Increase consumption of extra virgin olive oil and nuts
- Eat more fiber-rich foods, such as beans, yams, berries, and whole grains
- Reduce intake of meat
- Eat more plant-based proteins
- Reduce sugar
- Reduce refined and processed foods
- Increase intake of cold-water, wild-caught fish
Going Nuts on Walnuts
Walnuts have been found to be extremely heart-healthy, as are most nuts. Walnuts have been found to lower apolipoprotein B levels by 5.5%.7 One study included eating 1.5oz of walnuts a day for eight weeks and saw a decrease in fasting cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol.7,8
Omega-3 Cold-Water Fish Oils Lower Apolipoprotein B Levels
A study in the prestigious journal Nature found taking about 1800mg of EPA and 1200mg of DHA resulted in a 30% reduction in apolipoprotein B levels in ten healthy men.13 Other studies suggest omega-3 fish oil supplementation supports healthy heart function.14
Learn more about LifeSpa’s Mini Omega 3X.
Exercise Lowers Apolipoprotein B Levels
Lack of regular exercise is now considered a risk factor for heart disease, and exercise has also been found to reduce apolipoprotein B levels. One study with over 200 middle-aged males found regular physical exercise was able to significantly decrease levels of apolipoproten B, and therefore reduce risk of coronary artery disease.9
Sugar is the Bane of Your Heart’s Existence
We all know too much sugar is bad for us. Excess sugar will glycate or clump together with proteins in the blood, increasing blood sugar levels, as well as risk for coronary heart health concerns. When sugar or glucose lingers in the bloodstream, the risk of glycation and insulin resistance can increase. Studies have linked insulin resistance and prediabetes with increased levels of apolipoprotein B and increased coronary disease.10
In another study, where over 24,000 volunteers were evaluated, increased apolipoprotein B levels were associated with smoking, low physical exercise, obesity, and a diet high in sugar.11
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Sleep Does a Heart Good
In a study with over 7,000 participants, sleep duration and apolipoprotein B levels were evaluated. Those who got less than six hours of sleep on average had 1.75x higher levels of apolipoprotein B, compared to those who got seven to eight hours of sleep. The study concluded that sleep management could serve to treat and prevent cardiovascular diseases by altering unfavorable apolipoprotein levels.12
Download my free sleep eBook.
Dr. John’s Heart Health Checklist
- Annual apolipoprotein B test
- Mediterranean Diet
- Fish Oils
- Daily exercise
- Avoid sugar
- Sleep 7-8 hours per night
How is your heart? What do you do to protect your cardiovascular health?