WORDS OF WELLNESS WITH DR. CATHY February 2015
February is National Heart Month. Heart disease is the number one killer of adults, both men and women, in America. I would like to use my nutritional training to offer diet and supplementation suggestions that I know will help with the prevention, as well as the treatment, of heart disease. As always, please check with your primary physician before beginning any diet or supplementation routine.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Omega 3s, are the most important supplement for almost all of us to take on a daily basis. Omega 3s are considered essential fatty acids and keep our blood vessels pliable. Our bodies don’t make Omega 3s, so we only get them from food sources and supplements. The highest concentrations are found in cold water fish (salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines), flax seed and flax oil (never heat or it becomes rancid and dangerous), walnuts, hemp milk and oils. Fish oil, my favorite choice, is the only Omega 3 that is also a very strong anti-inflammatory. Most heart disease stems from inflammation, including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, plaques and blockages. For most patients I recommend 2,000-4,000 mg per day. An average serving of salmon contains 400 mg of Omega 3s, so it is very difficult to achieve the ideal amount without supplementation. Do not take Omega 3s without your physician’s authorization if you are on blood thinners. Fish oil is an anti-coagulant and if you are already on blood thinners, it can thin your blood to a dangerous level.
- CoEnzyme Q 10, CoQ10, is considered necessary for anyone with heart disease or a strong family history of heart disease, especially if you are currently on a statin (cholesterol lowering medication). CoQ10 provides energy to the cells. It is the strongest anti-oxidant and helps to cleanse our cells of cellular debris from poor diets, toxins, medications and air pollution. All statin medications lower CoQ10 causing patients to feel weak muscles, fatigue, shortness of breath, etc. Sometimes simply supplementing with CoQ10 will reverse these unpleasant side effects. I recommend a minimum of 100 mg for prevention and 200-400 mg if on a statin, symptomatic or for anyone with heart disease.
- Many people preach “low fat” for heart patients. I preach healthy, good, natural fats. Our bodies need fat to keep our blood vessels open and pliable. Choose butter or olive oil instead of margarine or imitation butter. Our bodies recognize real foods and know how to process them. Always use butter and olive oils in moderation.
- The heart is a muscle and muscles need protein to stay strong and well fueled. High sources of protein are found in animal products, beans, whole grains and vegetables. Choose free range, hormone free meats, dairy and eggs whenever possible.
- Stay away from processed, packaged, low fat foods. They are filled with sugar and sodium to make up for the terrible processed, chemical taste. You are better off choosing full fat foods in moderation, than choosing foods comprised mostly of chemicals.
A key aspect of heart disease that I believe is many times overlooked, or at least not discussed enough, is stress. Although I may be going out on a limb, I want you to know that I have learned a very important lesson in stress reduction…loving yourself is equally important as loving everyone around you. I know everyone has so many necessary obligations squeezed into a 24 hour day, however, if you don’t carve some “you time” into those 24 hours, I believe it will eventually back fire on you. There are simple things we can do throughout the day to lower our stress levels. Turn off your cell phone in the car and enjoy the peace, meditate or listen to music that brings you joy. Visualize your stress washing down the drain when you shower. Get to the gym for 30 minutes. Take 10 minutes at the end of the day to deep breathe and focus on what you did right that day. Don’t dwell on the things that didn’t go as planned. Make yourself a priority!