The best way to avoid a heart blockage from happening is to prevent or to reduce the accumulation of fat in the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. Why is this important? Because with time, this fat clogs the coronary arteries, the ones that wrap the heart, reducing the amount of blood the heart needs to keep ticking.
So, here is what you can do to prevent a heart blockage from happening.
Limit the amount of saturated fat you consume
There are several reasons why you want to restrict this type of fat in your diet:
Saturated fat clogs your arteries. It is the most rigid of all fats and is solid at room temperature. Solid fats are hard to dissolve and can easily get stuck in your arteries.
Saturated fat causes the liver to overproduce cholesterol. Your liver makes about 75 percent of the cholesterol you need, while the remaining 25 percent comes from food. But when you eat too much saturated fat, your liver keeps producing cholesterol and you end up with much more cholesterol than you need. Limit saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of the total calories ingested per day.
Major sources of saturated fat
· Red meat
· The skin of poultry
· Cold cuts
· Whole milk
· Hard cheese
· Whole yogurt
· Sour cream
Read food labels when buying packaged foods, whether it is a box, a can, a bag, etc. Look under “Total Fat” in the “Nutrition Facts” of the food label. There you will see the amount of “Saturated Fat”. Try not to buy foods that show more than 2 or 3 grams of saturated fat.
Avoid foods containing hydrogenated oils or trans fats
Health authorities are concerned that the consumption of trans fats might have contributed to the 20th century epidemic of coronary heart disease.
Hydrogenated oils or trans fats, as they are usually called, are produced artificially by inserting molecules of hydrogen in vegetable oils, a process called hydrogenation. Through this process, the oil, which is liquid at room temperature, changes its original form and becomes solid. In other words, it becomes saturated fat.
Trans fats destroy your body cells because the unnatural shapes of these fats cause your cells, including the heart cells, to become malformed and as a result, to malfunction. When the arteries are damaged, cholesterol attaches itself to their inner walls, a first step towards atherosclerosis. Read food labels and avoid products containing trans fats or hydrogenated fats.
Major sources of hydrogenated fats or trans fats:
· Baked goods high in fat: cookies, donuts, croissants, cakes, etc.
· Snack foods: crackers and potato chips
· Stick margarine and shortening
· Fried foods in fast food restaurant
Eat adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables.We know that people who consume plant foods regularly have a lower incidence of atherosclerosis than those who do not include them in their diet, which translates into less episodes of heart blockages.
Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, nonnutritive chemicals found in plant foods that protect their host plants from infections and microbial invasions. Recently, however, scientists have learned that phytochemicals are also crucial in protecting humans against many diseases, including heart disease. Among the functions phytochemicals perform in our bodies are:
· They act as antioxidants
· They keep the walls of small blood vessels healthy
· They make small blood vessels stronger
· They prevent platelets from becoming sticky and forming clots
· They block specific enzymes that raise blood pressure.
Include about 3 servings of fruit and 5-7 servings of vegetables a day
What is a serving?
A serving of fruit is:
· A standard piece of fruit, the size of a regular light bulb
· ¼ cup dried fruit
· ½ cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit
· 6 ounces fruit juice
A serving of vegetables is:
· 1 cup raw leafy vegetables
· ½ cup cooked vegetables
· 6 ounces vegetable juice
Avoid too much stress
Are you feeling?
· Strong headaches
· Muscle pain
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, you may be going through a period of excessive tension. Unfortunately, too much stress is responsible for many of the visits we pay to the doctor.
Trying to cover on a daily basis more tasks than you physically can handle may be one of the major contributors to your stress. Being under stress for an extended period of time will affect your immune system and will reduce your capacity to fight disease. It can be also a major factor in heart disease since it can affect high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.
Don’t drink too much alcohol
Avoid high alcohol consumption. Five to seven percent of hypertension cases we see in people are cause by high alcohol intake. The Health World Organization estimates that almost 2/3 of strokes and 50 percent of heart attacks are caused by high blood pressure. Limit your alcohol intake to two small glasses of wine a day if you are a male and one small glass a day if you are a female.
You need to walk
For years, health professionals had examined the association between exercise and the risk for heart failure. The findings consistently reveal that people who are physically active have half the risk for heart blockages than people who are not active. Those studies show also that at least 30 minutes of moderate walking, on most days of the week, is sufficient to reduce the risk of angina pain.
Keep in mind that the heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle in the body, it becomes stronger the more you exercise it. Without exercise, it loses muscle fibers and becomes weak until it is unable to do its job. And the last thing you need is a heart that can’t do its job. Walking has the following direct effects on the heart muscle:
- It strengthens the heart so it can pump more blood with fewer beats
- It lowers blood pressure by increasing the diameter of the arteries
- It lowers “LDL”, the bad cholesterol
- It increases “HDL”, the “good” cholesterol
- It decrease triglycerides
- It lowers the risk of diabetes, which is a risk for heart attacks
If you smoke, quit doing it
The risk of having a heart blockage is about four times higher in people who smoke than in those who don’t. Many of us are under the impression that the major danger from smoking is cancer but that is not quite true; smoking is the major risk factor for a heart blockage. In fact, about 40% of deaths caused by cardiovascular disease are due to smoking.
Smoking contributes to a heart blockage as follows:
- It increase blood pressure
- The carcinogen components in tobacco damage the walls of the arteries
- The carbon monoxide from the burning of the tobacco interferes with the blood
- capacity to carry oxygen to the heart
- Smoking causes the narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood to the blood vessels
I know that to stop smoking is not a piece of cake but you have to make an effort. If you try, I am confident you’ll succeed. Be strong! Look for professional help to assist you in this task. And don’t get discourage if you have already tried and didn’t make it. Try as many times as you can.
If you make an effort to implement a lifestyle based on these principles, you will be well ahead in preventing a heart attack or an episode of angina due to a heart blockage. And the beauty of it is that you won’t be part of the yearly American Heart Association’s statistics of people having a heart attack.