Three Ways to Reduce Inflammation and Improve Your Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the United States and around the world. According to the CDC, over 600,000 people in the US alone die every year due to cardiovascular issues, but millions more suffer from its ill effects in the form of medical procedures, quality of life compromises and more. Many heart disease issues are preventable, but sadly we, as a society, have not yet been able to get it under control.
The onset and severity of heart disease is multi-factorial. However, it is becoming clearer that there are a few root causes (exacerbated by genetic predisposition and family history) that must be addressed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. One of these is inflammation.
An acute (short-term) inflammatory response to an injury or trauma is normal and even protective. However, abnormally high inflammatory responses in our bodies, due to poor diet and lifestyle choices, have become the norm today. While similar to an inflammatory response to an injury or other trauma, the danger is that the inflammation is chronic. So how do we work towards a healthier, balanced life?
Reduce Abdominal Fat
We all have fat in our bodies – even athletes at the top of their games have some, albeit not much, fat. Fat in and of itself is not bad, but excess fat can be. More specifically, the white fat that often manifests as belly fat around our waists is the worst offender. White fat differs from its healthier cousin, brown fat, in one major way – it produces inflammation. Through the secretion of hormones, white fat increases inflammation in the body, causing a host of ill effects – one being heart disease. Eating well and exercising regularly can reverse the inflammatory response that most of our bodies are experiencing. Eliminating processed foods, white carbs and other inflammation producing foods while eating more lean meats, vegetables and fruits is critical. Further, drinking plenty of water not only helps with inflammation but also increases energy.
Stress isn’t inherently bad, and our stress response is important during times when we are in danger – essentially it is the fight or flight response to external stimuli. Before the advent of stressful workdays and relationships, we used this response sparingly. Today however, stress has become a way of life and we are getting worse at managing it.
The first step to managing stress is recognizing when it is present. Understanding your triggers and response to stress goes a long way towards being able to manage it appropriately. Secondly, stress coping strategies are key. We will never be able to eliminate hard days at work or difficult relationships. However, we can cope with them to reduce the mental and physical effect they have on us. Lastly, prevention is best. Over time, as we acknowledge and identify the stressors in our lives, we can work to eliminate the root causes.
Check Your Levels
Often overlooked are the hormone, vitamin and nutrient levels in our bodies. And when our bodies are out of balance, inflammatory response can kick in. For example, most Americans are seriously deficient in Vitamin D, an essential nutrient that not only fights inflammation but allows for the absorption of calcium, improves our mood and can ward off a host of diseases. Speak to your primary care physician or specialist to discuss whether a simple blood test to check your levels may be right for you.
All of the tricks to manage and eliminate inflammation are also the basic health tips to make our hearts healthier and avoid at least some of the most serious cardiovascular consequences of inflammation. Following these tips and getting back to a healthier diet and lifestyle regimen can get us in tip top heart health.