Diet and Lifestyle Tips to Help Prevent and Improve Cardiovascular Disease

As I sit at my desk this morning looking out at new spring flowers popping up in my yard, I am reminded that even in California we have seasonal changes and that it brings joy to celebrate them, as subtle as they sometimes are. I like to use the season changing to check in with myself and reassess how I am doing on my health goals.

Cardiovascular Disease
This week I wanted to share some thoughts on cardiovascular disease. Vascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. Of the top 10 most commonly prescribed prescriptions in the U.S. six are either cholesterol-lowering or blood pressure-lowering medications. While there is a place for medications, there are a lot of diet and lifestyle habits we can do to reduce our risk and progression of vascular disease and for some, it may be possible to work with their doctors to lower medications levels.

Cardio-Protective Diets
If you go on the internet and google cardiovascular disease and diet you will get all sorts of seemingly conflicting diets showing up — from Vegetarian to Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, DASH, Caffeine-restricted, Intermittent Fasting, and Cardiometabolic. No one of these diets is right for everyone. Choosing the right diet for you involves looking at your symptoms, your test results, and the principles of each of the diets that might best work to support your health. Often times it is helpful to take principles from several of these diets to support your individual needs. That said there are a few things that all of these diets have in common and they are:

  • high in fiber
  • include a mix of oils and fats rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) such as extra virgin olive oil, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, chia seeds, sesame seeds, pine nuts, and omega 3 fatty acids commonly found in fish including salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, anchovies, halibut, and sardines, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, Brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower
  • recommend a variety of foods high in potassium including avocado, leafy greens (spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard …), broccoli, beans and lentils, oranges, tomatoes, cashews, almonds, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pomegranate, some fish (salmon, cod, and haddock), and everyone’s first guess — bananas
  • low in added salt
  • include nuts and seeds
  • celebrate foods rich in flavonoids and antioxidants found in colorful plant foods

These diets also recommend eliminating the following foods:

  • processed foods
  • foods high in salt
  • foods high in added sugar or other sweeteners
  • foods that include trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils that are added to foods such as commercial cakes, cookies, and pies, shortening, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, refrigerated doughs, fried foods, some nondairy creamers, and margarine that were added to improve shelf life

Lifestyle Habits
Focusing on our diet is not the only thing that we can do to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease. When we think about lifestyle habits that support vascular health, we often think of stopping smoking, balancing blood sugar, managing stress, and getting moving as helpful preventative habits. But did you know that not getting enough good quality sleep is considered to be one of the most important lifestyle factors that contribute to the progression of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular events? And a lack of social relationships has been shown to decrease mortality even more than smoking, lack of exercise, and obesity. Addressing lifestyle habits is key to building and maintaining vascular and overall health.

Assess and Upgrade
It is a new quarter and a new season. Now might be a good time to check in with yourself and see if you may benefit from a diet and lifestyle upgrade to support your cardiovascular health.

Making changes in diet and lifestyle can be overwhelming. My goal is to support my clients while they make changes in a doable, long-term way.  Book an exploratory call (for new clients) or a follow-up visit (for existing clients) at book an appointment so we can dive deeper together.