In breaking news, scientists report an anti-inflammation drug can reduce risk for heart attacks, strokes and death from cardiovascular causes, without targeting cholesterol. However, that drug, canakinumab, costs a whopping $200,000 a year!
The wonderful news is that you don’t need a high-priced drug to fight inflammation. As discussed more fully in the BaleDoneen book, Beat the Heart Attack Gene, our heart-attack-and stroke-prevention plan prescribes optimal lifestyle as the most powerful “medicine” against chronic inflammation. Here are four proven ways to “fireproof” your arteries – naturally.
Practice mindfulness daily. Chronic stress, which repeatedly activates the body’s fight-or-flight system, has long been linked to increased risk for heart attacks and strokes. A new study published in Lancet used PET imaging to show that when the brain’s amygdala is over-activated by stress or anxiety, bone marrow produces more white-blood cells, leading to arterial inflammation, which in turn magnifies heart attack and stroke risk. Mindful meditation, however, appears to have the opposite effect, the researchers reported. Not only can it boost heart health, but mindfulness has also been shown to improve sleep onset and efficacy.
BaleDoneen recommendation: Devote 10 minutes a day to mindful meditation. Sit in a relaxed position, close your eyes and focus on your breathing and the present moment as you let stressful or upsetting thoughts float away. Prayer is another great way to soothe the mind and spirit, enhancing cardiovascular wellness.
Step up physical activity. Why does regular exercise greatly reduce heart attack and stroke risk? While you might guess that physical activity keeps the heart healthy by lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and body weight – all of which help protect against cardiovascular (CV) events – the well-known Women’s Health Study found that the no. 1 CV benefit of regular exercise is reducing inflammation.
BaleDoneen recommendation: Aim for at least 22 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, or biking, daily. Check with your healthcare provider before starting a new fitness regimen to make sure it’s right for you.
Eat the rainbow. Consuming a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables has amazing cardiovascular benefits, including lower risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and several forms of cancer. What’s more, people who eat a diet that is high in fiber (found in most produce) are nearly 60% less likely to die from CV causes, according to a study of nearly 400,000 people ages 50 and older.
BaleDoneen recommendation: Stock up on leafy green veggies, tomatoes, citrus fruit, fresh berries and cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts), all of which have been shown in studies to boost heart health.
Get optimal dental care. A landmark BaleDoneen study is the first to show that oral bacteria from periodontal disease (PD) can actually cause cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading killer of Americans. The majority of U.S. adults over age 30 have PD – and millions of them don’t know it because they haven’t been checked for gum disease, a serious infection that can lead to tooth loss and heart problems, if untreated.
BaleDoneen recommendation: Your dental provider is a potentially lifesaving member of your heart-attack-and-stroke-prevention team. To find out if you have PD, ask to have your gums examined for signs of oral infection. Also discuss the best ways to take care of your teeth and gums: Studies show that excellent oral health, including daily brushing and flossing and regular dental care, can add years to your life, giving you a lot to smile about!