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Heart Helpers

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Medical research indicates that eating foods rich in beta-carotene will lessen your risk of either a heart attack or a stroke.

Medical research indicates that eating foods rich in beta-carotene will lessen your risk of either a heart attack or a stroke. One carrot contains enough beta-carotene to prevent blood cholesterol from oxidizing or forming free radicals.

But, carrots are only the beginning. There is an extremely low level inflammatory process underlying heart diseases that can be detected with a simple blood test. In combination with cholesterol screening, this test most accurately predicts proclivity to heart disease. Chronic inflammation indicates a hidden predisposition to strokes and heart attacks. Eliminate the inflammation (and the accompanying ulcerated arterial plaques) and your risk is drastically reduced! Whether your blood test shows inflammation or not, why not lower your risks?

If you want a healthy heart give it lots to grow healthy on. Eat a diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables especially squashes, carrots, dark leafy greens, celery, parsley and watercress. Add cold-pressed oils like olive and flax to your salads. Choose whole grains over processed and refined flours. Eat non-genetically engineered soy and tofu products in moderation for a boost of calcium, magnesium and iron.

Add salmon, halibut, herring, sardines and trout to your diet, about two or three servings a week. These contain omega-3 fatty acids, which definitely reduce inflammation. A diet like this will provide nutrients to promote terrific health. Foods to avoid include animal fats like beef and pork (salmon oil and butter are beneficial), margarines and other hydrogenated oils, fried foods, coffee, sugar, salt, white flour, white rice, tobacco, nicotine products, red meats as well as processed and homogenized milk.

Include familiar herbs like garlic, hawthorn, cayenne pepper, ginkgo biloba and dandelion to your daily diet for maximum benefits. Garlic, both raw and cooked, will reduce blood clotting, blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Garlic is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, as well as a diuretic. If raw garlic isn't for you, try kyolic garlic containing a daily dose of at least 10 mg of alliin or 400 mg of allicin.

Hawthorn (flowers and fruit) lowers cholesterol and reduces atherosclerotic plaques, rebuilds and tones heart muscles and arteries, prevents constriction of blood vessels, is diuretic and lowers blood pressure. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which in studies lowers cholesterol and lessens blood clotting, while improving capillary strength throughout your bloodstream. Cayenne speeds healing processes (like ulcerated plaques) and contains carotene, a powerful antioxidant.

Ginkgo biloba is another cardiac star, increasing blood flow in areas of blockage, while decreasing stickiness and viscosity of blood (reducing clotting). Try 40 mg, three times daily. Don't take acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) or any other blood thinner with this. It's meant to work alone.

Dandelion, in its role as a strong diuretic lowers blood pressure. It also offers the highest amount of vitamin A of all greens (14,000 IU/100 g of raw greens) as well as vitamins D, B-complex and C. Gather them young and fresh in spring. Through increasing the urinary output of your kidneys, dandelion root reduces the amount of water in your circulatory system, lowering your overall blood pressure. In addition to this, it supplies your body with valuable minerals, such as potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese, sodium, zinc, copper and phosphorus. Conventional diuretics can't do that!

Shiitake and reishi mushrooms also lower cholesterol and blood pressure and can be added to soup and broth or as teas.

Finally, vitamin E (starting at 200 IU) and selenium (trace amounts only) protect against heart disease. They are powerful antioxidants that reduce clotting and free radical damage.

A strong thyroid will keep your arterial walls smooth and healthy and help keep your cholesterol low. Ensure that you get adequate iodine in your diet. The approved recommended daily allowance for an adult is 70 mcg, but the average Japanese adult eats three mg of iodine daily in sea vegetables.

Heart-Healthy Habits

A regular exercise program is essential. Whether leisurely or brisk, walking 30 minutes four to five times a week is an excellent way to reduce your inflammatory response, improve the quality of your health, lose weight and tone your muscles. Your heart is as healthy as your other muscles. If you are toned and fit, congratulations. Keep it up! Otherwise, please commit to making exercise part of your daily routine. A trim body puts little strain on the heart. Swimming, biking and skating are also low-stress but high-benefit exercises to explore.

Maintain intimate relationships and build a strong support network through family and friends. (Men, I'm talking to you women already have this one covered!) Men in a committed intimate relationship have only a 20 percent risk of having a fatal heart attack, while single men tend to have a 60 percent risk. To build a truly healthy heart, give it lots of laughter and a positive outlook on life.

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