Heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women in the United States, and indeed, in most of the industrialized world. This makes cardiovascular disease sound inevitable. But it is not. In fact, the vast majority of us have more control over our heart health than we do over other common causes of mortality, such as accidents or cancer. That’s because cardiovascular health depends on a few modifiable factors that are largely under one’s direct control: exercise, diet and sleep, among a few others.
Get Moving—and Keep It Up
In order to maintain a strong, resilient, healthy cardiovascular system throughout one’s life, it’s crucial that you stay active, and resist the siren call of the easy chair. Sitting is a relatively newly identified independent risk factor for heart disease. Conversely, getting just a few minutes of intensive exercise—or longer intervals of less-intense exercise, such as walking—can be enough to maintain the cardiovascular fitness that will serve you well throughout life. The trick is you have to do it regularly. Just a few days of inactivity can take a measurable toll.
To Sleep—Perchance to Live Longer
Sleep is another often overlooked—and under-appreciated—factor that plays a key role in maintaining a strong, robust cardiovascular system. People who routinely shortchange themselves on sleep tend to suffer from increased inflammation and immune systems that are incapable of functioning at optimal levels. Most adults require 7 to 9 hours per day. The notion that some individuals can operate at peak efficiency on far less is simply inaccurate.
The Power of the Produce Aisle
And that bring us to diet. The diet is perhaps the single most important modifiable aspect of cardiovascular health. The body requires complete nutrition, meaning all the essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids, in order to survive. To thrive, it also needs a variety of mostly whole foods from the plant kingdom. Foods such as dark green leafy vegetables provide not only crucial fiber, for instance, but also nutrients you won’t find listed on any government-mandated nutrition label.
These include phytonutrients; plant compounds such as antioxidants and even anti-inflammatory compounds, which help quell inflammation in the body. Some whole foods feature natural compounds that counteract oxidative stress in the body (antioxidants), and turn down low-grade inflammation (anti-inflammatory compounds). And some foods, such as spinach, kale, arugula, beet root, bok choy, cabbage, etc., contain compounds called dietary nitrates.
The Importance of Dietary Nitrates
In the early 1990s, scientists discovered these compounds serve as raw materials the body uses to make an important cardiovascular system signaling molecule; nitric oxide (NO). NO is used to instruct blood vessel muscle cells to relax. And that relaxation results in lower blood pressure. Given that high blood pressure is among the most dangerous of all cardiovascular disease risk factors, dietary nitrates are extremely beneficial.
It makes sense, then, to incorporate more of these whole foods into your diet, preferably on a daily basis. In addition to adding these whole foods into your diet, you can also try Berkeley Life Beetroot Powder and even add it to your favorite smoothie in the morning. Your heart will thank you.