Heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, can take a number of different forms. The most common type is coronary artery disease, which is marked by narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. Often referred to as "cardiovascular disease," heart disease also includes arrhythmias (irregularity in the rhythm or force of the heartbeat), congenital heart defects, and other conditions and infections that negatively affect heart health.
Heart Disease Symptoms
Although symptoms vary depending on the type of heart disease, there are a number of key warning signs to watch out for. These symptoms include:
- chest pain or discomfort
- heart palpitations
- lightheadedness or dizziness
- shortness of breath
Heart Disease Risk Factors
Many factors may raise your risk of developing heart disease. They include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- being overweight or obese
- excessive intake of alcohol
- poor diet
- lack of exercise
How to Prevent Heart Disease
Working to improve the above risk factors is crucial for protecting against heart disease. If you smoke, for instance, consider trying a natural approach to smoking cessation. If you're frequently stressed out, try taking up a mind-body practice (such as meditation or yoga) that could help lower your stress levels.
In addition to making heart-healthy lifestyle changes, you may be able to increase your defense against heart disease with the natural substances below. It's important to note that none of the following natural substances have been proven to prevent heart disease. If you're at a high risk for heart disease, consult your physician about which approaches might work best for preserving your heart health.
A number of studies have demonstrated that flaxseed may signficantly lower total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels. Postmenopausal women and individuals with higher cholesterol levels may be more likely to benefit from flaxseed's cholesterol-fighting effects.
Studies show that boosting your levels of omega-3 fatty acids (by eating fish or taking fish oil supplements) may help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check, slow the progression of atherosclerosis, and lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and death among people with cardiovascular disease.
Preliminary research indicates that garlic may hinder the development of atherosclerosis. However, studies on garlic's cholesterol- and blood-pressure-lowering effects have yielded mixed results.
4) Vitamin D
In a 2009 study of 3,408 older adults, scientists discovered that participants with inadequate vitamin D levels were three times more likely to die from heart disease compared to participants with optimal D levels. Previous research shows that vitamin D may help protect against a number of cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure and inflammation.
Findings from pilot research and animal studies suggest that the herbal remedy hawthorn extract may help lower blood pressure, reduce levels of blood fats, and aid in the prevention of atherosclerosis.
To date, there's a lack of human-based research on the cardiovascular benefits of resveratrol (an antioxidant naturally found in the skin of grapes and available in supplement form). However, a 2008 study of mice found that regular intake of resveratrol helped shield the animals from age-related declines in heart health.
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