Eating plenty of whole, natural foods helps to control your blood pressure and strengthen your heart, says Dr. Chauncey Crandall, who has spent decades understanding ways to prevent and reverse heart disease.
An interventional, vascular, and transplant cardiologist, Dr. Crandall is chief of the Cardiac Transplant Program at Florida's Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic. He also publishes Dr. Crandall's Heart Health Report through Newsmax Health.
Dr. Crandall points out that 75 percent of deaths from heart disease are due to atherosclerosis, often called "hardening of the arteries." Fatty deposits build up over time to cause plaque in the arteries, which narrows the vessels and hinders blood flow.
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The blood has a difficult time getting through the arteries, so the heart works harder and "your blood pressure goes up," Dr. Crandall explains in his book, "The Simple Heart Cure: The 90-Day Program to Stop and Reverse Heart Disease."
The plaque damages and hardens the arterial walls from the inflammation. "The No. 1 source of inflammation in the body is a bad diet," he adds.
Among the dietary offenders are processed foods with sugar, salt and fat to improve flavor. These foods are high in omega-6 fats, which promote inflammation, Dr. Crandall notes.
It can take years for the damage to affect arteries to the heart, which can result in angina or chest pain, shortness of breath, anxiety, abnormal heartbeat, congestive heart failure or heart attack.
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A healthy diet and exercise helps return proper blood flow to prevent or treat atherosclerosis. "If you already have advanced hardening of the arteries, the first line of defense is to get your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol under control — with medication if necessary," Dr. Crandall writes.
Plenty of fresh produce, fewer eggs and red meat, and moderate portions of fish and poultry play an important role in a heart healthy diet.
Dr. Crandall favors the Mediterranean Diet,
practiced for centuries in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The diet lowered the risk of recurrent heart disease by 50 to 70 percent, according to the four-year American Heart Association's Lyon Diet Heart Study.
The diet includes monounsaturated fat, the healthy fat, from olive oil and nuts, walnuts, almonds, and pecans in moderation. Coldwater fish, such as salmon, with omega-3 fats help reduce inflammation.
Dr. Crandall recommends organic, free-range eggs, which are rich in omega 3s. Whole grains, legumes and an occasional glass of red wine are also featured in the diet.
Regular physical activity should be included in your regimen to avoid heart disease. Along with their diet, the Mediterranean people stay active by walking to the market, walking back home and getting plenty of exercise, Dr. Crandall adds.
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