Your Happy, Healthy Heart

Keep your ticker strong with natural remedies.

| July/August 2007

  • A recent study shows yoga reduces blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • For a healthy heart, add more fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts to the menu.

  • Multiple studies show exercise helps prevent heart disease. And you don’t have to climb a mountain to reap the benefits: Brisk walking for 30 to 60 minutes a day is sufficient.

One American dies from cardiovascular disease every 35 seconds—be it from a heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure or other condition of the heart and blood vessels. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States for both men and women, claiming more lives than the next four leading causes (cancer, respiratory illnesses, accidents and diabetes) combined. But what may be even more surprising to know is that just about every American has the beginnings of this condition.

That’s right—unless you’ve been a lifelong vegan, it’s virtually certain that your artery walls show at least the beginnings of the cholesterol-rich deposits (atherosclerosis) that lead to heart attack and most strokes. That’s what several studies have found, including a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association by pathologists who autopsied the arteries of 2,876 Americans who died between the ages of 15 and 34. All of them—100 percent—showed at least some atherosclerosis.

Now the good news: Lifestyle and dietary modifications offer measurable protection against diseases of the heart and blood vessels. You probably already know the standard prescription for preventing heart disease: Don’t smoke. Get regular exercise. Limit dietary salt and saturated (animal) fat. Banish trans fats. Maintain your recommended weight. Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. In addition, several herbs, supplements and other natural approaches can help.

Go for Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is an herbal mainstay for heart health. In a classic study, researchers at New York Medical College in Valhalla analyzed five studies and found that one clove a day reduces cholesterol by 9 percent. Other studies show similar reductions. For every 1 percent decrease in total cholesterol, the risk of heart attack drops 2 percent. So, according to these studies, a daily clove cuts heart attack risk by about 18 percent.

Other studies, however, show no cholesterol-lowering effect of garlic, notably a recent Stanford report published in Archives of Internal Medicine that used both raw cloves and a garlic supplement. At this point, the weight of the evidence still favors garlic as a cholesterol reducer. But even if it isn’t, the stinking rose is still good for the heart.

Garlic reduces the volume of the atherosclerotic plaques that narrow the arteries. German researchers measured plaque volume in 152 people with heart disease, then gave them garlic (900 mg a day). After four years, their plaque volume was reduced by up to 18 percent, resulting in a substantial increase in blood flow and significantly less risk for heart attack and stroke.



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