"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."
Nobody suspected Grandma Ruby had heart problems until she collapsed on Christmas Day while preparing dinner. To her family and friends, she'd always seemed invincible. A tireless housekeeper never without a dishcloth in her hands or a leaf blower hoisted on her back. A seasoned cook who spoiled guests with enough food to feed half the neighborhood. Even Ruby might not have suspected she had heart disease, a condition that affects millions and millions of North Americans. With her hardworking, old-school mentality, Ruby probably would have treated symptoms like breathlessness and tightness in the chest as an annoyance, a burden to bear, something not even worth a trip to the doctor. Tragically, had she sought help earlier and taken more proactive measures, Ruby probably would have lived past her mid-seventies.
There is a Grandma Ruby in everybody's life, a best friend, a coworker, a partner, a cousin, or a sibling who has heart disease. In fact, heart disease afflicts one in three Americans. A heart attack or stroke kills someone every seven minutes in Canada.
Incredibly, the bulk of these deaths is women. And did you know our chance of being struck down by heart disease increases as we age? Today, women are more likely to die of a heart attack than of breast cancer, a surprising fact to many.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term for diseases and injuries of the heart (including valve and rhythm issues), heart failure, diseases of the blood vessels, and stroke. And for decades, the mental image of a red-faced man clutching his chest has dominated the media. However, we are now realizing , and publicizing , that due to a variety of factors, women are just as vulnerable as men to diseases of the cardiovascular system.
- Every 37 seconds, an American dies of cardiovascular disease (CVD)
- About 80,000,000 American adults (one in three) have one or more types of CVD
- Every 7 minutes, someone in Canada dies from heart disease or stroke
- Cardiovascular disease accounts for one-third of Canadian deaths
- About 70,000 heart attacks occur each year in Canada, resulting in 19,000 deaths
Over the past decade, the number of heart attack-related hospitalizations has risen steadily. And the personal costs are tremendous. For those who survive, heart disease can be a debilitating condition, affecting relationships and quality of life to deep degrees.
Although heart disease is a leading killer, there is an upside: it is preventable, and reversible. Like other progressive diseases such as diabetes and cancer, heart disease doesn't have to result in millions of patients who clutter hospitals, fill drug prescriptions, and require expensive operations. No matter what our age, regardless of whether we are 19 or 90, we can strengthen our hearts. We have the power within ourselves to make educated choices about diet, lifestyle, exercise, and supplements, and our bodies will reward us with disease-free vitality.
Diet is the first pillar of heart health. Well, maybe "diet" is the wrong word. Diet implies changing our eating habits for a designated period of time. Eating for our heart means making long-term changes to what's on our plate and in our glass. You do not want to be like most people who change their diet only upon diagnosis of a disease. Be proactive. By eating the Heart-Healthy way, you will not only help your heart, you will also provide your body with the nutrients and protective elements it needs to prevent and alleviate other degenerative ailments.
Related to diet is nutritional supplementation. Is supplementing really necessary, you might ask, if you are already doing everything else? The answer is a resounding "yes." Specific nutrients have been shown to have a markedly beneficial effect on ailing hearts, high cholesterol, and blood pressure. Even late-stage heart disease and post-surgery conditions can benefit from vitamins, minerals, and nutrients such as magnesium, coenzyme Q10, sytrinol, pycnogenol, and essential fatty acids.
Physical activity is another big component of any heart health program. A sedentary lifestyle weakens the heart and disrupts blood sugar levels, immunity, mental health and hormones. Conversely, getting fit is the cheapest and most effective therapy for overall health improvement. We will cover all this in Chapters 9 and 10.
No heart book is complete without discussion of stress reduction and management. Many risk factors for heart disease are exacerbated by stress. Stress itself is toxic for the heart. Related to stress is anxiety. Often panic attacks are mistaken for heart attacks, highlighting this very fundamental connection. There are various anti-stress and mental/ emotional health strategies that play a valuable role in heart disease prevention and treatment.
Your heart will thank you for picking up this book because it means you want to make life changes. Maybe you have recently received a diagnosis you do not like. Maybe your cholesterol readings have been climbing for years but now they are dangerously high. Maybe you have a strong family history of heart disease that you want to avoid. It's never too early, or too late, to think about how to strengthen your hardworking heart. By combining a heart-healthy diet and key nutritional supplements with exercise and stress reduction strategies, you will quickly begin to strengthen and protect your heart.