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An Integrated Approach to Cardiovascular Health

If you search for "heart health" on Google, you'll see millions of search results. There are fad diets, untested medications, herbs, pills, statins, and endless other remedies.

So where's the best place to begin?

In the vast majority of cases, it takes years to develop an unhealthy heart. While many of the factors are genetic, the lifestyle-based factors are quite gradual.

Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super-Size Me gauged the effects of eating unhealthy meals at McDonald's, three times a day, for thirty days. While he did develop some unhealthy traits during that month, he did not take years off the end of his life – he was able to remedy the short-term damage by reverting to his normally healthy lifestyle choices.

What does this mean for you? It means that even if your LDL ("bad") cholesterol is over 200, you're most probably not going to die tomorrow, at least from high LDL. What you are talking about is building new habits – not making short-term changes.

However, this also means that your results will not come overnight. The damage happened gradually, and your improvement will also come gradually but you should see signs of improvement more quickly.

Your heart affects just about everything you do – and that's the reason why heart health is so important. The good news, though, is that you can try several different strategies at the same time – and they all can benefit your heart. Plus, the cumulative effect of this integrated approach will make your improvement even faster.

The first step in your heart health improvement plan should be to consult with your physician. Every individual situation is different, and you may have allergies or other underlying conditions that could make particular dietary supplements or strategies harmful for you. In your conversation, ask about developing an integrated plan for helping your heart – not just a prescription for statins. Here are some elements you will want to work into your conversation.


This can be the most difficult element in an integrated approach to heart health. For people with a sedentary lifestyle, exercise can be frustrating. At first, you may not be able to run very far – or even walk briskly for a significant distance or time. If you go to the gym, you may be self-conscious about the way you look, compared to the people who are there six days a week for an hour each time.

As far as self-consciousness, you simply can't worry about what other people may think. Here's the deal – they're not watching you, they're thinking about their own workouts. As far as stamina, think back to your own childhood. Most games that children play in elementary school involve climbing and running – activities that we as humans were made to do. Your body is like a rubber band; the more you push it, the more it will respond. You don't want to break it, though.

So if you've been sedentary for quite a few years and are significantly overweight, brisk walking will be where you want to begin. You'll be surprised, though, how quickly you will be ready to start jogging, if you stick with a regular program.


Look at your eating habits. If you spend most of your time eating out of wrappers, it's time for a change. Foods prepared in butter, in batter, or in creams are high in fat and calories. Look for foods that are grilled, baked, broiled, or steamed. You don't have to give up the foods that you like – you may have to eat them after they've been prepared a different way, though. Instead of a breaded chicken sandwich with mayonnaise, try a grilled chicken sandwich with mustard. Instead of a double cheeseburger, order a turkey burger. Instead of a deep-dish pizza, order a thin-crust version.

Portion size may be the culprit keeping you from reaching your nutritional goals. There's nothing wrong with half a toasted bagel with low fat cream cheese. However, three bagels represent a portion problem. Eating eight pieces of thin-crust pizza instead of just two pieces also is a portion problem. Here´s another suggestion: make the more fatty items on your plate the smallest helpings, and fill the rest of your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables. This will help to lower the LDL cholesterol in your blood. Again, think back to your childhood. Remember how good apples, oranges and carrot sticks tasted? They still taste that way.

Personal Management

Stress can trigger many unhealthy habits. It can make you forget your nutritional goals for the day, drive you to drink an entire bottle of wine, or bump you back up to a pack of cigarettes a day. Some stress is unavoidable, but other forms are easier to avoid. Keeping yourself organized, maintaining a healthy and balanced routine among work, family and self, and having a solid network of friends and relatives to share your stress with, when needed, will help you from turning to the stress responses that will harm your heart.

Prescriptions and Side Effects

Statins can lower your LDL cholesterol levels, but they have side effects that may make them less attractive than other choices. One particularly dangerous idea regarding statins is that they represent a total solution. If you get on Lipitor, for example, but keep smoking, keep watching television six hours a night after work, and keep heading to the pizza buffet for lunch, you're not going to get the results that your heart and body need. So, prescriptions can be helpful, but only as part of an integrated approach to heart health.

Vitamins and Supplements

These range from CoQ10 to Vitamin E, and to such alternative remedies as guggulipid and policosanol. The ones that have passed regulatory muster, or that have research-based evidence of success, can all help – but you'll want to run these by your doctor first. Again, having a bottle of fish oil-based Omega-3 pills in your medicine cabinet can be part of a successful heart health plan – but only a part.

The bottom line is this: all of us depend on our hearts. The best time to start an integrated approach to heart health is now. Maintaining a healthy balance of diet, nutrition, lifestyle and exercise is a worthwhile plan – no matter your LDL cholesterol level.

Copyright © 2010 by Jack Osborne - All Rights Reserved


Omega-Q Plus

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