Blood pressure, cholesterol, and circulation can affect overall heart health, which is still one of the top health concerns. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, killing almost 380,000 Americans a year, according to the American Heart Association’s Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update 2014.
More specifically, about 43% of Americans have total cholesterol of 200 or more, and about 33% of U.S. adults have high blood pressure. Hypertension is projected to increase about 8% from 2013 to 2030.
As the holidays approach, it’s easy to slip into bad eating habits. However, poor diet increases the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poor circulation – three major factors that affect overall heart health. Certain nutrients and foods added to the diet that may decrease risk for heart disease..
1. Phytosterols: These sterols are compounds similar to cholesterol that are found in all edible plants. They help reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is a main source of heart disease.
2. Coca Flavanols: Research has shown that flavanols can help maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, which contributes to normal blood flow. Improving circulation is one way to lessen the chance of future heart-related problems (Barry Callebaut, 2014).
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These types of fatty acids are primarily found in fish and have been shown to decrease triglyceride levels, potentially lowering blood pressure.
4. Hydroxytyrosol: This antioxidant is found in olive oiland protects blood lipids (fats) from oxidative damage.
5. Blueberries: The regular consumption of blueberries is linked benefiting vascular health (Johnson, 2014) by lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Reducing high blood pressure is often an effective way to decrease the risk of heart disease.
6. Oat Beta-Glucan: Daily consumption of at least three grams of oat beta-glucan effectively lowers cholesterol (DSM, 2014). High cholesterol is linked to heart disease and other health risks.
7. Grape Seed Extract: This extract is shown to support blood pressure within a normal range.
8. Vitamin K: Vitamin K helps to keep excess calcium out of blood vessel walls and improve cardiovascular health.
9. Dairy: Case studies of people with hypertension revealed that the daily consumption of low-fat milk products decreases the risk of high blood pressure (Machin, 2014).
10. Almonds: Consuming more almonds on a daily basis is shown to improve serum fatty acid profiles and decrease the overall risk of heart disease (Nishi, 2014).
11. Walnuts: Like almonds, walnuts are good for reducing the risk of heart disease due to their alpha linolenic acid (ALA), content. Studies show that a walnut-enriched diet results in lower cholesterol (Wu, 2014).