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Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the silent killer. It is the most common form of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.
One in five Americans suffers this deadly disease and many do not even know it until it’s too late. Yet, among the 31 million who have high blood pressure and know it, many rely on medication rather than reducing it naturally.
But cardiovascular disease is preventable and, in many cases, reversible — and diet plays an important role. Having a healthy long life may just be a matter of consuming more heart-healthy foods. You can lower blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol and reduce the burden on the cardiovascular system with the right food.
One of the best prescriptions I know of is to make sure, of the food you eat, that most of it comes from this list:
- Asparagus — Because asparagus is high in fiber, minerals and vitams B1, B2, C, E, K, it can naturally reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and prevent blood clots. For those who love asparagus, enjoy! For others like me, who can’t stand the smell or taste, there are plenty other foods to replace it with!
- Avocados — While technically a fruit, many consider avocado a vegetable. But it doesn’t matter because this savory delight can lower bad (LDL) cholesterol while improving good (HDL) cholesterol to improve heart health. Consuming just one avocado daily for a week can reduce your cholesterol by 17%. I eat mine right out of the skin, on sandwiches, on salads and also blended in smoothies.
- B Vitamins — Studies have shown the importance of B vitamins on heart health. B6, folic acid, niacin and others have been shown to reduce arterial thickness. Some of the best sources of B vitamins are poultry, seafood, bananas, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, potatoes and fortified cereals.
- Beets —Beetroot juice, fresh or in powder form, has been shown in many studies to reduce blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, clean the blood and detox the liver and intestines. What makes these special are their naturally occurring nitrates, a chemical that helps the body produce nitric oxide which helps blood vessels dilate.
- Broccoli — Because broccoli is high in Vitamin K it can help prevent calcium from damaging arterial walls. And because it is high in fiber, this cancer fighting vegetable also reduces blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Chia seeds — High in fiber and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), these seeds are able to lower blood pressure, triglycerides (fat), and cholesterol. All essential for improved heart function.
- Cinnamon — Loaded with antioxidants, cinnamon is great for cardiovascular health. Studies show consumption of cinnamon is associated with a notable reduction in blood pressure, especially in those who are also prediabetic or have type II diabetes. Cinnamon also helps reduce cholesterol and clear arterial plaque.
- Coconut oil —Coconut oil contains lauric acid that protects against blood coagulation and reduces risk of heart disease. It is also known to help balance cholesterol and prevent arterial plaque build up, making this my new favorite oil. I add it to smoothies and its high burning temperature makes it perfect for cooking.
- Coffee — Hundreds of new coffee studies emerge and among the most exciting are the ones showing that drinking a few cups a day can prevent onset of Parkinson’s disease, reduce risk of prostate cancer, and can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease by 20%.
- Cranberries — Cranberry juice was my mother’s favorite beverage for decades and she swore by it’s healing powers. Because this berry is rich in antioxidants and helps balance cholesterol to healthy LDL/HDL levels, cranberries have been shown to reduce overall risk of heart disease by a whopping 40%.
- Green Tea — Consumed throughout Asia for centuries, green tea is now becoming more popular in the West. Because it is rich in catechins, green tea helps decrease the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed by the body. Green tea improves cholesterol by reducing blood fat and arterial blockage. Studies also show tea (green and black) to help reduce cholesterol and risk of stroke.
- Dark Leafy Greens — Homocysteine is a killer amino acid that is linked to higher risk of heart attack and stroke by supporting plaque formation and damage to arteries. Luckily, a few servings of dark green leafy veggies like kale and spinach (which I drink in daily smoothies) can reduce risk of heart disease by 11%.
- Garlic — This wonder spice helps boost immunity, suppress infections, reduce arterial plaque build up, prevent blood clots, lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. No wonder the Mediterraneans are so relaxed and healthy!
- Nuts — Nuts may also reduce your risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease, especially walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, and pecans because they are rich in polyunsaturated fats and can help maintain blood vessel health and reduce cholesterol.
- Olive Oil — Olive oil is heart healthy because it helps reduce bad LDL cholesterol. Extra-virgin olive oil has been shown to be the most desirable as it is made from the first press of the olive and contains more antioxidants. Studies show a 41% reduction in likelihood of stroke when using olive oil daily when compared to non-users.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids —These support heart health by increasing HDL (healthy cholesterol), which helps shuttle bad cholesterol from the body. Omega 3s reduce inflammation and help lower blood pressure. They can also shrink the risk of blood clots while reducing the chances of heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. Supplementation is a great way to get more in your diet, as is eating two servings weekly of sigh like albacore tuna, halibut, herring, mackerel, wild salmon, and sardines.
- Pomegranates — My wife’s new food craze is easting the seeds of two pomegranates each day. And you know what, her cholesterol dropped to the lowest level of her life. Pomegranates contain tons of fiber that shuttles cholesterol out of the blood and reduces plaque buildup, and antioxidants that protect the arteries from damage. Studies also show this fruit triggers the body’s production of nitric oxide, which helps to keep your blood flowing and your arteries open!
- Red Wine — A glass or two per day of red wine is said to cut your risk of heart attack and stroke by as much as 50%. What’s more, arterial plaque buildup is reduced over 30% in those who consume the beverage daily. Aside from being high in resveratrol and antioxidants, red wine (like pomegranates) also stimulates the body’s production of nitric oxide.
- Turmeric — Curcumin, an active component of turmeric, is known to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is perhaps the major cause of clogged arteries. Comsuming curcumin supplements or adding turmutic to your cooking (think Indian food), can reduce fatty deposits in the arteries and protect your heart.
- Watermelon — This delicious summer fruit contains the amino acid L-citrulline which helps the body produce nitric acid (like wine and pomegrannets), which helps reduce blood pressure and widens arteries.
In addition to these foods, studies show that L-Arginine, magnesium, and B-vitamin supplementation are great for cardiovascular health. You can read more about natural ways to reduce cholesterol in my article, The cholesterol balancing act.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!