How to Prevent Heart Disease – Be Heart Smart!

Does heart disease run in your family? It is common for people with heart disease to ignore the problem and their doctor’s advice about how to improve their heart health. Maybe they have more pressing concerns. Maybe they do not understand the consequences of doing nothing. Maybe they are relying on prescription drugs to solve the problem. Taking prescription drugs can certainly help, but they do not get at the “heart” of the problem.

Obesity Diet AmericaThe problem is that the American lifestyle makes us susceptible to heart disease: high stress, easy access to non-nutritious foods, long work days that do not give us much time to exercise. It is a challenge to prevent and reverse heart disease, but it can be more easily faced when we learn to take control of our own health.

Heart disease can include high blood pressure, plaque in the arteries, and high cholesterol, among other things. Despite being often reversible and despite knowing so much about prevention and treatment, heart disease is still the #1 killer of both men and women.

Heart Attack SignsAccording to the American Heart Association’s most recent data, 1 out of every 3 Americans has heart disease. One of the first things we can do for our own health is to learn what our own risk is and what we can do to decrease it.

Most of us are familiar with the various risk factors for heart disease. Some we cannot control: older age, male gender, and family history of heart disease. However, most risk factors we can prevent or reverse: diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, high stress, and tobacco use. Research has shown again and again that diet and lifestyle changes can have a positive effect on these controllable risk factors in as little as 6 weeks.

Taking care of our hearts should be part of our daily routine. The prevention and treatment of any disease should always start with diet. In general, a whole foods diet is best for heart disease. This diet should be high in fiber, low in saturated fats, and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Daily exercise is known by most to help prevent and treat heart disease, but very few of us actually do it. Supplementing nutrients, herbs, and antioxidants is not always necessary but can speed the process of change and offer some additional protection.

Sometimes people who have made diet and lifestyle changes and tried various supplements are still not able to decrease their risk factors for heart disease. For these people, there is often an underlying cause that is seemingly unrelated. It may be time for a new approach and Naturopathic doctors are trained to look for those underlying causes. They will consider medications, hormone imbalances, sluggish digestion, food intolerances, and heavy metal toxicities as possible contributors to heart disease. For most people, changing risk factors for heart disease can happen in as little as 6 weeks. Yet people struggle and worry for years without getting on a total program to improve the health of their hearts. There is so much that you can start doing today! Ask questions of your doctor until you understand your personal health situation. Do your own reading and research into the subject. Start trying new recipes. And most importantly, make a commitment to choose healthy daily lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease!


Lisa OwThis article is written by Lisa Ow.  Lisa Ow is a practicing Naturopathic Doctor and a Health and Wellness Educator for the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, a registered 501 (c) 3  nonprofit health and wellness education organization.  For more information about  the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at

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