Our cardiovascular system is the network of blood vessels in our systems which bring oxygen and nutrients to our cells. A rise in cardiovascular disease in recent years has become a cause for alarm. According to the CDC, in the US 610,000 people die of heart disease every year, or 1 in 4 deaths. While the causes of some types of vascular disease, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is still unknown, the vascular disease is often caused by the buildup of plaque on vessel walls. The highest risk factors exist for those who smoke, have high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels. Good diet and especially exercise are important, but here are 4 tips for better vascular health which you find easy to incorporate into your lifestyle.
1. Eat berries
Many kinds of berries, and strawberries in particular, have vitamins and antioxidants known to improve our cardiovascular system. Certain strawberry extracts have been found to increase the levels of antioxidant activity even further. The stimulate a protein known as NRF2 that plays an import part in reducing cholesterol in the blood, especially high levels of LDL (low-density lipoproteins) which can clog blood vessels.
2. Brush your teeth
Oral health could play a big part in lowering risk for vascular disease. Frequency of brushing and overall dental health can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Inflammation of the gums is linked to plaque buildup, while those with poor oral hygiene were identified as being at higher risk of heart attack. Studies are still out as to whether gum disease is a cause or a symptom, but if it’s a chronic problem you might want to have your heart checked.
3. A good night’s sleep
While sleep needs differ from person to person, getting eight hours of sleep each night is important to vascular health, especially for women. Those who don’t get enough sleep have elevated levels of a compound called Interleukin 6 (IL-6). This affects the body’s inflammatory response, and high amounts of IL-6 represent a higher risk of heart disease.
4. Eat chocolate
Not milk chocolate, but dark chocolate. Chocolate contains a chemical called flavanol that helps keep blood vessels flexible and reduces the chance of white blood cells becoming lodged against vein walls. This lowers blood pressure and helps more oxygen-rich blood reach our organs. Less than 3 ounces of dark chocolate per day can help to improve vascular health – that’s only about a third of a large candy bar.
The National Institute of Heath maintains that 90% of cardiovascular disease is preventable: It certainly wouldn’t hurt to include these four good habits into your daily routine.