It’s important to look at things critically, especially if they focus on your health. Don’t blindly accept what is published, even my blogs. You are responsible for your own health. Below are some keys to heart health I found recently. I do not agree with all, but feel that the information is worth sharing and discussing.
The first key is to never have smoked cigarettes. Quitting smoking more than one year ago is a great start. Your heart health will be better if you never smoked. The long-term effects of cigarette smoking on the heart is extensive – deterioration of the elasticity of your aorta, increased stress on your sympathetic nervous system, and decrease in estrogen in women to name a few.
The second key is to have a body mass index (BMI) less than 25. BMI or the Quetelet index has been around since the mid 1800’s when a Belgian mathematician, Adolphe Quetelet, defined the term. His index is simply the individual’s body weight divided by the square of the height. It’s not a measure of health, but a numerical assessment of thinness or fatness.
Since the BMI is less than accurate for tall people, the Ponderal index was developed to better assess fatness and thinness. Overweight and obese people tend to have more health related problems, many of which affect your cardiovascular system. I’m sure that most people will agree that being closer to the ideal weight for your height is healthier for your heart.
The third key is weekly exercise. Moderate physical activity of at lest 150 minutes/week or vigorous physical activity for at least 75 minutes/week is considered the minimum exercise level. I am a proponent of vigorous and intense physical activity. I believe that exercising your heart muscles is definitely a key to a stronger and a healthier heart.
The fourth key is total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL. I believe that cholesterol is not a good indicator of heart health. Why, you may ask? Because 50% of the people who die from a heart attack have normal, healthy levels of cholesterol. If half the dead people have healthy levels of cholesterol, why is total cholesterol an effective measure of heart health?
I read an article years ago that stated doctors back in the 50’s and before weren’t worried about total cholesterol unless if was over 300, and then they weren’t worried than much about it. Every cell in our body requires cholesterol. It’s the oxidized cholesterol that becomes a health hazard. HDL (high density lipoprotein) removes oxidized LDL (low density lipoprotein) which becomes the plaque deposited on your arteries.
The American Heart Association recommends a ratio of HDL to total cholesterol no higher than 5:1 with an optimum ratio of 3.5:1. What does that mean? If your HDL is 50 and your total cholesterol is 200, then your ratio is 4:1. I believe the ratio is much more important that the total cholesterol number when looking at cholesterol.
However, There are two other measures of heart health we don’t look at often. One is homocysteine level and the other is the ratio of omega-6 fatty acid to omega-3 fatty acid.
Homocysteine is an amino acid in your blood stream. If it is too high your risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease increases. Homocysteine is not obtained from the foods you eat, but is influenced from them as well as your genes. B vitamins are effective in reducing your homocysteine levels. Low levels of B vitamins have been related to cardiovascular and memory problems. Folic acid,vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 are the preferred B vitamins for heart health.
Excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acid becomes inflammatory in our bodies. The ideal ratio of omega-6 fatty acid to omega-3 fatty acid is 1:1. Anything in excess of 3:1 is considered inflammatory. Reduce your intake of omega-6 fatty acids and increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake.