The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart, blood and blood vessels. The heart, as we know, is the pump, and our blood is confined to blood vessels which travel throughout our body and the chambers of the heart. The health of our heart directly reflects the health of our body, which means that cardiovascular issues are a consequence of a weak foundation. As we have learned the previous weeks, foundational health systems include our digestion, blood sugar regulation, mineral and fatty acid needs, and hydration.
Historically we hypothesized that dietary fats were the culprit of an increase in deaths caused by heart disease. This was based on one very flawed study that could easily correlate the same deaths to factors like increases cigarette sales and sugar consumption. Since the original “diet-heart hypothesis” in the 1950’s, scientists have conducted countless studies on the subject, one (close to home) was the Framingham Heart Study, which concluded that the more saturated fat, cholesterol and calories one ate, the lower their serum cholesterol was, and the less they weighed. This group of people was also the most active. So what is to blame for heart disease?
Heart disease is a processed food disease. A diet filled with properly-prepared, nutrient dense foods is the best way to protect your body from cardiovascular issues. “Good” fats like cold-pressed oils (Fish, Flax, etc.) supply us with essential fatty acids which are the hearts’ preferred source of energy. Foods rich in minerals like magnesium and calcium are necessary for the contraction and relaxation of the heart. An imbalance in minerals can be to blame for symptoms like irregular heart beats. Proper digestion ensures that we are actually absorbing these nutrients. Finally, blood sugar balance is important to regulate the production of insulin. If insulin becomes too high (insulin resistance), our cells cannot absorb minerals efficiently.
When it comes to the health of our heart, we can manage our risk for cardiovascular issues by making the right dietary and lifestyle choices. Avoiding processed foods, hydrogenated oils, and managing factors that cause inflammation such as stress, will promote a healthy cardiovascular system. As people who move and sweat regularly (often quite intensely), we are prone to run through not only calories but also electrolytes (minerals) and water faster than sedentary people. If we have pre-existing conditions or are on medications that deplete nutrients as well, this can put us at a higher risk for issues if we don’t take into account how we are replenishing these nutrient stores. As a community, being aware and supportive of healthy decisions will make us stronger, healthier and allow us to work out at a higher intensity safely.