A DISTURBINGLY NEGLECTED FACT: For the past decade, the Department of Health (DOH) has consistently cited heart disease as the leading cause of mortality in the Philippines year after year. What’s worse is that we often think heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrests only happen to old guys or to dudes who are just plain unlucky. But take a look at the DOH Philippine Health Advisory’s checklist of causes and predispositions for coronary artery disease (CAD): high blood pressure, emotional stress, lack of exercise, a high-fat diet. In other words, daily life.
Ignore these red flags for CAD because you think you’re too young for serious heart problems, and you know what’s coming. “More and more people are predisposed to potential heart disease due to the many lifestyle factors involved. Often, these go undiagnosed and heart problems and clogs are left untreated until it is too late,” says cardiologist Simon Tan, M.D. from Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan “Cholesterol [gets] trapped in these swollen passageways, forming a thick plaque that hardens and obstructs your blood vessels and arteries.” It’s a condition called atherosclerosis. In layman’s speak, it basically means you’re a ticking time bomb.
In severe cases, doctors are forced to resort to invasive procedures to forcibly chip away at the plaque and reopen the blocked passageways. But if you take these tips to heart—no pun intended—you may still reverse any blockages and keep your heart beating.
Throw That Pack Away
On the short term, quitting cigarettes immediately helps stabilize your blood pressure. In the long run, ceasing the deadly habit has plenty of benefits, as a study in the Journal of American College of Cardiology reports. Clogged arteries were seen to have reversed in some respondents one year after they gave up smoking.
Cleaning up your diet and exercising regularly are no-brainer lifestyle tweaks your heart requires, but California’s Preventive Medicine Research Institute took heart care up a notch when its specialists incorporated daily hour-long yoga sessions into a vegetarian-diet-and-moderate-exercise lifestyle for patients with coronary problems. Respondents were made to visualize their arteries clearing up as they meditated, and positive results were observed within months.
Watch Your Sugar Levels
If you’ve got diabetes and high blood pressure lurking in your family tree, it may be a good idea to be more preemptive in your efforts against heart disease. Have your blood sugar monitored often—early diagnosis of diabetes will also be doing your heart a favor. “Diabetes affects more than just your body’s ability to process sugar. Over time, it can create a snowball effect and put undue stress on other vital organs like your heart and kidneys. This can manifest as blockages in your arteries,” explains Dr. Tan.
Have a Spot of Tea
Among its many superpowers, green tea has the capacity to prevent blood clots from forming where they shouldn’t, thanks to its potent polyphenols. Also, hawthorn tea has been a natural remedy for cardiovascular problems through the ages. Researchers at the University of Maryland noted that the polyphenols rutin and quercetin, both found in hawthorn berries, can stop and reduce plaque buildup, effectively reversing atherosclerosis.
EAT TO YOUR HEART’S DELIGHT
Snack on these to combat the clog:
1. Kiwis and Cantaloupes
A daily dose of one whole kiwi or a cup of cantaloupe melon can reduce LDL levels. Antioxidants in these fruits combat the toxic cholesterol that produces plaque in your blood vessels.
2. Grapes and Cranberries
Eating a cup of grapes every day can transform fat that would otherwise clog your blood vessels into usable energy absorbed by your cells. Downing some cranberry juice thrice weekly does the same—the lutein in these fruits can reduce inflammation in your blood vessels.
3. Cherries and Strawberries
Take your cue from these flushed, heart-shaped fruits for a healthier heart. They contain anthocyanins, that apart from giving them their red color, are also helpful in reducing cholesterol that can manifest as clots in your heart’s passageways.
Ward Off Cardiac Arrest
The allicin found in garlic is a common natural treatment against atherosclerosis, as it slows down the development of clogs and clots and aids in managing blood pressure. University of Maryland researchers recommend taking a 900 mg allicin supplement once a day.