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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Eat Your Way to Superior Heart Health: These nutritious foods help lower our risk of heart disease, says Dr. Jack Wolfson

Nov 02, 2014 02:17PM ● By Dr. Jack M. Wolfson

For a way to lower our risk of heart disease, we need look no further than our diet, because proper nutrition is the single most important way to improve cardiovascular health. Hundreds of studies have demonstrated the benefits of nutritious foods to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, decrease heart attacks and live longer.

The largest trial to date involved several thousand people advised to follow either a Mediterranean diet or simply a low-fat diet. The Mediterranean Diet, based on veggies, olive oil, nuts and lean meats, decreased events by 30 percent compared to the low fat approach. A small trial published in 2007 found that a Paleolithic-based nutritional approach even bested the Mediterranean Diet for blood sugar control. Years of research and clinical experience tells us that the better the blood sugar is controlled, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

So paleo nutrition it is, but check out these six extraordinary foods for heart health and try to always buy organic and local when possible.

Beets lower blood pressure because they contain nitrates that are vasodilators; reduce homocysteine; improve endothelial function; improve blood sugar control; improve peripheral artery circulation; are a tremendous antioxidant that limits free radical damage; and inhibit platelet function, therefore, are a natural blood thinner.

Kale is a great source of fiber, known to lower heart disease risk; to be high in vitamin K, which keeps calcium in bones and out of arteries; to be filled with antioxidants and fight inflammation; and to lower cholesterol.

Wild salmon is loaded with heart healthy omega-3 fats and a great source of protein. Multiple studies show a lower risk of dying from heart causes in those that eat the most amount of fish.

Almonds reduce heart attack risk by 50 percent in those that consume nuts five times per week. They lower LDL particles; reduce inflammation; and lower blood sugar and insulin levels.

Fermented vegetables: For thousands of years, our ancestors have enjoyed foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. These foods are raw and unprocessed, and because of this, trillions of bacteria are found in each bite. These bacteria are probiotics, literally pro-life, and are critical to gastro-intestinal and heart health. Our modern, sterile environment, where food is irradiated, chlorinated and pasteurized, has left us without healthy gut flora. Natural grocers sell a variety of fermented foods.

Herbs: All herbs and spices likely have heart benefits, but oregano, garlic, hawthorn and green tea really stand out. In two trials involving 87 patients, garlic reduced systolic blood pressure by 10 and diastolic pressure by six mmHg. Hawthorn benefits cholesterol, blood pressure and even helps patients with heart failure.

Jack M. Wolfson, DO, FACC, is the owner of Wolfson Integrative Cardiology, 10585 N. Tatum Blvd., Ste. D-135, in Paradise Valley. Contact him at 480-535-6844 or

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