A Tribute to the Heart Is a Reward to the Mind
Did you know that heart disease accounts for more than a third of deaths worldwide?
Disorders and diseases of the heart are some of the most common ailments in the modern world. Fueled in part by our sedentary lifestyles, consumption of refined sugar and saturated fat, smoking, chronic stress, and a host of other lifestyle factors.
Diet plays a critical role in the health of our hearts, and your diet can increase or negate your risk of developing heart disease in the future. Some foods can influence your triglyceride levels, cholesterol levels, systemic inflammation, and your blood pressure. All of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
How Brain Health and Heart Health are Connected
The health of your heart and the health of your brain are also intrinsically linked. Any foods that damage your heart can impair your cognitive function, too. According to the CDC, if you keep your heart healthy, you simultaneously lower your risk of developing brain-related issues such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and strokes.
Your heart pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood through arteries and blood vessels to every part of your body—and especially your brain.
Any foods and lifestyle factors that damage these blood vessels can lead to serious conditions like cardiovascular disease. Plus, they can cause brain diseases that negatively impact your memory, cognitive function, and learning abilities. Keeping your blood vessels and your heart in good shape will enable these organs to transport blood to your brain. This keeps your brain healthy and functioning at its peak, even as you age.
The 7 Best Foods for Your Heart and Brain
Leafy Green Vegetables
There are few foods as good for your entire body as leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens. They’re packed with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, and vitamin K, which protects your arteries and encourages healthy blood clotting.
Greens are also loaded with nitrates, which reduce blood pressure, promote arterial flexibility, and improve the function of the cells that line your blood vessels. All of this contributes towards a healthy cardiovascular system that can transport blood to the brain and wherever else it’s needed.
Many studies have found links between increased intake of leafy greens and a lower risk of heart disease. One analysis of 8 studies discovered that the consumption of leafy greens could lower the incidence of heart disease by up to 16%.
Berries are chock-full of important antioxidants and nutrients that promote heart health. They are a rich source of anthocyanins, which guard against the inflammation and oxidative stress that promote cardiovascular disease.
Studies have shown that consuming berries like blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries can reduce many of the risk factors for heart disease. One study of 27 adults with metabolic syndrome found that drinking a beverage made from freeze-dried strawberries for 2 months decreased ‘bad’ cholesterol by 11%. Another proved that eating blueberries every day boosted the function of the cells that line blood vessels, controlling blood pressure and promoting proper blood clotting.
Whole grains, including the endosperm, and bran, are excellent for your heart and brain alike. Common whole grains include oats, rye, barley, whole wheat, brown rice, and quinoa.
When compared to refined grains, whole grains contain more fiber, which reduces LDL cholesterol and lowers your risk of heart disease. Another analysis of 45 studies found that eating 3 more servings of grains a day lowered the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 22%.
Walnuts are a champion of brain health, and they can be beneficial for your heart and cardiovascular system too! They are an excellent source of fiber and contain essential micronutrients like copper, manganese, and magnesium.
Furthermore, research has shown that enjoying a few servings of walnuts a week can protect against heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol by up to 16%, lowering diastolic blood pressure by up to 3mm Hg, and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
Beans are so much more than a cost-effective way to add quality protein to your diet. They’re a plant-based protein that also contains resistant starch. This starch maintains integrity throughout the digestive process and gets fermented by the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Some animal studies found that this starch can boost heart health by reducing blood triglycerides and cholesterol.
Another study found that eating pinto beans reduced LDL cholesterol considerably. While a review of 26 studies found that a diet high in beans and legumes produced similar results. Eating beans has even been linked to reduced inflammation and lower blood pressure. Both of which are great news for the health of your heart and mind.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, which may be able to reduce cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease according to modern research. One study found that overweight and obese patients experienced reductions in LDL cholesterol while consuming one avocado a day.
Another study of more than 17,000 people found that those who consumed avocados regularly were half as likely to develop metabolic syndrome than their peers. Avocados are packed with potassium, which promotes heart health and balances your blood pressure. Studies show that consuming at least 4.7g of potassium per day (one avocado contains 975mg) can lower your risk of stroke by 15%.
Garlic contains a compound called allicin that can promote heart and general physical health, according to certain studies. One review found that patients who took garlic extract every day for 24 weeks experienced the same reduction in blood pressure as those taking a common prescription drug.
Another review of 39 studies found that garlic can reduce total cholesterol by 17mg/dL on average, while further studies have found that garlic can inhibit platelet build-up, which may lower the risk of strokes and blood clots. You can ensure that you eat optimal amounts of allicin by letting raw, crushed garlic sit for a few minutes before cooking with it.
A Healthy Lifestyle Maintains A Healthy Mind
The link between diet and heart disease is undeniable.
What we put into our bodies daily has direct and drastic effects on our health, lifestyle, and quality of life. It also affects our risk of developing cardiovascular disease, brain diseases, and cognitive impairment.
What you eat can influence every aspect of your heart health, from your systemic inflammation to your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and more. Experts recommend eating more leafy green vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains, Omega-3-containing nuts like walnuts, and antioxidant-rich foods like berries to protect your heart and keep your mind sharp for years to come.
As an editor, Ellen Klein covers topics such as financial management and risk management, as well as health-related topics. She’s a realist and believes that planning for life’s unknowns is best. When she’s not busy with volunteer social work, she can be found scribbling away at her keyboard.
Just 1 in 10 adults meet the federal fruit or vegetable recommendations, according to a study published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). This report highlights that very few Americans eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables every day, putting them at risk for chronic diseases.
Studies have shown that supplementation with extracts from fruits and vegetables may improve inflammation and oxidative stress.
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