T.E. Vallabhan, MD, FACC
The health of the heart and vascular system are affected by many things like, stress, substance abuse and genetics, but the main offenders of heart disorders are being overweight, poor dietary habits, having high blood sugar levels and living a sedentary lifestyle.
Too Much Sugar
High blood sugar and cardiovascular disease have more in common than most people are aware. In our country nearly 30 million people have diabetes, and a vast majority of our population unknowingly has what’s known as prediabetes, which quickly escalates into the disease within a short amount of time. If you have diabetes, it’s critical that you see a cardiologist because it’s not a matter of, “will I have heart issues,” but rather “when.”
Heart disease and the issue of high blood glucose are very closely associated because of many risk factors contributing to what’s known as metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a condition in which the high insulin and leptin levels are resistant causing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and visceral fat to become significant risk factors for heart disease and coronary disorders. When the vessels are circulating high-glucose blood, atherosclerosis occurs at a greater intensity. Atherosclerosis is a build-up of plaque and causes a hardening of the arteries.
Too Much Salt
When we ingest excessive salt, inflammation takes effect in our entire bodies and water is pushed and retained into the arteries, which causes high blood pressure and makes the heart work extra hard. Too much salt increases your risks of strokes and heart failure, along with other disorders and diseases.
Potassium can help to flush some excess salt out of your body. That is why most salt alternatives have a higher ratio of potassium in the mix. Many foods that contain potassium are bananas, plums, coconuts, avocado, potato and many more. But eating potassium to flush out salt is not a good idea, as it will take an excessive amount and potassium in excess causes other bodily harm like arrhythmias and muscle weakness.
Keeping your sodium low is one of the major keys to keeping your blood pressure and heart healthy. Eating whole foods is imperative to keeping your sodium levels in check and also to make you healthier, by lowering cholesterol and upping the amount of antioxidants and nutrients you get from your meals.
Improve Your Diet
Shopping the periphery of the grocery store is a great way to avoid all of the processed foods, excessive sugar and salt in the center isles. There are exceptions of course, like frozen no salt added vegetables and fruit and dried spices to take the place of your saltshaker. For the most part, you should focus your shopping efforts on fresh produce, lean protein like poultry, seafood and eggs and some dairy.
The Mediterranean or the Dash diet are exceptional examples of what foods you should be eating, which provide essential nutrients for the brain’s condition. All three of these diets emphasize eating plenty of vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, whole grains and lean protein (especially cold-water fish) while avoiding excess salt, sugar, simple carbs and saturated fats. Eating this way is thought to prevent cognitive decline by proving the heart, brain and entire body with antioxidants, and the good fats that it needs to function properly. Excessive sugar, simple carbohydrates, processed foods, and chemicals are known to cause inflammation and degeneration.
When you shop, check the labels on your food and if you are buying processed, convenient foods, invest in healthier low-sodium versions. If you’re eating at a restaurant, ask for sauces of condiments on the side and use sparingly. Also, order steamed vegetables, lean meat and in general make wise choices.
Talk with your physician about the right exercise plan for you. Most people can benefit from taking a brisk 30-minute walk or a 30-minute swim. Exercise increases circulation, improves nutrient and oxygen rich blood flow and helps you build strength and to lose weight. If you can work out harder, it’s extremely beneficial to get your heart rate up daily with cardiovascular exercise.
There have been significant studies on the benefits of water activities for individuals that suffer from cardiac diseases and disorders. These cases have proven that the level of oxygen in the blood increases in water, which is ideal for most vascular issues. The oxygen consumption (VO2) is three times greater in water than on land. Working large muscle groups leads to this uptake of oxygen or VO2, but doing a lot of running and legwork on land increases the heart rate at a greater level than with water-based therapy. For obvious reasons, maintaining a lower heart rate is ideal for those suffering from any heart ailments.
It’s your heart.
It should be personal.
And that’s how I treat it.
Dr. Thiruvallur Vallabhan is devoted to keeping your heart at its healthiest. Dr. Vallabhan is a Board Certified Cardiologist, and his mission is to provide The Villages and its surrounding communities with the highest quality cardiac care in a welcoming environment. He and his staff are dedicated to fulfilling the specific cardiac needs of each patient.
To find out more information on the Dr. Vallabhan, your local specialists in the diseases of the heart, veins, and arteries, please call (352) 750-2040 or visit them online at, Drvcardio.com