Healthy Eating For A Healthy Cardiovascular System

healthy eating for a healthy cardiovascular system

The world of nutrition has become a very confusing place – we hear contradictory information every day. In this blog on healthy eating for a healthy cardiovascular system I am going to summarise the some of the published research on the topic.

Healthy eating for a healthy cardiovascular system


Antioxidants & Cardiovascular Disease

Our antioxidant defense system is what protects us from oxidative damage, which as you now know is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is worth noting that as well as fruit and vegetables being a great source of antioxidants red meat and organ meats are also a very rich source. In fact some of the antioxidants found in red and organ meats aren’t found in significant amounts in plant foods, like CoQ10 and retinol, which is preformed vitamin A.

Therefore aim to eat the rainbow, choosing a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables, as well as organ meats, meats, eggs, and grass-fed dairy.

Healthy Blood Sugar 

Maintain healthy blood sugar levels by eating a higher protein, lower carbohydrate based diet. Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar.

Polyphenol-rich Foods 

Polyphenols are “a diverse class of molecules made by plants, certain fungi, and a few animals”. They serve a lot of purposes including defense against predators and infections, defense against sunlight damage, chemical oxidation, and coloration. Some of the best studied polyphenol-rich foods according to Chris Kresser are: tea, especially green tea; blueberries; extra-virgin olive oil; red wine; citrus fruits; hibiscus tea; dark chocolate; coffee; turmeric; and other herbs and spices. An important note here is organic fruit and vegetables have a higher amount of polyphenols as they have been under more stress from nature than fruit and vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides etc. (source)


Epidemiological studies report the beneficial effects of habitual coffee consumption on incident arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease (source).

In healthy people, in comparison to not consuming coffee, habitual consumption of 3-5 cups of coffee per day is associated with a 15% reduction in the risk of CVD, and higher consumption has not been linked to elevated CVD risk. Moreover, in comparison to no coffee intake, usual consumption of 1-5 cups/day is associated with a lower risk of death. In people who have already suffered a CVD event, habitual consumption does not increase the risk of a recurrent CVD or death. However, hypertensive patients with uncontrolled blood pressure should avoid consuming large doses of caffeine. (source)

I recommend Exhale coffee as it is lab tested to be high in polyphenols with no mould, heavy metals or pesticides.

Soluble Fiber

In the NHANES study, subjects followed for more than 19 years with the highest quartile of dietary soluble fiber intake had a 15% lower risk of heart disease and had a 10% lower risk of cardiovascular events. Soluble fiber binds bile acids or cholesterol; upregulates LDL receptors in the liver; increases clearance of LDL.

Cold-water Fatty Fish

Cold-water, fatty fish are an excellent source omega-3 fats which have several cardiovascular benefits. An analysis of randomized trials since 2003 suggests that regular fish consumption or consumption of fish oil would reduce total mortality or deaths from all cause by 17%. Statin drugs only reduce total mortality by 15%, and even then, only in certain populations……hhmm.

Salt Intake

While some authors have claimed that a salt-restricted diet could reduce cardiovascular risk, others trials and meta-analyses supported the opposite viewpoint (source).

In 2013, the National Institute of Medicine reviewed the existing evidence for sodium restriction in cardiovascular disease and concluded that there was not sufficient evidence from solid studies to support the recommendation of sodium restriction to prevent and treat CVD, except from hypertension. (source)

Actually recent studies in heart failure provide evidence that sodium restriction may even worsen clinical outcomes. (source)

So it looks like healthy eating for a healthy cardiovascular system can include some salt. The book, The Salt Fix, is a must read for those who want to learn more about this.

Nutrigenomics – Personalising Nutrition

Nutrigenetics examines how your body responds to foods (or nutrients) based on your genetics.

In other words, your genetic profile has an impact on how your body’s response to bioactive food components by influencing their absorption, metabolism and site of action.

Significantly, several genes have been identified whose variants, when combined with various dietary inputs, determine different susceptibility to various conditions including atherogenesis, inflammation, diabetes, and obesity.

Knowledge of the individual genetic risk may be useful to target appropriate specific dietary interventions to override genetic risk or to favorably change the individual gene expression profile.

To summarise, a one-size-fits-all nutritional intervention may be a limited approach in patients with cardiovascular disease. Indeed dietary requirements differ not only between primary and secondary prevention of coronary artery disease or heart failure, but also between different individuals.

In the future, a personalised and tailored intervention may reach greater benefits, taking into account also individual genome, beside social geographical and cultural factors, the presence of cardiovascular risk factors, co-morbidities and special needs related to the specific cardiovascular disorder.


There is more than healthy eating for a healthy cardiovascular system however.

Manage Stress

chronic stress has important pathological consequences, including cardiovascular disease (CVD). Stress also increases the prevalence and severity of several CVD risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and obesity. Yet even after adjustment, stress’ attributable CVD risk is similar to those risk factors, suggesting it is a particularly potent contributor. (source)

Manage your stress levels – include breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, exercise, country walks in to your daily programme. In can just be a time out where you gather yourself, get present and engage in the process – whatever it is. I think it is easy to go through the usual routine in an almost unconscious way – sit back, right now, take a breath, acknowledge what’s going on, give yourself a pat on the back, smile and continue. Feel better?


In this large prospective study, a healthy sleep pattern was associated with reduced risks of CVD, CHD, and stroke among participants with low, intermediate, or high genetic risk. (source)

Chronic sleep deprivation really is contributing to the modern disease epidemic. It has been associated with weight gain, insulin resistance, increased appetite and caloric intake, overconsumption of highly palatable and rewarding food, decreased energy expenditure and a reduced likelihood of sticking with healthy lifestyle behaviors. Sleep duration and quality are inversely associated with blood pressure in epidemiological studies, and high blood pressure is one of the strongest independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Get to sleep earlier!!


A consensus statement published in Sports Med discussed how exercise training intensity, frequency, volume and type, session and programme duration need to be taken in to consideration.

They also touched on exercise safety precautions, for obesity, arterial hypertension, type 1 and 2 diabetes, and dyslipidaemia. (source)

Specific exercise recommendations were formulated with the aim to decrease adipose tissue mass, improve glycaemic control and blood lipid profile, and lower blood pressure. (source)

In a randomised control trial comparing the effectiveness of aerobic, resistance, and combined training on cardiovascular disease risk factors the authors concluded that among individuals at an increased risk for CVD, as little as 8-weeks of combined training may provide more comprehensive CVD benefits compared to time-matched aerobic or resistance training alone. (source)

Underlying Factors Need To Be Addressed

It’s important to appreciate that underlying imbalances may need to be addressed. This could be related to exposure to an environmental toxin for example. In a population based cohort study (source) the authors concluded that there is “a potential positive association for the concentrations of heavy metal mixtures with overall, CVD…mortality.”


Ultimately for most of us it is not rocket science when it comes to healthy eating for a healthy cardiovascular system. Oftentimes, I think we find the hardest part is the change in our behaviour/habits.

There are some simple tips here that I hope you feel you can easily bring in to your lifestyle. I am going to be writing a post soon about motivation. Let’s make 2014 the year we achieve our health and fitness dreams. I would love to hear about all of your goals for 2014. Perhaps the talks that will be up and running at Prime Health in the new year can be used to support these goals? You already know the importance of a community and being with like minded individuals to achieve success and live a longer, healthier life!

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