3 Ways to Boost Heart Health

Having high cholesterol does not equate to having heart disease, and having a low cholesterol reading does not necessarily put you in the clear.

Fish oils contain healthy omega-3 fats called DHA and EPA.

© Yin Chern Ng | Dreamstime.com

Many people want achieve to a high IQ, high athletic performance, and even have high self-esteem, but no one wants high cholesterol. So, why is having high cholesterol bad?  That is a great question! After all, the human body actually needs cholesterol.  In fact, cholesterol is useful to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help digest foods.

Research published in the American Heart Journal in January 2009 revealed that 72% of patients admitted in American hospitals for their first heart attack had blood cholesterol levels in the normal range. The heart of the matter – having high cholesterol does not equate to having heart disease, and having a low cholesterol reading does not necessarily put you in the clear.

3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

1. Get a VAP test to really determine your risk factors. You are probably aware that there are two types of cholesterol: LDL cholesterol called “bad” cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol called “good” cholesterol. But, what you may not know is that there are actually “good” types of “bad” cholesterol. Confusing, right?

In reality, LDL cholesterol is only dangerous when it becomes oxidized.  To test for high blood cholesterol, your physician may order a routine blood test called a lipid profile. This test measures total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides.  But, the test does not measure for the oxidized form of the LDL called Lp(a). Lp(a) causes the formation of blood clots. While a person could have a high LDL test, they may actually have a low Lp(a), meaning their risk of blood clots is relatively low. The VAP test also identifies other hidden cholesterol problems that can increase the risk of developing heart disease, even if your routine cholesterol tests are normal.

2. Get adequate B vitamins, particularly vitamin B-3, called niacin. Vitamin B-3 is a water-soluble vitamin that needs to be replenished daily. It is found in protein sources such as chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna and certain nuts. It can also be found in a B-complex supplement. Studies show that niacin both lowers blood cholesterol levels and reduces blood pressure.[1]  Niacin can also aid in relaxation, which may help with a good’s night sleep and lower stress levels. Both lack of adequate sleep and high stress are risk factors for heart disease. Foods rich in vitamin B3 include meats, fish, legumes, nuts, coffee, tea, and common enriched food products. Niacin can also be taken as a supplement – try a dose of between 17 and 45 mg.

3. Take fish oil. Fish oils contain healthy omega-3 fats called DHA and EPA.  Fish oil not only lowers cholesterol levels, it also lowers triglycerides, reduces the risk of death from heart attacks, improves abnormal heart rhythms[2], and decreases in the incidence of strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease.[3] Fish oil also slows the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques. Furthermore, the omega-3’s found in fish oil lower blood pressure and improve vascular and platelet function. Read more about the best way to get your omega 3s here.

Take these three simple steps for a safe and natural heart protection plan. Be sure to tell us how it works for you in the comments section below.

[1] International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2009 January; 63(1): 151–159.

[2] Lancet. 2008 Oct 4;372(9645):1223-30. Epub 2008 Aug 29.

[3] Mori TA, Woodman RJ. The independent effects of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid on cardiovascular risk factors in humans. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006;9(2):95-104.

This post originally appeared in 2012 and has been updated.

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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