Heart disease is a broad term to describe a number of difference cardiac conditions. Most of us know a heart attack but it is not the only type. There is a range of different types of heart disease and many can be just as deadly as a heart attack. Despite the differences, many heart diseases can be prevented and sometimes even reversed with similar measures. Understanding how to reverse heart disease often is a matter of avoiding an early death.
Can heart disease be reversed?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Some types of heart disease can be reversed but other types may be irreversible. It is also dependent on the individual case. Irrespective of those types that are irreversible, making concerted efforts to improve heart health can slow down the progression of the disease, help to minimize complications and ultimately prolong life.
It is important to understand that surgery can at times reverse some of the heart disease and should therefore be considered as an option where applicable. For example, in ischemic heart disease surgery can help to restore blood flow to the heart muscle and the affected tissue can recover. However, once a heart attack occurs the effects cannot be reversed on that affected portion as there is tissue death.
How to Reverse Heart Disease?
Undertaking any program to reverse heart disease should be done under close medical supervision. This may involve a medical doctor and specialist like a cardiologist, as well as other health care professionals such as a dietitian. In most cases, these types of programs are designed primarily to prevent further deterioration and complications rather than reverse the condition. Nevertheless the approach is the same. It is usually a holistic approach meaning that it involves a range of dietary, lifestyle and therapeutic measures.
Take Medication As Prescribed
Medication may be prescribed for a number of reasons in heart disease. Some drugs help to improve heart function or control other conditions that may lead to heart disease. Other drugs may be used to prevent any future heart disease in a person who is at high risk. While certain drugs may not necessarily reverse heart disease, it can prevent the onset of more severe heart conditions.
Stop Smoking Immediately
There is no minimum amount of cigarettes that can be safe to smoke. Tobacco smoking is a leading cause of heart disease globally and has to be stopped immediately. Apart from its effects on the heart, tobacco smoking has a host of adverse health effects. Many of these non-cardiac effects can also indirectly affect the heart’s function and ultimately lead to heart disease.
Exercise Daily But Do Not Overdo It
The benefits of exercise on cardiovascular disease has been thoroughly studied. It has now been established that 150 minutes of exercise is optimal for cardiovascular health and disease prevention. This should be divided into 30 minute sessions over 5 days in a week. However, even a lower limit of 120 minutes (30 minute session for 4 days in a week) is sufficient for many of the health benefits attributed to exercise.
WARNING: Never start any exercise regimen without the approval of a medical doctor.
Increase Fruit And Vegetable Intake
The benefits of fruit and vegetables cannot be overstated for a number of different medical conditions. It is an indispensible part of a healthy heart-friendly diet. Apart from the benefits of fiber within fruit and vegetables there are also a host of vitamins and minerals that are important for good health. Phytochemicals which are only found in fruit and vegetables also have a number of health benefits. Fruit and vegetables need to be a part of every meal.
Reduce Carbohydrate Intake
Carbohydrates are a major contributor to obesity which in turn is a leading cause of heart disease in developed nations. It also plays a role in diabetes which in turn contributes to heart disease. Not all carbohydrates are ‘bad’. In fact carbohydrates are necessary for health but it is the type of carbohydrates that is important. Refined carbs should be avoided altogether and even unrefined or unprocessed carbs should be eaten in moderation.
Moderate Fat Consumption
Fat in all its forms should be moderated. As with carbohydrates, fats are not all ‘bad’ and are needed by the body. However, it is the quantity of fats that are consumed that is important as is the type. Overall the body needs only a small amount of fat in a day and often this is already present in various foods which we view solely as carbohydrates and protein. Saturated and trans fats need to be avoided while unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are the healthier choice.
Eat More Fish
Fish is the healthier protein choice despite the talk about mercury poisoning. There is no need to overdo fish and avoid all other meats. However, fish should be the predominant meat in our diets from a heart disease reversal perspective. Some fish are laden with healthier fats like omega-3 fatty acids and is often referred to as the oily fish. Other fish are favored for being a lean source of protein.
Limit Alcoholic Beverages
There is a fair amount of research to verify that a moderate intake of certain types of alcohol may be beneficial in terms of heart disease. However, the type of alcohol, quantity consumed and frequency are extremely important variables. Excessive alcohol intake irrespective of the type can have the opposite effect and even be detrimental to the heart. It is therefore to keep alcohol intake well under the recommended maximum alcohol allowance or avoid alcohol altogether.
Start On A Stress Management Program
It is well known that stress is a ‘killer’ and this applies to both physical and psychological stress. In fact stress can at times be trigger for conditions like angina and a heart attack. While reducing physical stress may at times be a simpler task, the same often does not apply for psychological stress. The daily stressors are usually unavoidable and it is important that a person learns how to cope with stress. Therefore a stress management program should be considered for people living with high levels of stress.