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How to Eat to Help Your Heart

Even though my business is Medicare supplement coverage, my master’s degree was in Nutrition and Exercise Science.  I’m very interested in how we can all stay healthy, and use less medical care, as we age.

It may not be as hard as you fear to eat the kind of food your body craves.  Scientists say there’s a direct relationship between the total antioxidant capacity of your overall nutrition and a reduced risk of heart failure.  Fortunately, you don’t have to be a scientist to make sense of that.  As long as you’re not color blind, it’s pretty easy to judge whether you’re getting enough antioxidants.  Fruits and vegetables with bright, rich color tend to be abundant in life-saving antioxidants.

How Science Measures Your Risk of Heart Trouble

Antioxidant compounds are thought to protect us from cardiovascular disease because these antioxidants prevent endothelial damage that can contribute to atherosclerosis.

Endothelial cells line the interior of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels.  They interface with circulating blood and lymph.  Endothelial damage can reveal inflammatory disease, like rheumatoid arthritis.  It can also predict cardiovascular trouble to come.

What Can We Learn from Nutritional Research

At Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts, Susanne Rautiainen and her colleagues examined data from research involving 33,713 women.  They were between age 49 and 83 and had enrolled in the Swedish Mammography Cohort.

The researchers surveyed what they ate and drank to calculate how well their diet supplied antioxidants for more than 11.3 years of follow-up.  During that time, 884 cases of heart failure were seen. The data showed that those with the highest average antioxidant consumption were 42 percent less likely to suffer heart failure compared to women getting lower amounts of antioxidants.

The Definitive List of the Most Antioxidant Foods

Research has also identified the most antioxidant foods you can eat.  At Tufts University, scientists at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging measured relative antioxidant
power.

Among fruits, prunes and raisins led the pack.  They were followed by berries, like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. Unfortunately, conventionally-grown berries are loaded with chemicals like pesticides, so look for organic.  Plums and oranges followed berries, and red grapes and cherries were next.  Grapes and cherries also have the heavy-pesticide problem unless you get organic.

Among vegetables, kale and spinach were ahead, but they have pesticide issues.  Organic solves that problem.  Brussels sprouts and alfalfa sprouts were next followed by broccoli flowers and beets.  Red bell peppers were next (look for organic) followed by onions and corn.  Unless organic, corn is usually genetically modified.  Eggplant rounded out the top 10 vegetables for antioxidant richness.

 

 
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