By Eileen Johnson

Cardiovascular disease signals inflammation that has gotten out of hand. Building a healthy heart includes quenching that fire!

Pick healthy carbohydrates!

Refined sugars and grains fan the flames of cardiovascular problems but deciding how to live without them and still maintain energy levels may be a challenge. Start slowly by adding nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables to your diet. Make a plan for how you will include 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day by including them at every meal and in your smoothies, salads and snacks. Use iPhone reminders or try the website to track progress. You will soon experience a feeling of energy and clear-mindedness that will help you achieve the rest of these steps!

Fiber up!

Strive for 25-35 grams of fiber in your diet every day. (Most of us get about 6-8 grams)  You will find 3grams in the handful of greens and 10 grams in the cup of blackberries you put in your smoothie, 3 grams in the handful of almonds for a snack, 12 grams in a green salad topped by a ½ cup of garbanzo beans, 7 grams in the pear you eat for a snack in the afternoon, 9 grams in the cup of broccoli and ½ a yam, and 3 grams in the ½ cup brown rice with dinner. (45 grams!)

Exercise to “move out” inflammation!

A 2002 study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control showed a lowering of an important marker of inflammation when people engaged in light, moderate or vigorous exercise. Sustained exercise also lowers blood sugars, decreases free fatty acids (correlated to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease), and builds muscle that speeds up your metabolism.

Calm the mind – and the heart!

During periods of stress, the body releases large amounts of a hormone called cortisol, which raises blood sugar levels. Long periods of high blood sugar can result in an increase in the release of inflammatory insulin. Chronically high cortisol and insulin levels increase the body’s tendency to store fat around the midsection, the most dangerous place for the heart and cardiovascular system. For a thorough and fresh look at the benefits of and options for relaxation, check out, created by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Send the “right” chemical messages to the heart!

Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oils, dark green veggies, flax oil and fresh, raw nuts, create chemical “messengers” that promote the health of the cardiovascular system. These messengers decrease the risk for heart attack and stroke by decreasing the blood’s tendency to clot, decreasing inflammation, and dilating the blood vessels.

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