The No. 1 killer on the planet is heart disease, which accounts for one in four deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What makes heart disease so deadly is the progressive buildup of plaque in the arteries, which narrows the inner walls, restricting and ultimately blocking the flow of blood.
Arteries are the blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood from the heart to different tissues in the body. When plaque builds up and blood flow becomes inhibited, these clogged or blocked arteries can lead to more serious problems such as heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. So what can you do to keep your arteries healthy and free of blockage? Food can be used as a natural remedy to regress blockage and prevent further damage to your arteries. Here are 10 of the best foods you can eat to free your arteries of build-up.
Asparagus is one of the best foods to cleanse your arteries. Full of fiber and minerals, it helps lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots that can lead to serious cardiovascular illness. It works within the veins and arteries to alleviate inflammation that may have accumulated over time. It boosts the body’s production of glutathione, an antioxidant that fights inflammation and prevents damaging oxidation that causes clogged or blocked arteries. It also contains alpha-linoleic acid and folic acid, which prevent hardening of the arteries.
There are many great recipes for asparagus. Steam it, roast it, grill it and even eat it raw in salads.
Avocado helps reduce the “bad” cholesterol and increase the “good cholesterol” that helps to clear the arteries. It also contains vitamin E, which prevents cholesterol oxidation, as well as potassium, which is known to lower blood pressure. Avocados are a delicious replacement for mayo on a sandwich, or as a salad topping, and of course, in guacamole.
Broccoli can prevent artery clogging because it is loaded with vitamin K, which prevents calcium from damaging the arteries. Broccoli also prevents cholesterol oxidation and is full of fiber, which lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Stress can lead to tearing and plaque build-up of arterial walls. These little trees also contain sulforaphane, which helps the body use protein to prevent plaque build-up in the arteries.
It is recommended to have two to three servings of broccoli per week for the maximum benefits. Broccoli is another versatile vegetable—it tastes great grilled, roasted or steamed and is a great side dish.
4. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish—mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring and tuna—are rich in healthy fats, which can help to clear the arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids help to increase the “good” cholesterol while reducing triglyceride levels, decreasing blood vessel inflammation and the formation of blood clots in the arteries, and can even lower blood pressure.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends people eat fish at least twice per week to reduce plaque build-up. Baked and grilled fish are the most optimal for heart health.
Instead of reaching for the cookie jar, try a healthier alternative—nuts. Almonds are the best choice because they are high in monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber and protein. The magnesium in almonds also prevents plaque formation and lowers blood pressure. Walnuts are another good source of omega-3 fatty acid, which will reduce “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers the risk of plaque build-up in the arteries.
The AHA recommends three to five servings per week (one serving is equivalent to a handful). Nuts also make a great salad topper.
6. Olive Oil
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid, an essential fatty acid that lowers “bad” cholesterol and raises “good” cholesterol. Rich in antioxidants, it is one of the healthiest oils to use in cooking or for dressings.
Use olive oil instead of butter and drizzle over salad or pasta. It is recommended to choose 100 percent organic virgin olive oil for maximum health benefits.
This summertime favorite is a great natural source of the amino acid L-citrulline, which boosts nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide causes the arteries to relax, decreases inflammation and can help lower blood pressure. Watermelon also helps to modify blood lipids and lowers belly fat accumulation. Less fat in the abdominal area lowers the risk of heart disease.
The main component of this spice is curcumin, which is a power anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a major cause of arteriosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries. Turmeric also reduces the damage to arterial walls, which can cause blood clots and plaque build up. Turmeric also contains vitamin B6, which helps to maintain healthy levels of homocysteine, which can cause plaque buildup and blood vessel damage in excess amounts.
Turmeric can be an ingredient in many dishes, both sweet and savory. One way to get your daily dose is by drinking a glass of warm turmeric milk daily. If you’ve never cooked with it before, now’s the time to get creative for your health!
This dark, leafy green is filled with potassium, folate and fiber, which helps lower blood pressure and prevents artery blockage. One serving per day helps lower homocysteine levels, a risk factor for heart diseases such as atherosclerosis.
It doesn’t matter if you eat it raw or cooked, the benefits are the same. So try it in salads, smoothies and even on your omelet.
10. Whole Grains
Whole grains contain soluble fiber, which binds to the excess LDL cholesterol in your digestive tract and removes it from your body. Whole grains also contain magnesium, which dilates blood vessels and keeps your blood pressure at regular levels.
The AHA recommends at least six daily servings of whole grains, so trade your carbs for whole-grain alternatives like whole-grain breads, whole wheat pastas, brown rice, quinoa, barley and oatmeal to improve cholesterol levels and keep your arteries clear.
Making these changes to your diet can improve your overall health, and prevent your arteries from blockage. Luckily, these options are delicious and provide endless opportunities for new recipes and creativity. Not sure if you’re at risk for or already have artery blockage? This February, take control of your heart health and schedule an appointment with one of our cardiologists at the Snyder White Heart and Vascular Center today by calling 419-660-6946.