Coronary heart disease (CHD) occurs when plaque builds up inside your arteries. This build-up will eventually lead to atherosclerosis, which is basically the hardening of your arteries. Too much plaque inside your arteries will narrow, and reduce blood flow to your heart.
The smaller the blood flow, the less oxygen your heart gets. As a result you may start experiencing coronary heart disease symptoms such as chest pain, discomfort, pressure, tightness, dizziness, weakness or fatigue when you exercise or feel stressed.
How To Prevent Coronary Heart Disease?
The single best way to prevent coronary heart disease is to eat a heart-friendly diet. There’s nothing more important for your body than to get the nutrients it needs to keep your arteries clean.
Fortunately, nature offers an abundance of specific nutrients that come with amazing heart-protecting properties. The following list of nutrients are definitely something you’ll want to focus on eating more of if heart health is a concern for you.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is usually associated with bone health, but clinical evidence shows that it is just as important in the prevention of coronary heart disease (1). In fact, individuals with vitamin D deficiencies have up to twice the risk of experiencing a cardiac-related event, such as a heart attack or stroke (2). Exactly how vitamin D prevents heart problems is still not fully understood, but the connection is strong.
You can find out your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test at your doctor’s office. Your levels should be between 30-60 ng/ml (3). Vitamin D is produced in the body via sun exposure, but there are also several dietary sources of vitamin D (4). Eggs, sardines, mushrooms, and salmon are all great sources of vitamin D. Aim for 1000-2000 international units (IU) per day. Combined with at least 10-15 minutes of sun exposure daily, there should be no need for supplementation.
Magnesium is a trace mineral used by every cell in the body (5). In addition to reducing inflammation, magnesium can help keep blood vessels healthy and improve cardiac function (6). This may help prevent heart blockage. Some researchers even believe that magnesium deficiency is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease in the United States (7).
This is because higher magnesium intake is associated with a significantly reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in long-term studies (8). Normal blood magnesium levels should be between 1.5-2.5 mEq/L.
Unfortunately, less than 20% of Americans get their daily recommended intake of magnesium: around 320 mg/day for women and 420 mg/day for men (9). Magnesium supplements are always an option, but nothing replaces the effectiveness of dietary sources. The best magnesium sources include cashews, almonds, avocados, and figs.
Calcium is absolutely vital to cardiac muscle function. Without adequate calcium, the heart cannot contract and relax the way it’s supposed to (10). Too little calcium is associated with abnormal heart rhythms, among other adverse effects. Too much calcium, on the other hand, can result in incomplete heart contractions.
The daily recommended intake for calcium is between 1000-1300 mg. More than 2000 mg/day seems to cause issues, according to some clinical trials (11). Normal blood serum calcium levels are between 8.5-10.2 mg/dL.
When possible, do your best to get all calcium from dietary sources. A study at Johns Hopkins found that calcium supplements may actually increase the risk of coronary atherosclerosis (12). Your best food sources of calcium will include dark salmon, dried figs, bok choy, and tofu.