A revealing discovery was made In the middle of the seventeenth century.
An Englishman named Harvey discovered that the job of the heart is to pump
the blood throughout the body, almost in a continuous circle - carrying food
and other substances to all the cells, muscles, bones and skin. Indeed, the
heart is an intricate and capable machine, composed almost entirely of muscle.
As the heart is basically a muscle, its strength can be greatly increased with
regular exercise and physical activity. One example is a study from the Journal
of the American Medical Association where researchers followed the exercise
activity of 10,224 men and 3,120 women for eight years. The interesting thing
they learned is that higher levels of physical fitness can prolong people*s lives
overall, mostly due to lowered rates of cardiovascular (heart) disease and
Another study found that lack of physical activity is a definite risk factor for the
development of heart disease (2).
Brisk walking is an excellent choice of exercise (one of the best), and so is stair
climbing, calisthenics, jogging, bicycling, swimming and various team sports.
These are all very beneficial when done regularly. If you*re just beginning an
exercise program, take it slowly at first and build it up gradually. Be sure to
include some training for your arms, as the heart rate and blood pressure
response during arm exercise is even higher than with leg exercise (3).
There are some unique heart-loving foods and supplements that have proven
themselves winners for increasing the health of the heart and blood vessels.
These include fish, fish oil capsules, garlic, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and
Co-enzyme Q10. Eating fish and/or taking fish oil supplements is a good
source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is a special type of fat that he body
cannot make by itself and is as vital to the health as vitamins. In the
Netherlands, eating a mere one ounce of fish daily was associated with 50%
fewer deaths from coronary heart disease -- in other words, it cut the risk
in half (4). In another study done in the UK, fish oil greatly improved the
function of small arteries in patients with excess cholesterol in their blood (5).
Cholesterol is not an entirely bad thing -- In fact, it is vital for the health of
the body. The body uses it as the basis for making adrenal hormones, sex
hormones, cell membranes, and vitamin D. The problem occurs when
cholesterol accumulates in the veins and arteries to high levels and begins
to clog them. The main source of this is eating too much high-fat meat and
Garlic is a favorite plant for lowering cholesterol. It also inhibits blood
clotting and reduces blood pressure (Preventive Medicine, 1987, vol. 16).
The best way to benefit from garlic is to eat it raw or cooked on a frequent
basis. It is also beneficial in supplement form.
Vitamin E and C are powerful antioxidant vitamins. An *anti* oxidant is a
compound that protects tissues from the damage caused by oxygen when
it acts to produce free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that have lost
one of their electrons and become highly unbalanced. In order to obtain
the missing electron, they attack other molecules and modify their chemical
structure. This can create a chain reaction that in essence, causes our
bodies to rust from the inside out. Free radicals play a primary role in the
aging process and contribute to degenerative diseases such as heart disease
and cancer. Vitamins C and E are two of the most effective antioxidants.
One study of 11,178 people, aged 67 to 105 years old, found very good results
from combining vitamins E and C. (6) Those who were taking vitamin E
supplements at the beginning of the study had a 34% lower risk of death from
heart disease than those who were not. The combination of vitamins E and C
together created a total risk reduction of 53%.
Coenzyme Q10 is another uniquely potent antioxidant. It is also known as
ubiquinone. It comes from "ubiquitous" which means "found everywhere" as
it is found in every cell in the body. CoQ10 was first used by the Japanese to
strengthen the heart muscle. Heart patients who have supplemented with
CoQ10 have had positive results, particularly in protecting the heart from
insufficient blood flow. In one study, treatment with Q10 four times a day for
four weeks reduced the frequency of angina attacks (heart pain) by 53 percent
and also increased the patient's exercise tolerance -- all without any side
effects (American Journal of Cardiology, 1985, vol. 56).
Keep your heart happily humming along by doing a variety of enjoyable
exercises and adding some heart-loving foods and supplements to your diet.
1. Blair SN, Kohl HW III, Paffenbarger RS Jr, Clark DG, Cooper KH, Gibbons
LW. Physical fitness and all-cause mortality: a prospective study of healthy
men and women. JAMA.. 1989;262:2395-2401
2. Powell KE, Thompson PD, Caspersen CJ, Kendrick JS. Physical activity
and the incidence of coronary heart disease. Annu Rev Public Health..
3. Franklin BA, Vander L, Wrisley D, Rubenfire M. Aerobic requirements of
arm ergometry: implications for exercise testing and training. Phys Sports Med
4 Kromhout D, Bosschieter EB, de Lezenne Coulander C. The inverse relation
between fish consumption and 20-year mortality from coronary heart disease.
N Engl J Med 1985;312:1205-9
5. Grahame K. Goode, MB "Dietary Supplementation With Marine Fish Oil
Improves In Vitro Small Artery Endothelial Function in Hypercholesterolemic
Patients" (Circulation. 1997;96:2802-2807.
6. Stampfer M, et al. Vitamin E consumption and the risk of coronary heart
disease in women. N Engl J Med. 1993;328:1444-1449.