CAT | Heart Health
Every year about 720,000 Americans have a heart attack; for more than 200,000 of them, it’s not their first.i Heart disease is still the number one killer in the United States, but we are making strides toward improving nationwide heart health by increasing awareness about healthy lifestyle choices such as eating well and staying active. When it comes to exercise, however, a new study found that overdoing it may have the opposite effect.
Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California recently completed a decade-long study in which they analyzed the effects of increased physical activity on nearly 2,400 heart attack survivors. While increased exercise was shown to reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack by up to 65 percent, excessive exercise—running more than 30 miles a week or walking beyond 46 miles weekly—more than doubled the risk of having another attack.
Although only a small portion of the study participants were excessive exercisers (6%), study author and staff scientist Paul Williams cautions against overdoing it when it comes to physical activity post-heart attack. “More isn’t always better,” said Williams, recommending heart attack survivors stick to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise weekly.
Nuts are high in protein and make a delicious, satisfying snack—but did you know they can also help lower your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes? Using data collected over a five-year period through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), researchers from Louisiana State University analyzed the diets of more than 13,000 adults, specifically their daily intake of “tree nuts” including pistachios, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and cashews. Here’s what they found:
Regular tree nut consumers—those who ate at least a quarter of an ounce of nuts daily—were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, the term given to a group of risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes (including obesity, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels). The lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome may be linked to the fact that nut eaters also had lower levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, which signals inflammation in the body and is one of the markers doctors use to evaluate the risk of developing coronary artery disease. The same group also had higher levels of “good” cholesterol in the blood, along with lower body mass indexes.
Adding a handful of nuts to the daily diet is a simple thing we can all do to support our daily health. Certain nuts (walnuts in particular) contain beneficial Omega-3 fats that can help balance the body’s inflammation response, along with heart-healthy fiber, vitamin E, potassium and amino acids, which is why Brenda Watson recommends them as part of her Love Your Heart eating plan. Just remember to watch your portion sizes, since nuts do contain some starch—and choose raw nuts that aren’t covered in sugar and salt (which can undermine their health benefits).