Keeping blood vessels healthy is key for heart health. Healthy blood vessels are soft and flexible to allow blood to flow effortlessly, but arteries thicken and harden with age as a result of plaque buildup. The consequence is narrow, stiff arteries, and they increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.
Internal medicine physician Dr. Samuel Fink is committed to helping you maintain good health. He knows that a number of things within your control impact circulatory health, including the foods you eat and daily lifestyle habits such as physical activity. Adopting heart-healthy eating habits is a good place to start in improving blood vessel health.
Crucial function of arteries
Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the tissues throughout your body. Blood vessels are lined with a thin membrane — called the endothelium — that plays a crucial role in keeping arteries relaxed and flexible.
A number of things cause endothelial dysfunction, including diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle. When the endothelium fails to function properly, blood vessels constrict instead of relaxing.
Fortunately, endothelium dysfunction responds favorably to dietary changes. Here’s what you should be eating to keep your blood vessels healthy.
Reduce saturated fat intake
Saturated fat is a dietary component most strongly linked to an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), a bad form of cholesterol that, when elevated, boosts your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Foods that are high in saturated fat include:
- Fatty cuts of red meat
- Whole milk
- Ice cream
- Processed meat
Choosing foods lower in saturated fat helps keep your heart and blood vessels healthy.
Eat more heart-healthy foods
Making wiser food choices guards against blood vessel disease. Here are some of the best foods to promote heart health.
Oats are rich in a unique dietary fiber known as beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that blocks the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract. All soluble fibers have this effect to different degrees, but beta-glucan is more potent than other types of soluble fiber.
Eating 3 grams of beta-glucans significantly lowers cholesterol. You can get this amount from 1 ½ cups of oats.
Beans and legumes
When it comes to blood vessel health, beans are worth eating more of. Like oats, legumes are rich in soluble fiber. What’s more, they’re packed with antioxidants that help keep your arteries in great shape. A good goal is to aim to have four to five servings of beans each week. A serving of beans is ½ cup.
Certain foods are powerhouses when it comes to antioxidants. That’s why it’s important to include a wide variety of foods in your diet. Diets high in antioxidants reduce your risk of heart disease. Some of the richest sources of antioxidants are:
- Spices and herbs
- Leafy greens
- Red cabbage
- Brussels sprouts
Antioxidants keep your heart and circulatory system healthy and, in particular, prevent endothelial dysfunction.
When it comes to fat, it isn’t all bad news. In fact, certain fats are essential to your health. This means your body needs them but can’t produce them on its own, so you must get them through diet. Rich sources of essential fats are:
- Fatty fish
- Chia seeds
- Plant oils
Good lifestyle habits pair with a better diet in keeping your circulatory system healthy. Getting plenty of physical activity keeps your heart strong and helps combat circulatory problems. Exercise also improves other factors related to heart health: lowering blood pressure, promoting healthy cholesterol, and improving blood sugar control.
You’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to cardiovascular health. If you’re concerned about your heart and circulatory health, Dr. Fink can help. For all of your primary care needs, call our Tarzana, California, office to schedule an appointment, or request an appointment online.