Heart Health

Six Tips to Turn Back the Clock on Your Heart

By Steven Masley, MD, CNS


The first step to avoiding cardiovascular disease, which is the #1 killer of Americans, including women—is understanding how your heart and arteries age. The traditional approach to evaluating heart disease does not address what’s actually happening within your arteries. The single factor that causes most heart problems is not cholesterol per se, but the growth of plaque in your arteries. This is what determine your heart’s true age.

A new test called carotid intimal-medial thickness testing (Carotid IMT) precisely calculates arterial plaque growth and reliably estimates a patient’s arterial age. However, as ideal as the Carotid IMT test is, it may be unavailable in your community. Fortunately, though, there are other good ways to predict your heart’s true age and reverse your plaque score. I’ve studied over 600 patients and compared nearly 100 lifestyle factors to identify which are helpful in shrinking plaque in arteries. Follow the steps below to get your heart’s age to match your real age. And if you already have heart disease, these factors will help you shrink plaque:

1) Aerobic fitness:Schedule a fitness test with a trainer at the gym. It doesn’t matter how many minutes you exercise a week. What matters is how fit you are. Every improvement in fitness makes a big improvement in health. Increase your fitness by one MET level, which stands for Metabolic Equivalent of Task, and you’ll drop your cardiovascular risk by 12.5%.

2) Fiber:Eat at least 30 grams daily. Good sources are veggies, fruits, oats, nuts, and beans. Fiber is packed with nutrients that block cholesterol from being oxidized into arterial plaque. Fiber intake decreases inflammation, improves blood sugar levels, and helps people with weight loss because eating fiber suppresses the appetite and lets you feel satisfied with fewer calories.

3) Eat Fish: Enjoy cold water, small-mouth fish three times per week or take a fish oil supplement. Cold water stimulates the growth of algae that contain flexible fats (omega-3 fats). In contrast, saturated fats are stiff in cold water. As shrimp eat algae, and shrimp are consumed by fish, the flexible fats result in flexible fats in fish tissue. These flexible fats — long chain omega-3 fats known as fish oil — help to lower inflammation and to decrease the risk for abnormal heart rhythms

4) Systolic blood pressure:That’s the top number of your blood pressure score. The ideal is less than 120/80. If yours is higher than that, exercise more and eat more fruits and vegetables. The recommendation is five cups a day.. Veggies and fruits provide many nutrients, including potassium and magnesium among others, that improve blood pressure. The colorful pigments in fruits and veggies decrease inflammation and oxidation, which can accelerate aging and growth of arterial plaque.