Living a “Heart Healthy” Lifestyle with Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Jeffery Morgan MD

About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, which equates to one in every four deaths. It is the leading cause of death for both men and women nationwide. These statistics are staggering and signify the need for major changes to daily habits, diet, and exercise. Dr. Jeffery Morgan is a cardiothoracic surgeon specializing in heart transplants and left ventricular assist devices or LVAD. Dr. Jeffery Morgan took the time to go over some of the easiest and most effective ways to manage your heart health, and how you can implement a “healthy heart” lifestyle.

In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Heart disease costs the United States roughly $200 billion dollars every year, which includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity. High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key heart disease risk factors — and about half of Americans have at least one in three of these three risk factors.

One of the key contributors to heart health is an overall lowering of cholesterol in your body. However, there are two types of cholesterol worth knowing about: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL is known as the good cholesterol, as it transports cholesterol to your liver to be expelled from your body; it helps to get rid of excess cholesterol, to ensure that it is less likely to end up in your arteries. LDL is known as the bad cholesterol, because it takes cholesterol to your arteries where it may collect in the artery walls, and ultimately leads to clogged arteries. So how do you increase your HDL and lower your LDL?

It may be easier said that done, but the first step for those who smoke is to kick the habit. Smokers typically have lower levels of HDL than non-smokers, as one of its many negative affects is that it suppresses HDL cholesterol. Dr. Jeffery Morgan explains that even in studies where HDL cholesterol levels didn’t increase after people quit smoking, HDL function improved, resulting in less inflammation and other beneficial effects on heart health.

You can also naturally raise your HDL levels by consuming healthy fats, like olive oil. A major analysis of 42 studies with more than 800,000 participants found that olive oil was the only source of mono saturated fat that seemed to reduce heart risk. Dr. Jeffrey Morgan explains that this effect is caused by antioxidants that it contains called polyphenols.

Another sure-fire way to get yourself heart healthy and increase your HDL is to exercise. Studies have shown that many different types of exercise are effective at raising HDL cholesterol, including strength training, high-intensity exercise and aerobic training. Exercising several times a week can help raise HDL cholesterol and enhance its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Obesity can also lead to heart disease, so lowering your overall body weight will put less strain on your heart.

Lastly, try consuming more purple produce. Dr. Jeffrey Morgan explains that consuming purple-colored fruits and vegetables is a great way to increase overall HDL, as it contains antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Studies using anthocyanin extracts have shown that they help fight inflammation, protect your cells from damaging free radicals and may also raise HDL cholesterol levels. Anthocyanins can be found in eggplant, purple corn, red cabbage, blueberries, blackberries and black raspberries.

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