Despite all the progress medical science has made in recent decades to combat heart disease, cardiovascular problems remain the nation's No. 1 killer. Every 40 seconds someone somewhere
in the U.S. dies from heart disease. That's nearly 600,000 Americans every year.
Now for the good news: Steven Masley, M.D., has come up with a simple five-point plan for preventing and reversing the progression of heart disease, based on his own clinical studies. In his new book, "The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up," he details how to effectively boost your heart health in as little as a few weeks.
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For starters, he tells Newsmax Health you have to look beyond cholesterol and do more than simply take statin drugs to keep your arteries clear to lower your risk for heart attack. It's far more important to adopt healthy lifestyle habits.
"There is quite a bit more to it [than cholesterol] and there's a lot of controversy as well," he says. "In our research that we've [shown] that cholesterol was not a very good predictor if you're growing plaque in your arteries or not."
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Although statins can be helpful for some, especially men, Dr. Masley notes, studies have not shown them to be helpful for women in studies.
"So I think there's much more that we can do with lifestyle [changes]. And without lifestyle, I don't believe statins work," he says. "So either way, although statins can be helpful, lifestyle is really the key. If you do all the lifestyle right you wouldn't need the pill … For 90 percent of people, we can prevent heart disease with lifestyle [changes]."
Dr. Masley has come up with a five-point plan — what he calls the "Five Fs" — for lowering the risk of heart disease:
No. 1: Fiber. Making sure you're getting enough natural fiber in your diet — from vegetables, fruit, beans, and nuts — is the single best thing you can do to boost your heart health. "They're awesome, they do so many things," he says. "They help us lose weight, they suppress appetite, they're good for our blood sugar, blood pressure, they slow aging."
No. 2: Fitness. The standard minimum guideline — 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week — is a good rule of thumb to follow. But what's most important is determining your fitness level. You can do this by measuring metabolic equivalents — METs — that gauge the intensity of physical activity and the amount of oxygen consumed in your workouts. "It's not about how many minutes you work out; it's about how fit you are," he says. "So in 'The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up' we want to show people [how to] do a measurement [of] how fit are you. And then, how to get trim, fit and sexy in a lot less time."
No. 3: Body fat. High body fat is a primary predictor of heart health, which is why most Americans need to adopt sensible diets and exercise regularly to burn it off. "The body fat really did make a difference [in heart risk]," he says. "And the two best predictors of losing weight are to eat your fiber and get fit. So if you do those, the body fat is less important and usually goes away on its own."
No. 4: Fish and fish oil. Dr. Masley recommends 1,000 milligrams per day of healthy fish oils, from food or supplements. "That's like three servings of canned wild salmon per day, if you're on a budget," he says. "That's an excellent way to help your heart, help your brain. It's incredible. We found actually fish [salmon, trout, sole] to be better than the supplement … but they were both clearly beneficial."
No. 5: Food nutrients: Most Americans don't consume enough healthy nutrients, putting them at risk for heart disease, Dr. Masley says. Among the nutrients he recommends: 2,000 International Units a day of vitamin D, 400 milligrams of magnesium, and vitamin K from green leafy vegetables. "They are powerful and 70 to 80 percent of Americans are grossly deficient" in these vitamins and nutrients, he notes.
In addition to incorporating the "Five Fs" into your lifestyle, Dr. Masley advises steering clear of trans fats — which he refers to as "embalming fluid" — and processed foods high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and flour.
"Those are the two biggest risk factors for getting cardiovascular disease today…I would put [those] right up there with tobacco use," he argues. "The difference is a lot more people use sugar and flour and embalming fluid than use tobacco."
He adds that controlled scientific studies he has conducted with his own patients to test his 30-day program have proven it is effective.
"We've done randomized clinical trials, so we actually know when we have people follow this program they're fitter, trimmer, they lose weight, they're mentally sharper, their [brain's] executive performance improves," he says. "And we've had hundreds of patients shrink their artery plaque by 10 percent — that means about 10 years of age. So we frequently help people get off their cholesterol or blood pressure meds within one to two months.
"We are turning back the clock on aging, all aspects, but in particular cardiovascular aging."
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