Nutrition for a healthy heart

Besides being known for bringing candy hearts and lots of snow, February is National Heart Health Month.

Heart disease is identified as the leading cause of death in both men and women by the Centers for Disease Control. In addition to screenings that can be done to monitor your heart's health, there are fundamentals of following a preventative heart health lifestyle that can help prevent heart disease and maintain heart health.

In addition to not smoking, regular exercise, stress management, it is possible to significantly reduce your risk of heart disease by incorporating heart healthy foods in your everyday diet.

Eating foods known as phytosterols can lower LDL, or, "bad" cholesterol. These include Brussels sprouts, peanuts, almonds and wheat germ. Foods that produce nitric oxide as a metabolite by-product can lower blood pressure and keep the lining of the blood vessels healthy; beets and kale are great sources of this beneficial metabolite.

Also good for your blood vessels (and gut health) are fermented foods, like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut.

Magnesium-rich foods like almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds can help maintain a healthy heart rhythm and reduce blood pressure.

Anti-inflamatory foods like mushrooms, red grapes, apples, blueberries, salmon and sardines are beneficial as well.

Besides eating a variety of whole foods packed with phytosterols, supplementing with Co-enzyme Q-10 is beneficial to heart and blood vessel function. This also reduces the risk of heart attack and improve cholesterol levels.

It is always recommended to talk with your care provider, cardiologist or an integrative medicine practitioner prior to starting any specific supplementation plan.

Healthy fats from an omega-rich diet provides anti-inflammatory benefits and may reduce cholesterol levels. The skinny on fats is to eat sources of monounsaturated fats such as olives, avocados, and extra-virgin olive oil; and polyunsaturated fats from sockeye salmon, sardines and tuna.

Again, it is always recommended to talk with your care provider, cardiologist or an integrative practitioner prior to starting any supplementation.

For more information about cardiology services available through Barton Health, visit

And to schedule an appointment with an integrative medicine practitioner to learn more nutrition and other heart-healthy lifestyle choices, call 530-539-6620.

Here's to your heart this February, and throughout the year.

Healthy Tahoe is a look at health-related topics that shape our community and is made possible through content provided by our sponsors.