Heart Health: Diet and Exercise

Heart failure, alternatively termed cardiac failure, presents with primary symptoms such as fatigue and reduced stamina. This condition causes quicker breathlessness and decreased efficiency. Additionally, it can lead to leg swelling, decreased appetite, and unexplained weight gain. Medical treatments are often prescribed, but adopting a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise can offer significant benefits by addressing many of the underlying causes of heart failure.

Curing Heart Failure with Diet and Exercise

At a congress of cardiologists of the Mexican Society of Cardiology in Mexico in November 2015, medical researchers presented new findings regarding the outstanding influences of diet and exercise on chronic heart failure (1).

Heart failure is a life-threatening condition in which the heart is no longer fully able to pump blood throughout the body. As a result, there is a lack of oxygen and nutrients in the organs, which explains the typical symptoms such as exhaustion, shortness of breath, rapid fatigue and dysfunction of some organs.

Heart failure: Usually a poor prognosis

In Mexico – the venue of the congress – 750,000 people suffer from heart failure and the trend is rising.

“Only 25 percent of men and 38 percent of women with heart failure in Mexico will survive the next 5 years,”

says. Dr. Arturo Orea, study author and collaborator at the Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Respiratorias (National Institute of Respiratory Diseases) in Mexico City.

“Medication can slow down the further development of heart failure, but the future prospects for most patients are not very rosy.”

Heart failure is often home-made

Previous studies by Dr. Orea had already shown the following associations. Of all patients with heart failure,

  • 40% also suffer from diabetes,
  • 41% high cholesterol,
  • 57% of high blood lipid levels,
  • 25% overweight,
  • 55% of high blood pressure and
  • 31% suffer from nicotine addiction (i.e. are smokers).
  • 1% (rather less) of all people with heart failure examined exercise regularly.

These figures show that in most patients with heart failure, the disease is homemade, i.e. the result of a poor lifestyle and diet. This is because all of the problems listed – from diabetes to high blood pressure – most arise when you eat an unhealthy diet. Anyone who smokes and hardly ever moves is a natural victim of cardiovascular diseases of all kinds.

Patients hardly receive specific dietary recommendations

Heart failure patients are advised to regularly engage in an endurance type of movement. Even daily walks would be an excellent measure. A healthy diet is also recommended to those affected, but often without further indications of what exactly such a diet should look like. On the contrary. In the vast majority of cases, the two tips remain: not to drink so much (to prevent the formation of edema) and to eat less salt.

Nutrition plan for a heart-healthy diet

However, patients do not get to know a truly healthy diet with it. If those affected are motivated and would like to change their diet, holistic nutritional advice can help.

Low Carb Diet and Exercise: Healthier Heart After Just 4 Months

The researchers led by Dr. Orea have now specifically examined the influences of diet and physical activity on heart health in 84 patients with heart failure. Some of the subjects were fed a low-carbohydrate diet (40 to 50% carbohydrates, 30 to 40% protein, and 20% fat) and participated in an exercise program (4). The other part acted as a control group, still did not move and ate quite “normally”.

After only 4 months, the blood pressure of the experimental group had decreased compared to the control group, and water retention could be reduced.

Fewer carbohydrates and more unsaturated fatty acids

“Our results show that a low-carb diet combined with exercise is very beneficial for people with heart failure,” says Dr. Orea. “One contributing factor to this phenomenon lies in the fact that carbohydrates have a higher respiratory quotient compared to fats or proteins. This implies that carbohydrates demand more oxygen for their metabolism, which, unfortunately, tends to be in limited supply in cases of heart failure.”

Heart failure: think about potassium and magnesium

In another study, the researchers examined the extent to which potassium and magnesium intake (via diet) could affect the number of heart-related hospitalizations and deaths in 129 patients who had suffered from heart failure for two years.

Patients who died, it turned out, consumed very little potassium (only a little more than 800 mg per day, better would be around 2000 mg per day). Patients who consumed less than 200 mg of magnesium per day were three times more likely to die or be hospitalized than those who ate a magnesium-rich diet. The magnesium requirement is at least 400 mg per day. More magnesium can also be taken for therapeutic purposes.

Therefore, Dr. Orea advises: “Patients with heart failure should make sure to get enough magnesium, such as by eating green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and bananas.”

Dr. Orea explains the increased risk of death with low potassium intake as follows: With a low potassium content in the diet, the so-called renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system is more active. However, this system, which regulates the water and mineral balance, can increase blood pressure – and high blood pressure is not good at all for heart failure.

Strophanthin supports heart failure

If you need medication support during the transition period — until your dietary changes and program take effect — strophanthin could help. Strophanthin is a very old heart remedy that was used in medicine until the end of the 20th century when it was superseded by the typical pharmaceutical antihypertensives and other heart medications.

Strophanthin is a herbal remedy made from an African plant. It strengthens and protects the heart muscle and ensures, among other things, that it is better protected from oxygen deprivation. Side effects are not to be feared when used properly. Strophanthin is not only used for heart failure but also for coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, or cardiac arrhythmias. These days it is very hard to get and mostly sold as a homeopathic remedy.

D-ribose energizes the heart

D-ribose is a component of ATP, the substance that supplies the cells in our body with energy. In heart failure, the heart muscle cells often suffer from a lack of energy. Taking D-ribose could be helpful here. However, discuss the use and dosage with your doctor. All important information about D-ribose and its effects can be found in the link above under D-ribose.
In the case of heart failure, it is essential to change your diet and integrate exercise.

Lifestyle change is a must

Heart failure is developing into a veritable epidemic worldwide. The prescription of medication alone is by no means sufficient here. Therefore, lifestyle changes – including a healthy diet, a normal weight that can be achieved with intermittent fasting, and exercise – must play a central role in the future treatment of heart failure (but also in prevention).

If you need help with changing your lifestyle – contact us for help.

Heart Health: Diet and Exercise

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