Top Foods for Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

Recent research on cardiovascular disease has suggested that although “traditional” risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes indeed greatly increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, a number of other risk factors are also important in the process of plaque formation in the arteries. These include:

1) Inflammation – this means a low-grade response from the body causing redness, heat and swelling in the arteries, making plaques more susceptible to rupture.

2) Endothelial dysfunction – this includes high levels of homocysteine, a product of metabolism of the amino acid methionine. This can often be corrected by therapeutic doses of vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid.

3) Abnormal platelet aggregation – this can be related to high levels of fibrinogen in the blood and makes the blood more thick and able to form clots.

4) LDL oxidation – this relates to a subtype of cholesterol which when oxidized, or affected by free radical compounds, becomes more likely to be able to penetrate blood vessels and start the process of plaque formation.

The top three foods for preventing or reversing the above processes appear to be:

1) Pomegranate – a low-sugar extract of pomegranate can help increase the activity of “good” HDL cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol, and prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

2) Chocolate – dark chocolate (or raw cacao beans)  appear to have a beneficial effect on endothelial dysfunction, lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

3) Green Tea – while black tea theoflavins appear to have a stronger effect on lowering LDL cholesterol, green tea extracts appear to have a significantly beneficial effect on reducing platelet aggregation and decreasing inflammation of the heart arteries.

Other important lifestyle factors include regular exercise and flossing the teeth, as periodontal disease also has a significant effect on increasing risk for cardiovascular disease.

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