Heart Disease—6 Risk Factors You Can Reverse

by Dr. Julian Whitaker
Filed Under: Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Heart disease is the number 1 killer in this country, and for many people a heart attack is the first symptom of the disease. Fortunately, you can absolutely prevent heart disease, even if you’re at high risk—and you don’t need powerful prescription drugs or surgery to do it.

1. Keep an Eye on Cholesterol: Get regular physical exercise, which helps to raise your protective HDL cholesterol. A half-hour four or five days a week is ideal. I also recommend high doses of niacin (vitamin B3), which has been shown to both decrease LDL and increase HDL levels. I usually start patients with 500 mg twice a day, and work up to a total of 1,500–2,000 mg a day. Do this under the supervision of your doctor, though, so he or she can monitor your response—high-dose niacin can impact blood sugar control, and shouldn’t be used by people with liver disease.

2. Eat a Low-Fat Diet: Numerous studies have shown that a low-fat diet can not only help prevent heart disease, but can also help reverse it. I recommend a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and legumes, along with lean protein sources such as chicken and fish. Avoid overly processed foods, refined sugars, and excess salt.

3. Keep Your Homocysteine in Check: High homocysteine may contribute to heart disease. In addition to the B vitamins I recommended above, you can also add trimethylglycine (TMG) to your supplement regimen. The recommended dose is 1,000 mg daily. Look for it in your local health food store.

4. Avoid Vitamin C Deficiencies: The late Linus Pauling, PhD, found that vitamin C deficiencies and heart disease often go hand in hand. If you are at risk for developing heart disease, gradually build up to a daily intake of 3,000 to 6,000 mg, divided into two or three doses.

5. Protect Your Arteries From Free-Radical Damage: Vitamin E helps protect your arteries from free-radical damage. To significantly reduce your risk of heart attack, I recommend taking 400 to 800 IU of vitamin E daily.

6. Reduce Stress on Your Heart: Magnesium has many functions, one of the most important being that it relaxes the muscles of the artery walls and reduces stress on the heart muscle. To prevent a magnesium deficiency, aim for 500 to 1,000 mg per day.

Now it’s your turn: Which of these heart-healthy habits do you practice?

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