Everyone knows cardiovascular health should be a priority, but there’s so much information out there that it can sometimes be overwhelming. Luckily, we have Dr. Louis Ignarro to help! A heart health expert and Nobel laureate, Dr. Ignarro sat down with Herbalife to answer some of your most popular heart health questions, starting with Omega-3s.
Herbalife: We hear about Omega-3s all the time, but what exactly are they?
Dr. Ignarro: Omega-3 fatty acids, or Omega-3s, are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential nutrients needed to maintain health. The body can’t make them, so you have to get them through food. Two types of Omega-3s, EPA and DHA, are especially crucial to supporting wellness. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is another beneficial Omega-3.
Herbalife: What is the benefit of Omega-3s?
Dr. Ignarro: Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, have been shown to benefit the hearts of healthy people.
Herbalife: How can we get more Omega-3s in our diet through food?
Dr. Ignarro: The best way to get both EPA and DHA is through eating fatty fish at least twice per week. Fish like salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna and herring are great options and also happen to be delicious. Tofu, soybean oil, canola oil, flaxseed and walnuts are also good sources of ALA.
Herbalife: Is there an easy way to remember how much fish we should be eating in a serving?
Dr. Ignarro: The American Heart Association recommends a serving size of 3.5 ounces of fatty fish at least twice weekly to ensure you’re getting enough Omega-3s through diet. A serving of cooked fish is slightly larger than a checkbook.
Herbalife: If we don’t cook much fish or otherwise eat enough foods with Omega-3s, are supplements recommended?
Dr. Ignarro: Absolutely. Of course, getting Omega-3s through food is ideal. An Omega-3 supplement can support a healthy diet. Krill or fish oil supplements are both great options. Vegans or people who can’t tolerate fish or krill oil might prefer algal oil.
We also asked Dr. Ignarro for his advice on some more general heart health concerns. Here’s what he had to say:
Herbalife: What are the biggest misconceptions you’ve seen regarding heart health?
Dr. Ignarro: I’d say there are two main things. First, a lot of people see heart health as a man’s issue. But cardiovascular wellness is just as important for women as it is for men, and women need to take an active role in caring for their hearts. Second, many see heart health as something to worry about when they get older. Instead, it should be a focus early on in life—in fact, scientists have found that predictors of future heart health start as early as the first decade of life!
Herbalife: What are some of the easiest changes we can make to positively impact our heart health?
Dr. Ignarro: Great question. It’s easy to start supporting heart health right now. There are three simple “adds” that can help support cardiovascular wellness: movement, fresh foods and relaxation.
Starting today, find ways to add to your heart health. Begin with an extra 10 minutes of movement daily: take the stairs, stand while taking phone calls at work, take an evening walk instead of watching a television show. Also, add one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables to your dietary intake. A medium-sized apple or orange with lunch and a small salad made of green, leafy vegetables with dinner will increase your nutrient intake for the day; as a bonus, good food choices also tend to replace other nutrient-poor foods that you might have eaten. And finally, add some relaxation into your day through deep breathing. Even a few minutes breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth helps reduce stress, and low stress levels are an important part of a healthy cardiovascular system.
Herbalife: How many hours of exercise do we need each week for optimum effectiveness?
Dr. Ignarro: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 2.5 hours of moderate exercise weekly, which figures out to 30 minutes, five days per week. If that seems like a big goal, start small and work your way up gradually. I’ve been there, and I can tell you that sticking with my exercise goals was one of the best things I ever did for myself.
Herbalife: If you had to tell people the number one best thing to do for their hearts, what would it be?
Dr. Ignarro: Simple: support the health of your endothelium! Your endothelium is the “production house” of Nitric Oxide (NO), the critical signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. A healthy endothelium helps keep blood vessels flexible and supports healthy blood flow—which, in turn, supports the health of the heart.
Herbalife: Where can we get more information about heart health?
Dr. Ignarro: The Heart Health Initiative website (www.hearthealthinitiative.com) has a lot of great information about supporting heart health. I’ve worked hard to provide information that can help anyone, anywhere, learn how to better care for their hearts.
That’s a wrap on this Q&A session with Dr. Ignarro, but don’t worry; we’ll get a chance to ask him more questions again soon! Be sure to leave a comment below with any heart health questions you may have—your question may be featured in an upcoming Q&A!