While each of your organs plays a crucial role in sustaining your body, none compare to the importance of your heart. Known as the body’s natural rhythm, the constant beating of your heart circulates oxygen-rich blood to each organ, muscle and tissue, down to the very last cell. When the heart becomes damaged or begins to decline in health, its repercussions can rapidly influence the entire body.
Unfortunately, poor heart health is increasingly prominent in the United States. Therefore, if achieving proper heart health hasn’t been on the top of your to-do list lately, that list may need some adjusting.
Luckily, bettering your heart health can be as simple as incorporating intermittent fasting techniques into your daily lifestyle. To more effectively understand just how positive fasting for heart health can be, continue reading.
How Common Are Heart Diseases in the U.S?
By the time you’ve reached the end of this sentence, it’s likely that someone in the United States has already had a heart attack. In fact, heart attacks occur every 40 seconds in America.
Nearly 805,000 Americans have a heart attack annually, and of these, 200,000 are a second heart attack. Even worse, about 1 in 5 heart attacks is silent, meaning the sufferer may not even be aware of the damage that’s occurred until it’s too late.
Yet, heart attacks are not the only heart health issue plaguing America. Heart disease tops the list of leading causes of death in the United States, ranking above both cancer and accidents for the number of deaths caused per year. Roughly 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease, and the condition costs the United States over $200 million in healthcare services, medication and loss of productivity due to death.
The Influence of Intermittent Fasting on Heart Health
From diet and exercise to managing stress levels, a lot goes into keeping your heart healthy. However, lifestyle choices that impact blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure drastically contribute to the chances of harming your heart health. These factors pose a risk to the overall wellness and effectiveness of the heart and can be life-threatening when left untreated.
This is where making a lifestyle change to intermittent fasting can be so beneficial.
Intermittent fasting and heart health go hand-in-hand for multiple reasons:
- Fasting causes the body to utilize fat cells as a source of fuel to decrease the amount of fat in the body
- Fasting improves the efficacy of the production and storage of insulin, reducing insulin resistance
- Fasting reduces “bad” LDL cholesterol and increases “good” HDL cholesterol.
When co-occurring conditions, such as insulin resistance, obesity or diabetes are combatted through fasting, you have a better chance of improving your heart health overall. By improving your health in other areas of the body, including the blood that circulates through your heart, you can experience these benefits tenfold.
How Can Fasting Fight Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors that increase the chances of developing heart disease and other health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes and stroke. The term “metabolic” is representative of the biochemical processes involved in the body’s natural functioning, including eating, creating energy and circulating oxygen-rich blood.
Risk factors for developing metabolic syndrome include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Excess body fat
- High cholesterol
- Insulin resistance
- Inactive lifestyle
According to researchers at the Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland, fasting for heart health can be effective in fighting metabolic syndrome. This is because when we eat constantly, we fail to give the body a chance to recuperate and stabilize between meals. In turn, this causes a spike in insulin levels, consistently high blood sugar and a higher probability of developing excess body fat and high cholesterol.
In comparison, fasting allows the body a period to rest. During this period, we can more effectively utilize and store insulin, break down and utilize sugar in the blood, and improve other lifestyle factors that contribute to overall heart health. Combined, these benefits help fight metabolic syndrome.
Intermittent Fasting and Cardiotoxicity Prevention
In addition to metabolic syndrome, intermittent fasting can help prevent ailments such as cardiotoxicity. Cardiotoxicity is a condition brought on by damage to the heart muscles. When heart muscles have become damaged, it becomes difficult for the heart to pump blood through the body as effectively.
Cardiotoxicity can be caused by a variety of uncontrollable reasons, some of which include infection, viruses or medications, and chemotherapy. However, damage to the heart muscles can also be caused by more preventable conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Of course, while certain conditions can be genetic, diet and lifestyle play a major role in keeping the body healthy. When examining the link between intermittent fasting and heart health, it appears that adopting a fasting lifestyle can actually help keep the heart strong.
Fasting helps prevent a build-up of plaque made of cholesterol, fat and other substances found in the blood. Where plaque can harden and narrow your arteries over time, weakening heart muscles, fasting helps the body break down and utilize these substances. By eliminating excess fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream, fasting helps to keep the heart strong and prevent cardiotoxicity.
The Link Between Coronary Heart Disease and Intermittent Fasting
As with cardiotoxicity, coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease develops when the arteries become diseased or damaged. This damage is typically caused by plaque buildup and inflammation. In terms of heart condition, coronary heart disease is the most common — roughly 18.2 million adults aged 20 or older have coronary heart disease and over 360,000 people die from the disease each year.
With intermittent fasting, the body is given a chance to better achieve homeostasis between periods of eating. This means that from blood sugar and insulin to carbohydrates and fat, levels of substances in the blood have the opportunity to balance before spiking with a second meal.
When we control how much food we put into our bodies, we can also control how much fat and cholesterol we allow to accumulate over time. Hence, intermittent fasting can help to eliminate plaque buildup that can result in deadly coronary heart disease.
What Side Effects Should You Consider?
Generally speaking, intermittent fasting does not have life-threatening or dangerous side effects. Typically, the most common side effects of fasting include hunger, fatigue, low blood sugar and possible changes in bowel movements while the body adjusts. When it comes to heart health, intermittent fasting boasts more benefits than risks, however, as with any lifestyle choice, you should be aware of all aspects of your decision.
Fasting can create an electrolyte imbalance, depleting sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium when you abstain from food. When left untreated over time, this can create a condition called arrhythmias, or an irregular heartbeat. Arrhythmias is common and is treatable by a medical professional, however, if you begin feeling chest pain, dizziness or fluttering in your chest, you should consult with your doctor immediately.
To lessen your chances of electrolyte loss, staying hydrated is key. But it’s not just plain water you should consider drinking daily — bone broth is an excellent addition to water consumption that helps replenish essential minerals. Packed with electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, and most importantly, sodium, bone broth can help curb hunger pangs and keep the body balanced. Additionally, an electrolyte supplement taken once a day can do the trick.
Begin Boosting Heart Health With Intermittent Fasting
Striving to achieve proper heart health begins with incorporating healthier lifestyle changes. Perhaps one of the most positive changes you can incorporate for not just the heart, but the entire body, is intermittent fasting.
To lower fat and cholesterol, help your body utilize and store insulin, and decrease the chances that heart conditions impact your health and happiness, begin your journey today with our complete guide to intermittent fasting and health.