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Heart Health Series #1: Chronic Inflammation

This is the first of a four-part series on heart health. In this post you will learn about:

  • The role of chronic inflammation in heart disease
  • Preventable causes of chronic inflammation
  • A baby step that can reduce chronic inflammation

Why is it that people don’t actually feel the very early stages of heart disease? It doesn’t just happen overnight; on the contrary, it develops over the course of many years—in complete silence for the most part.

So what’s the culprit? Behind the veil of many chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer is a silent inflammation, called chronic inflammation.

Typically when we think of something in our body being inflamed, thoughts of a cut finger or skinned knee appear in our mind. When we experience this type of injury, there’s no doubt that the affected area is inflamed. It shows telltale signs of bleeding, redness and pain. Our body then does exactly what it was designed to do- it heals the injury! This is an example of acute inflammation, a necessary process that our body must get right in order to survive.

Chronic inflammation is much more worrisome because you can’t see or feel it.

Similar to acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is triggered when something is off balance in the body, which then activates inflammatory markers to heal the perceived injury. A notable difference between the two however, is that acute inflammation responds because of a physical injury and chronic is attempting to heal something that isn’t physically broken. It’s like a warning signal that flares up in response to lifestyle habits, only the siren is silent in the early stages. And because, unlike a cut finger, we can’t see or feel the early stages of these diseases, chances are we’ll carry on as if nothing is wrong.

The Preventable Causes of Chronic Inflammation

Most chronic inflammation is caused by our lifestyle choices—especially those we repeat on a daily basis and then, form into habits, such as: 

  • Lack of sleep
  • A diet rich in heavily processed foods, like fast food and sweets
  • Unmanaged stress
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • Smoking

Yes, these are all habits…and all are within our control.

Reducing Chronic Inflammation with Food

After sleep, the most powerful thing you can do to help extinguish the flames of chronic inflammation and protect your heart is to eat more greens! As you learned in this post, greens are true inflammation-fighters in a class of their own on the Fx-100 list. They even have their very own Fx Pillar—Pillar 1: eat your greens, as many as you can every day. The best part about greens? You can receive benefits from as little as one serving a day!

Challenge yourself to add a serving of greens to one of your daily meals. This could be as simple as:

  • Eating a small side salad with dinner.
  • Stirring fresh or frozen greens into pasta sauce. No time to prepare homemade sauce? Try Rao’s or Mia brands—both are my personal favorites and can be found at your local Heinen’s.
  • Adding a sprinkle of microgreens to pizza, soups, and other hot dishes. Microgreens are young vegetable greens about 1–3 inches tall. They have an aromatic flavor and concentrated nutrient content, so a little goes a long way!

The very fact that your body thrives when it’s well-nourished, is proof positive that it prefers nourishing foods. Go green and give your body the TLC it deserves!  

Food for Thought …

Salads aren’t the only way to add more greens into your diet! Why not think outside of the box and incorporate them into your favorite dip recipes? This Cool Green Hummus recipe blends fresh spinach with traditional hummus ingredients for extra nutrition! Use it as a dip for veggies, a spread for sandwich wraps, or even as a filling for deviled eggs! 

In part two of this series on heart health, I’ll share a second step you can take to keep your heart healthy and strong for years to come.

Dr. Todd Pesek, M.D.
By Dr. Todd Pesek, MD
Dr. Todd is a holistic physician and published scholar who specializes in disease prevention and reversal toward longevity and vital living. Heinen's has partnered with Dr. Todd, making him our Chief Medical Officer. The first of his kind in the United States!

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