Dark Chocolate and Heart Health: Treat Yourself

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What's all the excitement concerning dark chocolate and heart health? It's those antioxidants, powerful disease fighting compounds.

Chocolate is loaded with them. Combine those with its essential minerals and you've got powerful support for your cardiovascular system.

Finally, something that tastes good and is good for you. It's no dream. The evidence is growing.

Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate provides benefits critical to maintaining a healthy heart and arteries.

So why not treat yourself to dose of dark now and then?

Are you finding the news hard to swallow? Need some evidence? Get the details below.

Dark Chocolate on Heart Health

Dark chocolate is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods known thanks to the polyphenols or flavonoids found in cocoa. These substances protect plants from disease and insects.

Lucky for us, they survive food processing and pass on their protection.

They just might be chocolate's greatest gift to the heart.

Studies have shown that these antioxidants reduce risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease such as...

  • reduce the risk of clot formation--"aspirin-like" effect
  • reduce blood pressure in both hypertensive and healthy patients
  • curb the start of LDL oxidation-harmful cholesterol
  • improve ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol
  • lessen the inflammatory response
  • help arteries to function properly by increasing nitric oxide

All of this contributes to better blood flow which decreases your chance of developing heart disease!

So eat dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more).  You might get all this potential heart help.

Heart Attack Prevention

Want to reduce your risk of having a heart attack? Then you might want to give cocoa a try.

It slows down the clotting of the blood. This reduces the risk of a clot forming and causing a heart attack.

Studies have shown that it does so nearly as well as low-dose aspirin.

Sure tastes a lot better!

Post Heart Attack

Already had a heart attack? Eating dark chocolate a minimum of twice a week may help you live longer according to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine in 2009.

The study found that non-diabetic survivors of a first heart attack who ate chocolate at least twice a week had a 66 percent reduction in cardiac mortality.

Those that ate it up to once a week had a 44 percent reduction. Even those that ate it less than once a month had a 27 percent reduction.

Apparently you don't have to be a chocoholic to see improvement.

Looks like another health benefit of dark chocolate to enjoy.

But, as usual, more studies are needed to confirm these positive dark chocolate and heart health findings.

Dark Chocolate and Blood Pressure

Need to shave a few points off your blood pressure? Dark chocolate may be an option.

Eating cocoa-rich dark chocolate can lower blood pressure about as well as being treated with a single common blood pressure medication.

That's an average reduction of...

  • about 4.7 points off the top number
  • and about 2.8 points off the bottom number

Every little bit helps!

Dark Chocolate and Heart Health: Older Women

Attention ladies at least 70 years young. Dr. Lewis conducted a study and found that dark chocolate may help your heart.

Women who ate bittersweet at least once a week reduced their incidence of heart disease.

They were 35% less likely to have to be hospitalized or die from heart disease. And a whopping 60% less likely to be hospitalized or die from heart failure.

Why? Unknown. More information is needed to determine cause and effect.

Dark Chocolate to Lower Cholesterol?

Problems with cholesterol are something we all try to avoid. Now it looks like dark chocolate and cocoa may be able to help.

Drinking cocoa beverages slowed the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Oxidized LDL can lead to hardening of the arteries.

Consumed together, they've been shown to improve levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood.

Also their use has improved the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol.

Reduced Inflammatory Response

The flavonoids in cocoa decrease the body's response to inflammation. This is very important.

Things like infection, free radicals, and smoking can cause persistent damage to the lining of your arteries.

The damage causes inflammation which the body tries to heal by drawing specialized cells and molecules to the site. This encourages the development of artery clogging plaque (fatty deposits).

Unfortunately, the arteries are prone to hardening in the area of the deposits. This makes blood clots more likely.

It looks like cocoa can help reduce the danger.

Keep Those Arteries Healthy

An essential dark chocolate and heart health connection is flexible arteries. The antioxidants in cocoa help arteries to maintain their elasticity or to regain it. This allows them to expand and increases blood flow.

It seems that older people arteries show the most improvement in function after consuming cocoa.

Dark Chocolate and Heart Health Essential Minerals

Are you getting enough magnesium, potassium, and calcium in your diet? Chances are you're falling short.

These three minerals play an important role in proper muscle function.

And what is the heart? A muscle, not to mention all that muscle lining your blood vessels.

Fortunately, dark chocolate is an excellent source of magnesium which signals muscles to relax and contract. The potassium and calcium help muscles to contract.

The powerful combination of dark chocolate and heart health is truly impressive. For years we haven't given chocolate the credit it deserves. It's the treat that is proving to be a treatment for our cardiovascular system.

Just remember not to overdo it, dark chocolate is calorie dense. Shoot for a cocoa content of 70% or more.

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