February is heart health month – so, let’s take a minute to talk about your ticker!
A healthy heart beats about 70-80 times per minute, pumping blood throughout your body to take nutrients and oxygen to your cells, while carrying away wastes.
In order to keep these processes working efficiently, here are a few tips:
Eat a healthy diet.
Emphasize plant-based whole foods incorporating fresh fruit, vegetables, healthy fats (nuts/avocado) and lean protein. Meats should be grass-fed. Consuming Omega 3 fatty acids helps prevent heart disease, lowers cholesterol, and lowers blood pressure. Seafood should be from a wild-caught Atlantic source.
Eat a heart healthy breakfast.
Start the day with antioxidants and fiber. Fiber helps to decrease LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad cholesterol”) levels in your body and helps with waste elimination.
Minimize salt intake.
But when you do need salt, use natural sea salt, Himalayan, or Celtic salt.
Drink plenty of water.
Make sure you have adequate water intake – around 64 ounces daily for most people. Dehydration can put strain on your heart by decreasing blood volume and causing your heart to work harder to pump blood.
Minimize sugar intake.
Sugar causes inflammation and weakens your immune system. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Society (JAMA) actually labeled sugar as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Added sugars, according to most experts, are far more harmful to our bodies than naturally occurring sugars. These include sugars used in processed or prepared foods like sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, candy, ready-to-eat cereal and yeast breads. Fruits and (natural) fruit juices are safe.
Cardiovascular exercise gets your blood and lymph moving and provides oxygen to your cells. Exercising your body both keeps your heart healthy and puts you in a better mood, too!
When the stress hormone, cortisol, is elevated, it will constrict your blood vessels and raise blood pressure. Over time, consistent exposure to stress weakens your immune system and puts a strain on all of the organs in the body. Yoga, meditation, tai chi and deep breathing exercises all help to reduce stress.
Get some sleep.
Sleep is when the body heals, so make sure you are getting enough sleep every night.
Finally, and very importantly, set a goal to:
Make time for self-love.
Self-care is vital both in heart health, and in overall health. Practice gratitude and mindfulness. Research shows that gratitude lowers inflammatory markers in your body. Make time every day to check in with yourself or participate in a hobby you enjoy. Be nice to yourself and practice letting go of things you cannot control.
You can start by making small changes every day. They will make such a big difference in the long run.
Remember: Your WHEN is NOW!
By Dr. Monica, Director of WHEN Health and WHEN Health Advisor