February is Heart Health Month, so what better time to take stock of how you’re treating your ticker?
Poor heart health can seriously reduce a person’s quality of life, and making heart-healthy choices when young can help decrease your risk of problems. For folks who are a little older, it pays to be young at heart, and lifestyle and diet are key to heart health.
Some simple choices can make a massive difference to cardiovascular function. According to the American Heart Association and Harvard Medical School, a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle include:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a diet high in fibre
- Reducing your intake of saturated fat
- Avoiding trans fats
- Reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar
- Keeping sodium intake low
- Getting enough sleep
- Keeping avoidable stress to a minimum
- Developing good coping strategies for unavoidable stress
With the above points in mind, here are four ways to help support good heart health:
It’s important to remember that the heart is a muscle, and one of the most energy-hungry organs in the body. As such, your heart needs good fuel to keep it in fine fettle and can benefit from an intake of antioxidants to mop up those free radicals formed during normal metabolism.
A predominantly plant-based diet can provide a good intake of fibre, complex carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables and fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats, including omega-3. This kind of diet helps support blood glucose regulation, healthy weight management, and normal inflammatory processes. It also offers antioxidants to tackle free radical damage.
A healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management all help maintain blood pressure, cholesterol, and overall cardiovascular function. Keeping your sodium/potassium balance in check is also important for heart health. This means cutting down on added salt, checking that processed and packaged foods are low in sodium, and ensuring that you’re getting a good intake of foods that contain potassium, such as apricots, artichokes, bananas, and beans.
Practicing mindfulness and meditation, taking a yoga class or a long walk, or reading a good book can be healthy ways to manage stress. It’s certainly best to avoid using alcohol or other recreational drugs as ways to deal with stress. And, if you can tackle small sources of life stress now this can help reduce future stress! Your heart will thank you for it!
Hawthorn berries have traditionally been used in Herbal Medicine to help maintain and support cardiovascular health in adults. When choosing a supplement, it’s a good idea to look for preparations standardized to a minimum of 0.93% oligomeric proanthocyanidins, which are believed to be the active constituents of hawthorn berries.
Health Canada recommends a daily intake of at least 200 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to help support cardiovascular, while the American Heart Association recommends daily consumption of at least 1000 mg of omega-3, including long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA. To lower triglycerides, the American Heart Association recommends 2–4 g of EPA plus DHA per day, provided as capsules under a physician’s care.
In terms of exercise, the American Heart Association recommends just 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week to help to keep your heart healthy. This might mean walking a half hour to or from work five days a week, going for a 50-minute bike ride three times a week, or, ideally, doing a combination of anaerobic and aerobic exercise such as lifting weights and joining a squash club.
Learm about more ways to life a healthy life from Natural Factors.