How to Help Your Heart Take Care of You
As an American, your odds of dying from heart disease are one in four.1 Approximately 2,353 Americans die each day from heart disease.2 “In traditional societies, where people don’t eat processed foods, heart disease is rare,” says cardiologist Arthur Agatston, MD. In addition, “If you start with a healthy diet in childhood, heart attacks are almost completely preventable.”
Eating a heart healthy diet is not complicated and can significantly decrease your odds of developing heart disease. All you have to remember is to eat foods that grow out of the ground in their natural whole form. These unprocessed foods – fruits, vegetables, beans and grains – are low in saturated fats, high in fiber and contain generous amounts of vitamins and minerals. Healthy nuts and seeds, in moderate amounts, also have their place in a heart-healthy diet. In addition, eating wild-caught fish twice a week helps to provide fatty acids which actually help clear the arteries. Low-fat dairy products should be included for bone-friendly calcium, but limited to one cup per day. Sweets, cheese, and red meats should be consumed sparingly.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, taking the right nutritional supplements, exercising regularly and stress management are key natural remedies that may also help reverse or prevent the damaging effects of heart disease.
Stephen Sinatra, MD, in his book Heart Sense for Women, outlines supplements that have proven helpful for many of his patients in reversing or preventing heart disease.3 Nutritional supplements should be taken only under the recommendation and supervision of a nutritionally oriented physician, especially if you are taking medications.
- Vitamin C – Blood pressure lowering effects.
- CoQ10 – Antioxidant properties may help to normalize cell chemistry in blood vessels. Stimulates the body to form ATP, a key chemical for producing energy in every cell in the body.
- Garlic – Medicinal benefits include lowering blood pressure, reducing triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and enhance blood thinning. This herb contains 33 sulfur compounds, 17 amino acids, multiple vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants such as selenium and germanium.
- Hawthorn Berry – Blood pressure lowering supplement. Increases blood flow in smaller vessels. It acts much like an ACE inhibitor, preventing production of angiotensin 2, a powerful blood vessel constrictor responsible for increasing blood pressure. Hawthorn also help to ease chest pain, as well as relieve symptoms of congestive heart failure.
- Triple Crown of Minerals:
- Magnesium – Magnesium acts as a channel blocker preventing blood vessel spasm that can hike up blood pressure. Including magnesium in the diet can help increase energy levels, decrease muscle cramping. Magnesium depletion has correlated not only with hypertension, but also with migraine headaches, diabetes and advanced cardiovascular disease.
- Potassium– May be the most important mineral in the treatment of high blood pressure. Helps maintain regular heartbeat.
- Calcium– People with low calcium levels are more prone to increased blood pressure. Calcium works synergistically with magnesium and potassium to help support blood pressure.
Any level of increased activity or exercise can benefit the health of the heart. Tracking your steps with a pedometer or an app is a practical, inexpensive and easy way to help increase your activity awareness and encourage more exercise. An appropriate personalized exercise program should also be discussed with your physician. Be sure to include a daily stretching routine before exercise to help prevent injury.
In addition to exercise, stress management techniques help in reducing high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Learning three or four deep breathing exercises and practicing them daily is one simple way to lower blood pressure levels. My favorite is to breathe in deeply for four seconds, hold for seven seconds and breathe out slowly for eight seconds – simple – the 4:7:8 breath. Do this series four times in a row, at least twice a day, and you are on your way to a more relaxed state of wellbeing! Dr. Andrew Weil outlines several easy deep breathing exercises on his CD, you can find on my online library.
Your heart fights to beat and give you precious life every day. Help your heart beat the odds by keeping in step with a heart healthy diet and life-giving exercise.
Heart Fun Facts:
- The hardest-working muscle in your body is your heart, according to the Library of Science’s Mysteries series. Two ounces of blood are pumped at every heartbeat; at least 2,500 gallons daily, or one million barrels over a lifetime.
- By the end of a long life, a human heart can beat up to 3.5 billion times, according to the Texas Heart Institute. The female heart beats about 78 times per minute while the average male heart beats at a rate of 70 beats per minute. Before birth, male and female hearts beat at about the same rate.
- The average heart weighs about the same as an apple (between 7 and 15 ounces) and is a little larger than the size of your fist.
- Did you know that your hearts actually sits in the center of your chest and not on the left side? The left side of the heart is larger and heavier causing it to tilt to the left. To make room for the heart, your right lung is actually smaller than your left.
3 Stephen Sinatra. Heart Sense for Women. (Massachusetts: LifeLine Press, 2000), 101-117
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