Heart Health is Important at Every Stage in Life!
When we think of vital organs, many of us would place the heart atop a list of organs that are essential to a high quality of life. Sure, the heart has been romanticized a bit; In antiquity it was believed that the heart was the center of wisdom and decision-making (sounds more like the brain, no?). Today, the heart is used as a symbol of love and sentiment. But scientifically, we understand the heart much better— as an incredibly efficient and vital performance muscle! It only takes 60 seconds for the heart to pump blood throughout our entire body ensuring every cell has enough oxygen to do the work it was born to do.
We love our hearts and they love us; however, if we are not mindful about our habits, lifestyles, and environments do not always set our hearts up for optimal success. Like any other muscle, we need to make sure to keep the heart strong, and we can do this by exercising, eating well, and reducing stress throughout the day. These mindful tasks allow our hearts to do their best work. Keeping the heart strong is a lifelong effort to ensure our wellbeing and longevity.
Ingredients for Optimizing Heart Health
Here are some thoughtful reminders of how you can support your heart:
- Reduction in stress
- Increase Omega 3s
- Reduce sugar intake
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
The Heart Needs Exercise, Too
It is vital to treat your heart like any other muscle in your body, maintaining exercise to keep it strong. Running and yoga are great ways to prepare your heart for long-term success. Yoga benefits your musculoskeletal health by keeping you flexible both physically and mentally, which both impact the heart. Running and other aerobics help us manage our weight, strengthen our arteries, and detoxify our system.
Stress Reduction Through Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the act of becoming fully present to the moment. It means consciously making time and space to not think about yesterday, or worry about tomorrow. Just be here, now. The effects of this are often feelings of calmness, peace, and when coupled with breathing exercises, we can unlock powerful relaxing and healing effects that can set a peaceful tone your entire day. While exercise alone is often linked to a reduction in our physical response to stress, physical exercise is just one ingredient in our master recipe for heart health. Mindful meditation and breath work can reduce stress by anchoring our minds to the present moment and bringing us awareness of our bodies, which gives our heart a rest from responding to things that upset us. Our fast-paced world is full of triggers for our stress and anxiety but taking a moment to concentrate on your breath and clear your mind can be a powerful tool for managing these stress responses before they compound and overwhelm. Another portable stress reduction pro-tip is incorporating aromatherapy with relaxing herbs such as lavender, holy basil, or chamomile into a diffuser or even just smelling the growing plant (or the oil bottle itself) can help calm the senses and return your heart to its normal rhythm.
Incorporate Herbs into Your Daily Routine
Not just the culinary kind, but the medicinal ones as well! Potent herbs such as Sadabhar, Rauwolfia serpentina, and Terminalia arjuna have been used in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries. These herbs, revered for their heart-friendly properties, can help maintain balanced heart function and support heart health for a long life. These are the herbs that work overtime to mend the heart, both physically, and energetically. Look for Sadabhar, Rauwolfia serpentina, and Terminalia arjuna in herbal supplements to reap their benefits and restore mind body balance.
Eat Fresh, Eat Well
Someone in your life has undoubtedly told you to eat your fruits and vegetables, but why do they really matter? If you are a visual person, when you think of the heart, perhaps you think of the color red. Interestingly, natural foods that are red in color often have heart helpful properties. That natural, red vibrance is a sign of an antioxidant-rich food, packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, and antioxidant rich phytochemicals. The antioxidants in foods help stop the effects of free radicals, which are generated through our body’s metabolism, exposure to sunlight, and exposure to pollutants. They are responsible for many of the effects we associate with aging like wrinkles, but also play a role in slowly damaging the heart. Eating foods high in antioxidants can allow our body to balance of free radicals and antioxidants, and this allows for optimal heart health. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens are also well documented to promote blood flow and support artery health.
Incorporate Omega 3s
Omega 3s can be found naturally in cold water fish, avocados, chia seeds, and many other foods. Omega 3s are powerful at reducing what we call “bad cholesterol.” Bad cholesterol is often found in fried foods, red meat, and fast food. Omega-3s help your liver process and degrade fats. It can also help keep your heartbeat healthy because the body can process Omega 3s fat easier than “bad” fat found in meat and fast food. Incorporating Omega 3s into your diet can reduce road bumps or clogs in your arteries, which in turn allows for your blood to flow efficiently throughout your body. If you are unable to achieve an omega 3 rich diet, try our omega 3 dietary supplements!
Reduce Refined Sugars
Sugar, our best friend, our worst enemy. While on its face, sugar is a necessary part of healthy living, too much sugar has been linked to all sorts of health maladies including heart disease, obesity, rises in bad cholesterol, unhealthy mood fluctuations, and with enough excess, it can be implicated in Type 2 Diabetes. Refined sugars are products that have been refined to be as sweet as possible, think high fructose corn syrup, but there are many different types than just HFCS, and they’re in a lot of prepackaged foods. These super sweet products cause massive spikes in our blood sugars, which overtime damages the heart itself as well as the arteries and veins. That’s why the recommendation exists to limit these in your diet. Be mindful in staying away from premade/packaged and processed foods and adopt a diet supported by whole foods. Another way you can reduce refined sugars is by opting for chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage or adopting other sweeteners that have a much lower glycemic index such as stevia, monk fruit sugar, coconut sugar, raw honey, date syrup, or maple syrup.
Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
Much like sugar, caffeine and alcohol are processed in your liver. When caffeine or alcohol are used in excess, the liver will become overwhelmed, and it will focus on detoxifying these chemicals over other important biological processes, causing further health problems. There are also emotional risks to using caffeine and alcohol. If you drink too much caffeine your body can react by becoming shaky or jittery, and this can make it hard for you to focus on daily tasks, and provoke feelings of anxiety. Caffeine also reduces the quality of your sleep, especially if consumed later in the day. When we wake up after a bad night of sleep we often deal with stress differently than we would after a good night’s sleep.
Similarly, alcohol in excess can cause distracting and painful hangovers and can also disrupt our natural sleep cycles. This is why we often feel unrested after a night of heavy drinking, even after more than 8 hours in bed. We also know poor sleep harms the heart and sets us up for a cycle of overconsuming caffeine the next day, and then maybe wanting a glass of wine to wind down in the evening. This cycle stresses both you, and your heart. Before bed try drinking a cup of herbal tea to prepare your body for rest. After a heavy night of drinking, the next morning having a smoothie with herbs such as turmeric can help reduce that puffy feeling and helps the body recover faster by giving the liver the nutrition it needs to detox better. Everything in moderation is the key here. If you enjoy caffeine or alcohol, do so in moderation, and avoid before bedtime so as to not disrupt your sleep cycle.
Moderation at the Heart of Your Health
When we speak of reducing certain foods it can become intimidating, overwhelming or frustrating. Heart health is not about absolute prohibition of certain foods; it is simply the idea of moderation and mindfulness to achieve consistent, heart-healthy behaviors that will extend the length and quality of your life, make you feel good, and give you the foundation to get joy out of every day. It is helpful to think of sugar, alcohol, red meat and caffeine as treats. Is it someone’s birthday? Did you just get that job promotion? Is it Saturday? Then great! Enjoy that birthday cake, that glass of wine, that beautifully cooked steak! It only becomes harmful to your heart when it is a part of your daily life and when it is consumed in excess. It is okay to indulge on occasion, provided that you are regularly engaging in the heart-healthy behaviors that make up the ingredients for heart health.
Move your body, manage your stress, power up with herbal supplements, enjoy healthy whole foods with the right balance of healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, and protein and avoid overconsumption of caffeine and alcohol: these are the ingredients that make for the perfect recipe for heart health. Establishing these routines wherever you are on your health journey can optimize your overall health and longevity, while creating balance in your mind, body, and spirit throughout your lifetime.