February is Heart Month!
Why not take a few moments to refresh yourself on everything heart-related?
After all, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. Around 650,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, that’s almost 1 out of every 4 deaths! (Source: CDC.gov)
Don’t fret, you CAN beat these odds through just a few simple daily changes.
Let’s start from the beginning. It is widely known that genetics plays a role in our risk for cardiovascular disease but, there are many other factors that YOU have control over in regards to your heart health.
Utilizing the tips below is a good start to controlling blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and fat content, which are all risk factors for heart disease.
Focus on the plants!
Create your meals based on the vegetables, aim for 8 to 10 servings of colorful vegetables and fruit a day. Plants contribute disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients (powerful plant molecules), antioxidants (substances that can protect again cell damage), and anti-inflammatory properties. YES, all of this just from the plants you eat! There isn’t one medication out there that has this power.
Pro-tip: If you don’t like vegetables, shred them up, stir them in your dishes! You won’t even know they are there.
Balance that blood-sugar
This is possible by combining protein, healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates at every meal. Your protein should include non-processed sources, such as fish, whole beans, tofu, chicken, nut butter and eggs. Avoid eating carbohydrates alone or products with added sugars, this quickly and easily spikes your blood sugar levels, which is associated with heart disease. Carbohydrates and sugar also provide you with an inconvenient post-meal crash accompanied by extreme tiredness.
Pro-tip: when purchasing meat products, purchase from your local farmers market when accessible. Also, read the ingredients, and avoid products that include nitrates, sodium nitrates, smoked, BHA, BHT, sugar, corn syrup or aspartame. You want to purchase meat that is mainly MEAT.
The recommended dietary allowance of fiber in America is 27 grams per day, although consumption of closer to 50 grams per day is recommended by many practitioners. Fiber is important for keeping bowel movements healthy and regular, take the strain off the digestive system by removing toxins as it flows through your body. Looking for ways to stay fuller longer? Well, fiber does that along with regulating cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Fiber sources: beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds, berries. Fiber supplements or powders can be useful.
Avoid Processed Foods
Hopefully, after implementing the above points there won’t be much room for junk food in your diet. Sugar-sweetened beverages including flavored bottled tea, soda, diet soda, 100% fruit juice are all sources of liquid sugar calories that provide no nutritional benefits.
Pro tip: Can’t let go of your flavored drinks? Keep a large jug of loose leaf tea in the fridge for easy access, add a slice of citrus to your reusable water bottle, add cucumber slices to your water or if the bubbles are a favorite, get some soda water that doesn’t contain sugar or artificial ingredients.
Eat Fat, Get Thin
Healthy fats include olive oil, nuts especially walnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds chia seeds, avocado, salmon, mackerel and sardines. Consumption of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids actually benefit your heart. Improvements in cholesterol and fatty acid profiles, which can improve systemic inflammation, triglyceride levels, cholesterol and blood pressure levels. The combination of implementing healthy fats while reducing saturated is associated with overall chronic disease prevention and weight maintenance.
Here is a link to our recipe page from the American Heart Association that puts a fun spin on common recipes https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/company-collaboration/heart-check-certification/heart-check-certified-recipes
Less than half of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise, yet most people can safely endure exercise without supervision from a physician. Benefits can be obtained from the beginning stages of exercise. Start by walking just 30 continuous minutes a day and set goals to achieve moderate to high intensity.
Techniques include waking up 10 minutes earlier, planning ahead, meditation (even for 5 minutes), taking time to breathe deeply. Targeting the parasympathetic system of the body allows for the relaxation of blood vessels and reduced circulating hormones. Stress can contribute to hypertension, asthma, ulcers to irritable bowel.
- Start the day with positive affirmation
- Focus on the good things, however small
- Find humor in bad situations
- Turn failures into lessons
- Turn failures into lessons
- Transform negative self-talk into positive self-talk
- Focus on the present
- Set goals for the change you would like to see
- Continuously laugh, it releases happy hormones to your brain
- Engage in a healthy fitness routine
- Don’t let your fears hold you back
The time spent sleeping provides your heart with a decreased workload. Once in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, blood pressure begins to drop, and the heart rate slows. Sleep was naturally built into our daily routine to be used as a restorative time for our entire body. Our brain and organs have time to discard built-up toxins that it has encountered, some toxins from many days past, that are just more difficult to process. Quality sleep habits are a major factor in which your body is reliant on in order to continuously heal.
While we all think that we have a great routine, try to switch it up and be more mindful (and honest) regarding your nighttime habits. Here is a list to start considering…
Minimize & Remove stimulants
- Avoid alcohol 3 hours before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine in the second half of the day
- Exercise multiple hours prior to anticipated bedtime
- Limit screentime leading up to sleep
- Reduce the noise around you & any anticipated noise
Set the Scene for Sleep
- Plan your day in order to achieve 7-9 hours of sleep
- Wind down work and anxiety-inducing activities a couple of hours before your anticipated bedtime
- Keep lights dim
- Remove distractions such as work & screens
- Light a candle or essential oils for soothing scents
- Take a warm shower or bath to get your muscle relaxed for sleep
Written by Alexandra Engler @AuthenticallyAlexAnn