A Healthy Heart

Seeing so many especially more and more young people die of heart attacks due to overwhelming stress, enormous pressure and high expectations, combined with poor nutrition and overall self-care made me do a little more research about heart health.

There is no doubt that our heart is our most important organ and muscle, essential and responsible for your other organs and overall functioning – in short: for being alive. Unfortunately, many of us forget or underestimate the impact of external factors, toxins, life-style, emotional well-being, nutrition, exercise etc. on our heart. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular diseases are only a few of the masks that an unhealthy heart can wear.

Even if heart issues are running in your family, heart attacks or strokes can be prevented or at least the likelihood can be decreased with the right diet, exercise, and overall self-care, including stress management, mindfulness and mental health.

So let’s start with our best natural remedy and medicine: FOOD

A well-balanced, low-sodium diet including artery cleansing foods like lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants,vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates are your ticket to heart health. It’s also important to stay hydrated to keep your blood thin and easy for your heart to be pumped through your body. Best beverages are water, unsweetened tea, and coffee and alcohol in moderation or not at all.

Antioxidants: Antioxidants remove free radicals from your cells and keep your heart strong. Foods like blueberries, spinach and other greens are not only delicious but also yummi for your heart. So is a glass of red wine every now and then too 🙂

Carbohydrates: 50-60% of your diet should be carbs. Whole grains and carbs in form of legumes, rice, fruits and veggies are your best bet. They not only contain carbs, but also plenty of vitamins, folate, antioxidants, minerals, and other important nutrients that are important for a healthy heart. The probably best way for your heart to start your day is a bowl of oatmeal, and no, I am not talking about the processed, packaged sugar added oatmeal packages, I am talking about the plain, natural oats that you can enjoy made with water or milk. Oats are rich of soluble fiber which clears cholesterol out of your bloodstream. Here’s my favorite recipe with oats, quick, easy, healthy, and delicious!

Fats: Don’t think that fat is bad for you! You need fat, just chose the “good one” that helps you lower your “bad” LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol levels and helps you increase the HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, which are the good ones. Watch your intake of saturated fats as

“They can raise your cholesterol, which increases your risk for heart disease and stroke,” [..] You’ll find saturated fats mainly in animal products, so veer toward lean cuts of red meat (look for words like round, loin, sirloin, or 90 percent lean), low-fat cheeses, and low-fat or skim milk.”

.. says Sari Greaves, RD, CDN, New York City–based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and dietitian at Step Ahead Weight Loss Center in Bedminster, N.J.

Same goes for trans fat, as they

“…raise harmful LDL cholesterol levels, lower good HDL cholesterol levels, and increase your risk of heart disease. They’re usually found in fried foods; processed baked goods like cookies, pie crusts, and pastries; and stick margarines and shortenings. You can spot them by looking for the words “partially hydrogenated oil” on the ingredient list.”

So, avoid artery clogging foods and opt for artery cleansing and heart health boosting fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which you can find in avocados, fatty fish, olive oil, nuts (walnuts, almonds..), seeds (e.g. Quinoa), peanut butter, or other vegetable oils. (Find a great recipe idea HERE)

Fiber:  The intake of enough fiber is crucial for lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and can also decrease the risk

of certain cancers, as well as diabtetes, which is known to be a risk factor for heart diseases. According to  Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, adjunct professor in the department of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University,

“We recommend about 25 grams of fiber a day, for men a bit more. It’s based on your weight.” 

So, eat on! Fiber rich foods are e.g. fruits, veggies, and whole grains as all of them have both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Protein: Look for lean meats and beans when it comes to eating your protein. Kidney beans, or chickpeas are one of my favorite beans, as well as seeds like Quinoa (which is also high in antioxidants and fiber). For meat, you can go for chicken breast (NO skin please!), turkey, fatty fish like Salmon, beans, lentils, or tofu.

[references: The Right Diet for Heart Health, Heart Healthy Family Diet Tips, American Heart Association]

Find foods your heart will love here >>> , here >>> and this INFOGRAPHIC of heart healthy food for the more visual types among us 🙂

TEA: Tea is also your good friend when it comes to heart health. The wide variety of flavors and types of tea like Oolong tea, black tea, white tea, green tea, turmeric tea, etc. offer great health benefits and nutrients like antioxidants and catechins. Read more about it here: Tee Keeps Hearts Healthy and Tea and its benefits. And find my favorite recipe for turmeric tea HERE.

EXERCISE

Unfortunately, most of us are forced to a more sedentary lifestyle nowadays due to office jobs or perhaps jobs that require long distance traveling. This makes it a little harder to stay in shape and healthy. However, there are ways to keep moving, even in the office. Here are ideas and products that make your office day better.

Exercises like Yoga have been proven to be very beneficial for heart health, as it increases our mindfulness and awareness of our bodies. It can also lower our blood pressure, helps us manage stress and emotions, and much more. Read more about the health benefits of yoga in my other posts YOGA and HEALING —- EMOTIONS —- STRESS MANAGEMENT —– METABOLISM. — Office Chair Yoga.

Not only yoga is a great choice, also aerobic training like riding a bike, swimming, walking, (moderate) running,cross-country skiing, skating etc. are great for exercising your heart muscle, thus your whole body.

Find out more about it here: 10 Heart Healthy Exercise Tips

Regular exercise does not only help with your heart health, but also with your overall mental and physical health:

  • Strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system
  • Improve your circulation and help your body use oxygen better
  • Improve your heart failure symptoms
  • Increase energy levels so you can do more activities without becoming tired or short of breath
  • Increase endurance
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve muscle tone and strength
  • Improve balance and joint flexibility
  • Strengthen bones
  • Help reduce body fat and help you reach a healthy weight
  • Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and depression
  • Boost self-image and self-esteem
  • Improve sleep
  • Make you feel more relaxed and rested
  • Make you look fit and feel healthy

[source http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/exercise-healthy-heart]

Not to mention MEDITATION as a great tool and factor for a healthy heart and mind. Definitely worth a try! Take care of yourself! Don’t know how? Try my 1-month Self-Care Challenge plan HERE.

So what are you waiting for? Get it started today! Remember, YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!

Stay yogilated and be good to yourself 🙂

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.

Jim Rohn

 

 

 

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