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4 Key Steps To Protect Your Heart Health

Mar 4, 2024 | Blog, Lifestyle

Protecting one's hearth health

 

According to Google search statistics people are far more worried about dying from cancer than they are of dying from heart disease.  Breast cancer is searched 100x more often than heart disease. Yet in 2019 1.4% of women died of breast cancer and 30% of women died of heart disease. Heart disease kills more than all forms of cancer combined in both men and women.  It’s my desire to protect myself and the clients I serve from both cancer and heart disease but we can’t neglect heart health. 

Maintaining heart health is vital for overall well-being and longevity. When your heart is working well, you have a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes – the two leading causes of death worldwide. 

A healthy heart also contributes to your quality of life. It plays an important role in how well you age, your overall energy levels, and disease prevention. One recent study found that the overall physiological age of adults with good cardiovascular health is much younger than that of people with cardiovascular disease.

As you age, it’s more important not to neglect your heart health, as the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke rises. In fact, the risk of a stroke doubles every 10 years after the age of 55! With that said, being proactive about cardiovascular health throughout your life will lower that risk.

 

 

4 Strategies to Support a Healthy Heart

Now for the good news! Making simple lifestyle changes can dramatically slash the risk of premature cardiovascular disease and stroke by a whopping 80%.

Here are four proven methods to safeguard your heart health.

 

 

1 – Ensure good quality sleep 

Sleep isn’t for lazy people.  It’s for smart people.  Research shows sleep plays an even more important role in cardiovascular health than we once thought. People who routinely get fewer than five hours of sleep a night have a much higher risk of heart attacks. The impact seems to be more significant for women and people with existing health conditions like diabetes.

To protect your heart health, aim for at least 7-9 hours of restful sleep per night. The quality of your sleep is also important and REM sleep appears to be the most protective.

To ensure a well-rounded night of sleep, try to establish a regular sleep routine with consistent bedtimes and keep your room dark and cool.

Scrolling social media in bed? Falling asleep to the TV? The blue light from electronic devices can affect melatonin production, so try to give yourself a break from your phone, computer or TV at least 1 hour before bedtime.

Lastly, alcohol, heavy foods, and exercise can also lead to a night of restless sleep, so do your best to avoid these close to bedtime.

 

 

2 – Reduce stress as much as possible

Stress hormones like cortisol can help you respond to crises, but they also have detrimental effects on your health over time. Research shows that stress raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, stroke, and myopathy (a condition that means your heart isn’t strong enough to pump blood effectively).

With that in mind, it’s important to note that this dynamic doesn’t just apply to extreme-stress events. Chronic stress also has a negative impact, as does the stress of loneliness.

Of course, it’s often hard to avoid stress, so it’s important to develop healthy ways to deal with it. It’s important to practice self-care regularly, especially when times are tough. That could mean taking a break from work, reading for leisure, using a sauna, taking a bath, taking a walk outdoors, or reaching out for support.

So, stress-reduction techniques like meditation and deep breathing can also lower blood pressure and reduce the strain on your cardiovascular system. Studies show this benefit is particularly strong for women and people with existing hypertension. 

 

 

3 – Eat for heart health

A heart-healthy diet is one of the most effective ways to improve heart health, and the standard Western diet of highly processed foods ultimately harms our health. Obesity increases your risk of poor cardiovascular health, but even if you are within normal weight range, too much salt, sugar, or saturated fat can harm you. Often, people don’t realize their blood pressure or cholesterol levels are too high, so, it’s important to work with a healthcare practitioner regular to have these checked.  You often can’t feel high blood pressure or high cholesterol so unless you have it checked you could be at risk and not even know it.   

 

 

Important dietary strategies include:

 

  • Learn from the Mediterranean diet. One of the most studied diets for heart health, the Mediterranean diet centers around fresh produce, seafood, healthy fats like olive oil, and plenty of fiber. Even if you don’t follow it 100%, choosing those food groups will help support your heart health – some studies show this diet can reduce your risk of cardiac events by as much as 40%!

 

  • Choose plants. Vegetables are heart superheroes, packed with antioxidants, vitamins (A, C, K), minerals like potassium and magnesium, and fiber, all vital for heart health. Their antioxidants combat inflammation and oxidative stress, shielding blood vessels from damage and lowering heart disease risk.

 

  • Focus on healthy fats. Fat doesn’t have to be the enemy. The right kind of fat is good for your heart (in moderation, of course). Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL or low-density lipoprotein)  and raise your “good” cholesterol levels. Good sources include olive oil, nuts, avocado, salmon, and olives. 

 

  • Find the fiber. A high-fiber diet lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. Soluble fiber, found in many whole grains like oats, beans, psyllium, and some fruits and vegetables, helps remove excess cholesterol from your blood. In addition, a fiber-rich diet protects your heart by reducing the risk of diabetes. 

 

  • Don’t be afraid of spices. Many spices have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric, garlic, saffron, and ginger are not only delicious but can help lower the risk factors associated with heart disease. 

 

  • Supplement as needed. Helpful heart supportive supplements include:
    • Omega 3: may lower triglycerides and reduce inflammation.
    • Coenzyme Q10: supports cellular energy and has antioxidant qualities.
    • Magnesium: regulates blood pressure and helps with heart rhythm. 
    • Garlic: lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
    • Psyllium husk: helps lower cholesterol

 

 

4 – Keep moving!

Muscles need to exercise to perform well, and your heart is no exception. With that said, exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve heart health. And, you don’t need to run marathons to have a positive impact.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate activity. One 2023 study found that only 11 minutes can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 17%, with the benefits increasing with more time per week.

The important thing is pick an activity you enjoy to stick with it. Some forms of activity such as yoga or walks in the woods have added benefits of reducing stress, but choose something that doesn’t feel like a chore.

If you’re new to exercise, consult with a healthcare provider before starting any program. 

Overall, your heart deserves your attention and care! It’s vital not to overlook its health. If you harbor any concerns or seek guidance in formulating a plan to prioritize your heart’s well-being, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team is here to support you in creating a tailored strategy that showcases love and care for your heart. Whether it’s clarifying doubts, seeking advice on dietary adjustments, or crafting an exercise regimen, we’re dedicated to ensuring your heart receives the attention it deserves.

 

Sources

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Medical News Today, “What are the benefits of eating healthy?” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322268

American College of Cardiology, “Insomnia Tied to Greater Risk of Heart Attach, Especially in Women,” https://www.acc.org/About-ACC/Press-Releases/2023/02/23/18/23/Insomnia-Tied-to-Greater-Risk-of-Heart-Attack-Especially-in-Women

Harvard Health News, “Blue light has a dark side,“ https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

Zhao B, Jin X, Yang J, Ma Q, Yang Z, Wang W, Bai L, Ma X, Yan B. Increased Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Is Associated With a Reduced Risk of Heart Failure in Middle-Aged and Older Adults. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2022 Mar 29;9:771280. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2022.771280. PMID: 35425819; PMCID: PMC9001949.

Psychological Health, Well-Being, and the Mind-Heart-Body Connection: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000947

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