February, the month of love and healthy hearts. When was the last time you thought about the health of your heart? Well, if you are like most of us, unless you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, or heart palpitations, or angina, or a clotting disorder, or have had a heart attack, the answer is probably never. Often full physical exams these days don’t include a stethoscope to listen to the heart, so unless your doctor suspects heart issues based on your labs or symptoms, your heart is left to do its thing. This wait-and-see approach can result in conditions progressing to the point of pathology that could have been prevented if caught early. At our clinic we believe in listening to your heart by stethoscope and recording heart sounds once a year to catch any issues or trends to help you be your healthiest.
Here are some lifestyle ways that you can help your heart do its job:
• Eat a widely-varied, mostly plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet
• Eat Fats-those that eat eggs and fish oil have lower cardiovascular disease risk
• Eat Greens-dark leafy greens are full of folate and other B vitamins in addition to so many other vitamins and micronutrients-more greens=happy heart
• Move Everyday-get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily-preferably more and include some weight lifting (lifting weights has been proven to reduce heart attack risk!)
• Vitamin D-low vitamin D has been linked to higher risk for heart attack, stroke, and vascular disease
• Nutritional Yeast-a food source of B vitamins-contains niacin (B3) which helps lower inflammation and bad cholesterol
• Stay Hydrated-if your body is dehydrated hypertension develops and your heart pumps faster-do yourself a favor and drink some water (at least half your body weight in ounces per day)
• Happiness and Life Satisfaction-individuals that rate these two things highly have a much lower risk of heart disease, increased longevity, lower resting heart rate, and decreased blood cortisol levels-find something that brings you joy and experience it often
These are a few ideas (not a comprehensive or complete list by far) for you to explore areas that could be improved for your heart to function optimally. Our health is always an expression of our genetics and our environment. We have more control over the latter than we often think. Show yourself some love this month by seeing where you can improve your heart health.
~Always consult with your physician before making lifestyle changes, especially if under care for a particular diagnosis or taking medication