Importance of a Healthy Heart
According to the CDC, heart disease accounts for approximately 1 out of every 4 deaths each year in the United States 1. With this staggering number, we should all pay attention to prevention strategies to keep our hearts and cardiovascular systems strong if we wish to live a long and healthy life. An unhealthy heart can lead to many other problems within the body. If a heart is unhealthy, a person may experience coldness in the extremities, chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, swollen feet, dizziness, fatigue, heart irregularities, stomach pain, or heartburn.
The heart and cardiovascular system are responsible for bringing oxygen and nutrients to every cell within the body. A correlation has been found in recent years linking poor heart health to the onset of Dementia and memory loss, showing that heart health impacts every part of the body. Keeping a healthy heart through proper diet, exercise, and in some cases the use of proper supplements can help to prevent or even reverse some of these negative side effects.
As with all organs and systems within the body, diet plays a major role in the function of the heart and circulatory system. With heart disease being a major contributor to death in the United States, the dietary aspect of heart health is something that we all ought to pay close attention to. However, there are many misconceptions when it comes to what is truly ‘heart healthy’ and what is not.
Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is not one of the main factors with heart disease. In fact, many foods toted now as ‘heart healthy’ options that are low in dietary cholesterol are very damaging to the heart. The four major contributors to heart disease are sugar, stress, inflammation, and oxidation 2. Stay tuned to future posts to learn more about the myths and misconceptions of cholesterol!
There are many different things that can be done to help protect our hearts from damage. Regular exercise that is right for your specific body along with hydration and slow, deep breathing can definitely go a long way in protecting your heart and cardiovascular system. However, if we are filling our bodies with substances that cause inflammation, we are not able to get to a state of optimal health.
If you are concerned about heart health (or health in general for that matter), it is very important to avoid things such as trans fats, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, refined white sugar, and processed foods. These foods cause major inflammation throughout the entire body that lasts for several days. If we eat these foods on a regular basis, we are setting ourselves up for chronic pain and inflammation and potentially damaging diseases later down the road.
Healthy fats however are completely different from the processed and trans fats that are found in most packaged foods. Healthy fats include things such as coconut oil, walnuts, fish, and avocados to name a few. These healthy fats are heavily used by the brain and nerves to function optimally. As always, it is best to seek the advice of a nutrition expert or Naturopath to determine what the best plan of action is for your specific body type.
Most of us have heard about Omega’s and know that they are beneficial for health. There are 3 main types of Omega’s in our diets; Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9. Omega-9 is produced by the body whereas Omega-3 and Omega-6 are needed from dietary sources. In the standard American diet, most of us consume far too much Omega-6 and far too little Omega-3. Omega-3, found primarily in some fish and flaxseed, has a protective mechanism for the body. This type of Omega helps circulation, helps lower cholesterol, decreases inflammation and the risk of cardiovascular disease, and even helps the cells to overcome insulin resistance!
Known as the ‘relaxant’ element, magnesium’s job is to help relax the bowels, muscles, and nerves. This mineral has over 300 biochemical reactions within the body and is a crucial component of overall health3. Magnesium is one of the nutrients needed in order for many other critical nutrients to function within the body. Unfortunately, magnesium is one of the biggest deficiencies in our country. This mineral is one that most people probably need to consider supplementing with. It is essential for heart health in many ways. It helps to transport electrolytes to the cells and allows the heart muscles to relax, supporting the pumping action of the heart.
Hawthorn is one of the most popular herbs when it comes to heart health. It has been used for centuries for a myriad of heart related issues. When taken regularly, Hawthorn berries have the ability to tone cardiac muscles, increase oxygen uptake by the heart, energizes the heart cells and dilates blood vessels in extremities to decrease the strain to the heart. When used in combination with herbs such as garlic, chamomile, capsicum, or valerian; Hawthorn has been shown to lower blood pressure. Hawthorn is a safe herb, however it is best to avoid using Hawthorn if you are taking heart medications such as digitalis.
Heart health is not something to be taken lightly. Especially since it is known to be such a major cause of death in our country. Thankfully we can take preventative measures to help protect ourselves from falling victim to an unhealthy heart. With proper diet and nutrition, along with the guidance from a qualified professional, you can help to take action to ensure a long and healthy life!