Today is national heart day, but we don’t need one day a year to remind us to take care of our hearts! After all, our heart is the most vital organ we have. Most people decide to make lifestyle changes once they have a heart attack or get ill, but don’t wait until it could be too late.Take action today! So what can you do to make sure you are in good heart health? For starters, get a yearly check up with your doctor to make sure you are in good shape and don’t have pr-existing conditions. Secondly, make sure you give up on bad habits like smoking that are detrimental to your health. Also, don’t forget to get adequate sleep! According to the Journal of Sleep Health, people who sleep for 5 hours or less per night have hearts that are 1.5 years older than those that get 7 hours of sleep. Shocking? Good incentive to get to bed earlier and turn off the tv and phones! Also, adding 20-30 minuets of exercise will not only help you feel better, pump your heart with blood and arteries with good circulation, but also help you sleep better too!
Now let’s talk food. Food is medicine. If you think of your heart as the engine of your body, then you need to give it good fuel right? You would never fill up your car with trash or diesel fuel because it would break down. So why is it that we feed our own bodies with foods that have low nutritional value? Our bodies are our most important vehicle and if our heart is our engine, then let’s feed it foods that help it run at its best capacity. So what are these foods? A plant based rich diet is the best way to go. Vitamin K protects our arteries and promotes proper blood clotting, so sources that are high in Vitamin K are a great start. These include leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens. Not only are they high in Vitamin K, but they are also high in dietary nitrates that have been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve the function of cells lining the blood vessels.
Whole grains thatare high in fiber like whole wheat, brown rice, oats, barley, buckwheat, and quinoa are high in fiber which may also help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and therefore decrease the risk of heart disease. Make sure however, that these sources of grains are not processed or full of other ingredients like sugar, which are commonly found in loaves of bread commonly labeled “wheat flour” or “multigrain.”
Berries are another great source as they are full of important nutrients that play an important role in our heart health. They are rich in antioxidants that also protect us from oxidative stress and inflammation. Increasing our consumption of berries like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries may also help control blood pressure and blood clotting by improving the function of cells that live in blood vessels. Tomatoes are also a great source that have lycopene, a natural pigment with a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize harmful free radicals and prevents from inflammation and oxidative stress. In addition, avocados are an amazing source of monounsaturated fats that have been shown to reduce levels of cholesterol and lower risk of heart disease.
Other examples of amazing heart healthy foods include fish that are rich in fat and oils like salmon, sardine, tuna, mackerel are full of omega-2-fatty acids. Almonds are amazing in that they are nutrient dense, and seeds like chia, flax and hemp contain omega-3’s and fiber. In addition , walnuts are high in magnesium, copper and manganese which have shown to reduce LDL as well . Finally, other great things to add to your diet include, beans, garlic, olive oil, dark chocolate and green tea.
Sometimes we overcomplicate how to get so much into our diet. Seems overwhelming to consume so much food doesn’t it? Well, a great way is through a hearty salad that can easily contain some, if not all of these ingredients. I love going to places like Grater Greens for lunch where I can grab a heart good salad full of amazing nutrients! Give it a try and give your heart some love! Your heart will love you for it!