Think of your heart as a fine-tuned machine, one that’s designed for the long haul. Now, think of it as something that’s inside you - because it is. The heart has a strong work ethic. It’s on the job 24/7 without a break; In fact, it’s at work right now while you read this!
Remarkable and durable as the heart is, it still requires proper care. According to Naturopathic Provider Sonam Desai, good heart health involves addressing three key factors: nutrition, physical activity and stress management.
- If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, consider the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, which limits sodium consumption from around 3,500 mg per day to as little as 1,500 mg of sodium per day. People with hypertension should incorporate potassium-rich foods like avocados and bananas, which help offset the hypertensive effects of sodium.
- A Mediterranean-inspired eating plan is also a healthier option, which focuses largely on plant-based whole foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds) and lean protein like chicken, turkey, and fish. In that diet plan, herbs, spices, and olive oils help season the foods instead of sodium-containing flavor enhancers.
- If you are looking to reverse heart disease, Goshen Heart & Vascular Center is offering the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine™ through the Cardiac Rehabilitation Department. This whole-food, plant-based plan is abundant in nutrient-rich whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes and limited amounts of nuts, seeds and nonfat dairy products. In addition to nutrition, Ornish Lifestyle medicine includes exercise, stress management and group support to encourage and sustain lifestyle changes.
- Being sedentary significantly increases your risk for heart disease, regardless of how many minutes you exercise. If you sit for long periods of time, aim to get up and move for a few minutes every hour. The goal is to be active throughout the day. A sedentary lifestyle increases risk for heart disease and causes poor circulation and is as harmful to your health as smoking.
- New physical activity guidelines recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 to 150 minutes of more intense exercise each week. Strength training and stretching are encouraged every week, as well.
- Aerobic exercise involves rhythmic movements of large muscle groups. Some aerobic exercises great for a healthy heart include walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, elliptical workouts and dancing.
- Everyone experiences stress, but there are healthy approaches to dealing with it. Bonding with others during times of stress releases a hormone called oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone.” Oxytocin acts as a vasodilator that relaxes vessels on the heart, and also acts as an antioxidant, which also promotes heart health. So go ahead and spend more time with people you love and care about. It’s good for you!
- A new study has found that loneliness is as detrimental to heart health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness has been found to increase body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference and lead to heart disease, so this is another reason to spend time feeling connected to others.
- Do what you love – it’s as simple as that. When your mind is healthy, so is your heart and when your heart is healthy, so is your mind.
- During times of stress, remember to take deep, belly breaths on inhales and have your exhale through your mouth last longer than the inhale. For example, inhale for three counts and exhale for four to five counts. This will immediately relax you and help decrease both blood pressure and elevated heart rates.
Following these recommendations will go a long way toward a stronger, healthier heart - and a healthier you! Be sure to consult with your primary care provider before beginning a new fitness plan or diet.
Are you interested in learning more about how to optimize your health? Join us for our monthly Thrive series on the first Tuesday of each month from 11:00 a.m. to noon at Greencroft Community Center at 1820 Greencroft Blvd, Goshen, IN 46526. At March’s Thrive meeting we’ll talk about the healing properties of exercise. Registration is not required. Please call (574) 364-2496 for information or click here.