Taking Care of Your Heart
Each year, almost 1 million Americans die of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, CVD accounts for 42% of all deaths in the US. World Heart Day, promoted jointly by the World Health Organization and the World Heart Federation, is celebrated each year to raise awareness of the danger and prevention of CVD.
Am I at Risk?
It’s always a good idea to get an annual checkup. Heart disease has been quietly on the rise in recent years, among both men and women, because of significant changes in the American lifestyle, including increased stress, sedentary occupations, and the need to eat on the go.
Once the providence of men with high stress jobs, women over 50 are now as much at risk for heart disease as men. Estrogen and hormone health offer some protection to pre-menopausal women, but after 50, the odds even out.
How Do I Take Care of My Heart?
Naturopathic medicine takes a different approach to heart disease than allopathic or traditional western medicine. Any good conventional doctor will tell you to eat right and exercise, but which foods and exercises you choose can make a crucial difference. As much as possible, we want to work in partnership with you. If we create a routine together that you can easily and consistently follow, you’ll be able to maintain the good health of your heart as part of your daily life.
As a muscle, we want your heart to be strong and have excellent flow in the blood vessels. As part of a systemic whole, we want to make sure that your heart is not overburdened by things you have control over, like weight, stress and diet.
9 Steps You Can Take to Strengthen Your Heart
1) Cardiovascular Exercise – To Full Fatigue. We’re finding that the most effective exercise for a healthy heart and body includes working out for short bursts to exhaustion, or full fatigue, mixed with traditional cardio exercise like running, walking and swimming. I would recommend working out in short bursts, as hard as you can, until your muscles are exhausted. This technique helps reduce cortisol and other stress hormones, which play a significant role in heart disease. It also helps with losing weight, if that’s a concerning factor.
Recovering from heart surgery? Even so, exercise is going to be one of the keys to your recovery. It’s important to be gentle with your body at first and consult with your physician. Start slowly and gradually add more cardio time. Little by little, lift more weight. Wherever you’re starting from, exercise is essential to rebuild the strength of the heart muscle.
2) Eat Dark and Colorful Vegetables and Fruits. They contain a higher degree of nutrients and flavonoids, which reduce inflammation and improve blood vessel health. At any meal, half your plate should be fruits and vegetables, with a couple of fresh fruit and vegetable snacks during the day.
3) Take Fish Oil Daily. It decreases bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol levels. If you are sticking to a vegan diet you can get the same effect from flax oil, or hemp oil. The good cholesterol, also known as HDL, supports healthy cholesterol levels and lowers inflammatory plaque in the arteries. Plaque blocks the arteries of the heart and the brain, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
4) Indulge in Red Wine, Dark Berries, and Green Tea. These contain Polyphenols, which reduce cardiovascular risk factors by strengthening blood vessels, promoting good blood flow and reducing the adhesion of plaque to the vessel wall.
5) Please Quit Smoking. It directly damages blood vessels, increasing blood pressure and thereby risk of heart disease.
6) Decrease Constant Stress. Persistent stress can keep you in a perpetual state of “fight or flight.” This is a natural response to extreme danger, but if you are in that state too often, it takes a heavy toll on your body. Under stress, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine that raise blood pressure. These hormones increase, and then exhaust, the metabolism. Persistent stress keeps the muscles and organs in a constant state of tension, restricting oxygen flow and inhibiting nutrient absorption. You may have heard someone say, “This job is killing me.” It might literally be true.
7) Develop Coping Mechanisms to Decrease Stress. It is not always possible to decrease stress through a change in situation. However, you can use stress-reducing regimens to mitigate its effects on your body. Meditation is extremely useful, the deeper and more frequent the meditation, the better. Even five minutes of deep breathing a day will help you relax, delivering more oxygen to your brain and muscle tissue.
If you are interested in more in-depth stress reduction methods, you could benefit from biofeedback training, which can enable you to lower your heart rate and blood pressure at will. You can add variety to this practice as well. Learning a new, non-competitive skill can be very relaxing. A physical discipline or creative pursuit you’ve always wanted to learn can offer much needed relief. This might include practicing Tai Chi, learning to paint, or taking up a musical instrument. If you can, give yourself time for something you always wanted to do. There are plenty of options and lots of fun to be had.
8) See Your Local Naturopath to gauge the current state of your heart and begin on the heart regimen you need.
9) Choose One Thing On This List. Even if you’re only able to do one thing on this list at this moment, get started with that one thing today. Make the commitment to a long life with a healthy heart.
Supplements to Support a Healthy Heart:
Dr. Nita’s ChocOmega: Organic Sacha Inchi nuts, unbelievably rich in Omega 3 oils, robed in 72% dark chocolate. Give yourself or someone special the gift of a healthy heart!
Vital Nutrients Ultra Pure Fish Oil and Fish Oil Softgels: There are so many health benefits to fish oil. Make it a daily habit!
Vitanica Green Tea Capsules : One capsule is equal to 3 cups of green tea. Boost your immune system, maintain a healthy cholesterol level, and improve your cardiovascular health.
Thorne PolyResveratrol-SR: Support your health with this anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective supplement.
About the Writer
As a naturopathic family practitioner, Dr. Monawar Fahoum's interests and specialties include homeopathy, diet and nutrition, botanical medicine and physical medicine (bodywork, adjustments, etc). She views healing as a dynamic process, unique to each person, with different treatments appropriate for different patients.
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