A heart attack is usually the first major sign that there is something wrong with a person’s cardiovascular health. As we age, it’s somewhat assumed that our lives will be longer, but the vitality will be gone, and things like chronic illnesses are just part of the norm. This doesn’t have to be the case and if we start now, there is a lot we can do to support a healthy heart through nutrition and lifestyle choices.
Addressing the Downward Spiral
This may surprise you, but one of the first areas we need to address for a healthy heart is stress . You might be eating the perfect diet, but if your body feels like it is under a lot of day-to-day stress, it won’t really matter what you’re eating. Stress is one of the biggest predictors of cardiovascular health and we all need to pay attention. It doesn’t matter if you’re telling yourself you’re not stressed, if your social media shows you doing self-care habits, or if you feel like you’re able to juggle a hundred things, eventually it will catch up with you. You might be thinking your life is so crazy busy that you don’t have a choice, but let’s break it down for a moment.
Stress – and the body’s response to stress – is a survival mechanism. It doesn’t care if you are being chased by a bear, in the midst of a famine, or getting upset because the traffic isn’t moving fast enough. It can’t distinguish between the reasons why you are stressed, it just knows that it needs to react. One of the ways stress causes a downward spiral of harm is simply because it increases blood sugar, which is a root cause of why someone may have cardiovascular tension.
By itself, stress increases blood sugar, but what else do we tend to do when under stress? We self-medicate with alcohol, smoking, drugs, mind-numbing television, crap food (with lots of refined sugars and sweeteners and unhealthy carbs) and unhealthy routines…which causes more stress on the body. This becomes a chicken and egg scenario. Practices like yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, breathing techniques, and guided meditations are all excellent to address high stress very effectively. I personally enjoy 20- 60 minutes of yoga every single day to help keep stress levels under control.
Make Nutritional Changes
So where do we start?
We start by building a foundation. In my coaching practice I often talk about how important it is to create a pyramid reaching towards optimal health, but we have to start with the foundation first. To begin with, we can start with a topic we’ve already addressed. Embrace a low-glycemic diet, eliminate refined sugars and sweeteners, trans-fats, and highly inflammatory oils. Remove processed carbs and focus on eating more non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, proteins, and low-glycemic fruits. Pick up some real, whole foods recipes like our Vegetable Lentil Soup and our Festive Napa Cabbage Salad w/ Ginger Garlic Poppyseed Dressing. Remember, it’s real whole natural foods that are laden with micronutrients that are capable of changing biochemical functions in the body – including heart health.
Get Smart with Supplementing
Supplements are a very personal business so you’ll need to consult with your physician prior to starting anything new, but there are some supplements that have a reputation for aiding in long-term heart health.
Purified Fish Oil – to help further reduce inflammation, consider adding an omega-3 fatty acid supplement that has both DHA and EPA.
Curcumin – has been shown to help reduce inflammation, improve HDL, and reduce lipid peroxides
Fiber – If you aren’t getting enough fiber in your diet, consider taking a supplement like Konjac fiber to lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar levels
CoQ10 Enzyme – Talk about taking this supplement with your practitioner especially if you are taking a statin to help preserve mitochondrial health.
(Statins deplete CoQ10 in the body.)
As you can see, heart health support is multi-dimensional and interconnected with other things in the body like inflammation, stress, and blood sugar levels and is heavily impacted by diet. All of our recipes here at Lending Hearts are low-inflammatory and are a great place to start looking for nutritional support.