You may know that the heart is about the size of an adult fist and beats an average of 115,000 times per day. What you may not know is that most heart attacks happen on a Monday and that Christmas day is the most common day of the entire year to have a heart attack.(1) This is pretty eye opening/heart pumping information, shared on Healthline.com. Now that we’ve discovered this, let’s examine the ins and outs of heart health and the roles nutrition and stress play in staying healthy.
The heart is a magnificent part of our body. It’s critical that we maintain a healthy and happy heart for quality of life. There are some very clear rules to achieving this goal, agreed upon by all experts.
These include: quit smoking, reduce stress, maintain a healthy weight for your body type, reduce sodium and saturated fat intake, and exercise regularly.
While smoking is considered the most controllable risk factor for heart disease, what are some “out of the box” things we can do to pump up our cardiovascular health?
Sleep- This is serious stuff. Lack of sleep is disastrous. It can lead to weight gain, insomnia, anxiety, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure. All of which bring an increased risk for heart disease. Sleep 7-8 hours per night, ideally starting before midnight. Make it happen.
Laugh-The research is no joke. Laughter has been shown to have a positive impact on stress hormones and may potentially increase your good cholesterol. (HDL)
Flexing & Flexibility- Both pumping iron and stretching/yoga are fabulous for supporting your heart. Building muscle burns more calories which gives the heart something to work for. Stretching and yoga type exercise help reduce stress and create a calming effect for your heart and body. Who would argue that this isn’t good for staying healthy?
Other things to consider- Good oral hygiene plays a role in heart health, drinking green or black tea is supported by the American Heart Association, and increased fiber is always a plus. Finally, one of my favorite pieces of advice is to BREATHE. Deep inhales through nose(using diaphragm) 3-5 seconds, hold 3-5, and exhale through mouth or nose 5+ seconds. You will be amazed how much breathing can aid in reducing stress, bringing back focus, and even digesting your food.
Is a broken heart a real thing? The Mayo Clinic discusses the broken heart syndrome and states, “The exact cause of broken heart syndrome is unclear. It’s thought that a surge of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, might temporarily damage the hearts of some people.” (2)
Finally, let’s discuss the obvious: nutrition. What are the top 10 foods known for heart health? Surely, not everyone will agree on the order, but let’s at least list some clear winners.
- olive oil
- dark chocolate (woohoo)
- green tea
- #10 might be a tie with wine(resveratrol), citrus fruits, or cruciferous veggies such as cabbage. Therefore, add them all into your diet as long as you don’t have allergies or known adverse reactions.
Wishing you a blessed Valentine’s week. If you have a significant other, hug them tight. If you are single, embrace the blessings that come along with this time in your life and find someone who needs a smile, a hug, or a random act of kindness.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23