Boost Your Heart Health
Heart health doesn’t happen by itself and it usually doesn’t happen overnight. My journey to better heart health began in April of this year – yes, that’s 7 months so far, and still a work in progress. But, there are some decisions you can make today that can start you on a path towards having a healthy heart. I should know, my heart health and overall physical health is what spurned my journey to wellness this year.
Here are six things you can do today to boost your heart health, so you don’t fall victim to heart attacks, strokes, or peripheral vascular disease:
Look through your pantry. There are things you can eat that will increase your risk for heart disease, just as there are things you can eat that will reduce your risk of heart disease. Check your pantry for foods that are high in cholesterol, such as meats, high fat dairy products, and certain processed foods. Processed foods are also high in bad fats. Look for foods that are high in dietary sugar and replace them with low sugar foods and foods that contain no sugar. I have chosen to not use sugar at all. I use honey or maple sugar and very sparingly. It’s surprising to me now how much sugar is in our foods. And if I do eat a little bit of sugar – my body lets me know right away that it is NOT happy! Instead of red meat, you can choose fatty fish, which are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are considered heart healthy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me a hamburger. But, I have made choices to eat a very delicious turkey burger instead. To me, it’s all about choices. Instead of cakes and cookies, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with whole fruits, which are high in dietary fiber and antioxidants, which have health benefits you can’t get through eating low fiber, high sugar foods.
Start an exercise program. This means getting off the couch and getting out there to do some form of aerobic exercise. CAUTION here, if you have some weight to lose, please-please-please take care of that FIRST. Yes, I said FIRST. I thought my Doctor was a crazy loon when she suggested this, but it works. Get that extra huge amounts of weight off first and THEN focus on serious exercise. Your body will be working HARD to shed those extra pounds, don’t compound that with the extra burden of an intense exercise program too. PLUS, when you shed some pounds, then exercise IS easier to do. Aerobic exercise is particularly good at increasing your heart rate, increasing your respiratory rate, and lowering your blood pressure. I like to take a wonderful “couple” walk after dinner on weeknights and a long walk, usually by the lake on the weekends. Also consider adding some kind of weight training into your life, about two days per week. Weight training tones muscles and increases your metabolism so that you can burn calories more effectively, even without exercising. I like to concentrate on upper body one day, rest, then lower body the next.
Schedule a blood sugar screening. You can reduce your risk of heart disease by having your blood sugar checked, to make sure you don’t have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Both conditions can be detected by doing a fasting blood test. Your Doctor usually does these tests when you go in for your Annual Physical or Well Woman Check. Values of blood glucose that are between 100 and 125 on a fasting basis may mean you have pre-diabetes and should follow your blood sugars more closely so you don’t develop diabetes. Fasting blood sugars of 125 or more mean you may have diabetes and must do things like lower your blood glucose levels by eating a low sugar diet, exercise, and take medications to reduce your blood sugar. Please do this screening, it could save your life…and boy, what an eye opener and HUGE motivator it is!
Schedule a sleep study. If you are told that you snore, you may be suffering from sleep apnea, which is a known risk factor for heart disease. When you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing during your sleep and wake up suddenly, gasping for air even though you don’t remember it in the morning. Sleep apnea will raise your blood pressure during the day, not to mention that it makes you tired. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea please follow what your Doctor suggests so that your quality of life can improve. It is a fact that our bodies need sleep, and we need that sleep to be quality sleep. By the way, I use my essential oils for great sleep too!
Reduce your stress level. Stress will raise your blood pressure and your heart rate, both things that cause you to have an increased risk of stress on your heart. How do I know? Because it has recently happened to me. You can reduce your stress by avoiding those things that cause you to be stressed and learn stress-reducing practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qi gong. Some of these practices have more benefit to your body other than reducing stress, such as increasing flexibility, strength, and balance. As I get older I have found that my flexibility has decreased along with my strength and balance. I have several high quality yoga and tai chi dvd’s at home that I like to use regularly to help with these issues. I have also found that using my essential oils have been a HUGE motivator and stress reducer for me. I diffuse in multiple rooms of my house every single day. I also use my oils daily and take them to work. They are a huge part of my lifestyle routine.
Schedule a cholesterol check. Cholesterol in your bloodstream can cause a buildup of cholesterol plaque that increases the risk of blood clots that can cause various types of heart disease. You can lower your cholesterol by eating foods low in cholesterol and saturated fats, and/or by taking medication that will lower your cholesterol level, keeping heart disease at bay. Please do this one too. Don’t relinquish the power to transform your life to bags of cookies or chips. YOU DESERVE to live a long and healthy life.
Wishing you health and wellness,