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Improving the health of your heart can be one of the most impactful things that you can do for your body in the quest for optimum wellness. According for the Center for Disease Control, About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Therefore, it makes good sense to take a closer look into some of the ways that you can improve your heart health.
Your cardiovascular specialist will be your first resource for a treatment plan, but what things can YOU be doing to help support heart health? You may be surprised to learn that massage is on the list for complementary treatment options alongside nutrition and supplements designed to improve heart function. Research continues to be done to show exactly why massage has been such a huge benefit, but the reasons range from reduction of stress to increasing ability to be more active. Here is some of the reasoning as to why massage can help promote a healthier heart.
According to the American Heart Association, stress releases adrenaline resulting in heart rate and blood pressure to rise. In addition, chronic stress can result in damage to the artery walls. Your body does not want to be stressed out; however, our overstimulated, modern lifestyles make avoiding stress nearly impossible. Receiving regular massage allows for planned stress-free time in your schedule. The various massage techniques used in a session promote a reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol, and allows for your brain to rest and relax reducing your amount of stress.
Reduction of Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Regulation
A good percentage of us spend our days in a constant frenzy of to-do lists, crazy commutes, and a frantic mental state that never allows us to fully relax throughout the day. For some, this inability to relax carries over to the inability to sleep as well. When our bodies never have the opportunity to rest, our nervous system is not able to function properly. When we are in this “Fight or Flight” mode, our sympathetic nervous system is active. This is what keeps us going, thriving, and making sure that the kid’s are fed and the mortgage gets paid. However, we need a good balance of rest so that our parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This is what allows our body to heal, digest food, and essentially reset our brains and bodies. When we are constantly in our sympathetic nervous system, our blood pressure remains higher and our heart rate is more active.
When we receive massage, our body is allowed to rest and reset and your parasympathetic nervous system takes over. Your blood pressure is lowered, your heart rate normalizes, and for at least that moment- you are at peace. If you’ve ever wondered why your stomach starts making noises half way through a massage, this is why. Your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and your BP lowers and digestion starts.
You are not yourself when you are in pain. You feel more frustrated and irritable and this has an effect on your heart because you are unable to truly rest. For those who struggle with chronic pain, the ability to feel at ease in your own body is a challenge and hence your body remains in a ‘fight or flight’ status as well. Massage not only helps to relieve the pain itself, but allows your body and brain the opportunity to reset and relax. Therefore, massage has an effect not only on the pain but also on the heart.
This easy and delicious dish is kind to both your taste buds and your heart!
As we learn more and more each month about essential oils and what they can do for our bodies, you may be surprised to learn that they can also help support proper heart health. That’s right, essential oils smell great and can feel cooling or warming when used for massage, but they also possess the most potent version of some of the world’s most effective forms of plant medicine. Here are a few of the oils that you can use to help support heart health everyday.
Lemon essential oil is one that would be considered an all purpose oil. You can use it to clean your home, detox your system, and also to help promote your body’s natural ability to fight cholesterol from depositing in your blood vessels. Add 2 drops to a mug of warm water each morning for a delicious ritual that is good for you!
This essential oil has long been thought of as the “King of Essential Oils” for its ability to help support healthy cells throughout the body. So, it would make total sense that it should be included on this list. When applied to the soles of the feet each night, it absorbs into the blood stream and provides the cells within the body with the extra boost they need to restore their vitality. When inhaled, the heart rate and blood pressure lowers. Just be sure to inhale the oil on your hands BEFORE massaging the feet for a more pleasant experience!
A staple in cooking for many countries, ginger is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories known to man. However, it is also great at preventing dangerous blood clotting. Both of these properties are important to monitor when you’re looking at preventing heart problems. A few drops mixed with a glass of water or stirred into your favorite dishes can help support a healthier heart.
These simple things can have very powerful results to prevent heart concerns. If you are already fighting heart disease, these oils when paired with your existing treatments can help them to be more effective. Be sure to let your physician know of the oils that you are using and how you are using them for the best treatment combinations.
As our hearts are filled with gratitude for our loved ones this Valentine’s Day season, let’s reflect on how important our heart health is as it allows us the opportunity to feel and experience love. As a result of changes in lifestyle over the last 30 years, heart health is becoming more and more of a concern. According to the CDC, heart disease is now the leading cause of death for both men and women. My focus in this article is to promote increasing physical activity since it is one of the best and most effective ways to reduce the risk of heart disease. As I recently discussed in last month’s Blood Sugar and Inflammation class, those two topics are closely related to the risk of heart disease. Physical activity not only does it’s job by strengthening the heart, which happens to be a muscle, but it also promotes health by helping you regulate your body weight and improve your body’s use of insulin. Being active has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood lipid and blood glucose levels, be beneficial for clotting factors, and promote the health of your blood vessels by lowering inflammation. That’s a lot of positive results from such a simple thing as being more physically active! Let the statistics speak for themselves:
Now that it’s clear physical activity is necessary to promote heart health… how does someone that has not been physically activity break the sedentary habit and get moving?? As we all know, starting a new habit isn’t always easy. However, focusing on the positive result of lowering our risk of death from heart disease acts as motivation to KEEP MOVING! Here are 5 simple tips from WebMD to help you “stick with it” as you adopt a new lifestyle of being physically active:
Anyone can do it AND it’s never too late to start moving to keep that heart healthy. If muscle or joint pain is something stopping you from moving, call us! We want to help you fight the statistics and start taking charge of your own risk factors. As our slogan at Body Logic clearly states… If you move better, you’ll feel better, and as a result live better!
There’s no denying that our diets play a significant role in our heart health, even though many of us don’t want to hold ourselves accountable. That being said, there is an understandable misunderstanding by the general population regarding what is truly considered a heart healthy diet. Many of us have heard over the years that we need to limit the cholesterol in our diets to only 300mg/day. Sadly, that’s just not true. In fact, a well-known biologist, Ancel Keys, declared in 1997 that “there’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood. And we’ve known it all along.” Based on some of Keys findings, further research was performed by a British doctor named John Yudkin analyzing the roles of different types of fat as well as carbohydrates and proteins in the diet. The results of Yudkin’s research revealed the startling fact that the single dietary factor that had the strongest association with coronary heart disease is sugar! So the big question is… what should we, and just as importantly, what should we not be eating??
EAT THIS: WILD ALASKAN SALMON
Salmon is one of the best sources of the well-known anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. It is very important to ensure it is wild-caught as not all salmon is created equal! Wild salmon also contains one of the most powerful antioxidants, astaxanthin. Additionally, a 4 oz. serving contains 462 mg of heart-healthy potassium, equivalent to a medium banana.
EAT THIS: GRASS-FED MEAT
It is well known that animal fat and protein is necessary for the body to perform many physiologically necessary functions on a daily basis. Factory-farmed meat, however a source of fat and protein, tends to be loaded with antibiotics, steroids, hormones, and high levels of the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Grass fed meat, on the other hand, is raised organically and does not contain the negative components found in factory-farmed meats.
EAT THIS: VEGETABLES (AND SOME FRUIT)
It is well known that vegetables are loaded with natural anti-inflammatory compounds as well as antioxidants. The Nurses’ Health Study revealed that the higher the daily consumption of vegetables and fruits, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Lower-sugar fruits such as apples, grapefruit, cherries, berries, and oranges are better choices to keep overall dietary sugar intake lower.
EAT THIS: NUTS
Multiple health studies have consistently shown a 30 to 50 percent lower risk in heart attacks or heart disease associated with eating nuts several times a week. Nuts contain an amino acid called arginine that provides protection to the inner lining of arterial walls making them less susceptible to damage. Also, arginine is needed to make nitric oxide, which helps relax constricted blood vessels and ease blood flow. Please note: peanuts are not actually nuts, they are legumes.
EAT THIS: BEANS
Very simply put, beans are an underrated food. The biggest factor that promotes the consumption of beans is their high fiber content. High fiber diets have been long associated with lower rates of many diseases, including heart disease.
THE “NOT THAT” LIST:
Sugar! – Enough said.
Processed Carbohydrates – These foods are almost always high-glycemic, meaning that raise our blood sugar quickly, which is exactly what we don’t want. This includes, but is not limited to, cereals, pastas, bread, minute rice, etc.
Trans-fats – As noted in the American Heart Association’s 2006 annual meeting, women who at the most trans fats were more than 3x likely to develop heart disease as women who at the least. Sadly, the FDA does not protect us from getting trans-fat in our diets. In fact, upwards of 0.4g of trans fat is allowed per serving, but can be labeled as trans-fat free. Look for the key words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” and avoid!
Processed Meats – Process meat is defined as any meat preserved by curing, salting, smoking, or the use of chemical preservatives. Studies revealed that a 1.8 oz daily serving of processed meat was associated with a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease.
Excessive Omega-6 Fats – Vegetable oils are most known for their high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which when consumed in excess are considered highly inflammatory. The level of consumption has only recently become a problem as the typical Westernized diet has excessive ratios of Omega 6 to Omega 3 (anti-inflammatory fatty acids), anywhere between 15:1 and 25:1. The imbalance and promotion of inflammation is known to be a risk for heart disease.