Dr. Sandra El Hajj - MSc, N-MD, DHSc
The human body is surely a complex organism comprising many organs and systems working together in harmony to ensure your well-being. When one organ starts malfunctioning, many systems can get affected, leading to illnesses. One of the major organs of your body is your heart, whose function is to provide oxygen to your entire body while ridding it of waste products and carbon dioxide.
To stay healthy and well, you need to make sure that you are taking care of your heart. There are many ways one can take care of this precious muscular organ.
Before you begin thinking about the many ways you can keep your heart healthy and well, you need to understand one very important rule. Your heart’s health is mainly based on what you eat. You may change several lifestyle factors in your life, but if you are not eating the right food, you are not helping your heart.
It all starts with keeping your weight within a healthy normal range. According to the World Health Federation, obesity is a major independent risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. When you are above the normal weight, you are putting yourself at high risk for hypertension, type 2 diabetes, as well as musculoskeletal disorders (1).
A study published by the Journal of Circulation explains that obesity is not just a risk factor, but also a predictor of atherosclerosis. Such a relationship was found in both men and women who had a BMI higher than 25. Keeping in mind that the BMI (Body Mass Index) is the ratio between weight in kilograms divided by the height in square meters. The study adds that a BMI below 21 can be considered to be a protection from coronary heart diseases and its associated mortalities(2).
To make sure your heart is healthy, make sure you are maintaining a healthy weight throughout your life.There are many simple ways to achieve this, whether through a diet or a workout regimen.
Cardiovascular diseases are among the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in the world. More than 30 percent of worldwide deaths are caused by heart problems, which accounts for about 17 million people(3).
Following a healthy food regimen can be the best method to keep your heart healthy! This means that you will have to get rid of all the food choices that may have a negative impact on you and add the food choices that are beneficial.
A study published by the International Journal of Molecular Science explains that one of the best diets that are heart-friendly is the Mediterranean diet. This diet includes foods that are high in monounsaturated fatty acids like olive oil. It is rich in vegetables and fruits, fish and lean meats like poultry while being low in red meat and fried food.
The Mediterranean diet also relies on adding a lot of fibers and mineral-rich food. It also encourages people to drink a moderate amount of red wine that is rich in resveratrol. It may be a surprise to everyone, but wine is a great drink for the heart when consumed in the recommended amounts. It is rich in phenolic compounds that can lower your bad cholesterol levels as well as increase your good cholesterol levels. The diet system also consists of incorporating raw nuts as snacks.
All this food can help lower blood pressure, bad cholesterol levels, inflammation, fasting glucose levels and body weight(4).
Another system that can be very beneficial is the DASH diet. This consists of a high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, nuts and poultry while staying away from sweet beverages, processed food and red meats. It also explains the need to keep your salt intake at its minimum(5). A study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine Explains how subjects who followed a DASH diet consistently had a lower rate of heart failure(6).
Turmeric is one of the spices that have been used over the past thousands of years for its amazing benefits to the heart. It is an anti-inflammatory spice that can normalize the blood circulation while acting as a potent antioxidant.
Having a healthy fat part of your diet will certainly reflect on your heart and circulatory system. Omega-3 fatty acids are excellent anti-inflammatory. They can soothe your blood flow, help maintain a healthy heart rhythm, lower the levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol as well as increase the good cholesterol levels. This type of fat is mainly found in chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, flaxseed oil, and fatty fish like salmon and sardines. For those who do not have the time or means to include this type of food in their daily routine, an omega-3 supplement can be the perfect convenient substitute.
Smoking has many side effects, including increased plaque build-up in your artery walls. This hardens and narrows your arteries, making blood flow restricted to a certain extent. The best decision you could take to keep your heart healthy is quitting smoking. This includes all types of tobacco, like vaping and e-cigarettes.
CoQ10 is considered to be an essential nutrient with amazing health benefits. Among these is its ability to break down glucose. It can be found in spinach, broccoli, pistachios, sesame seeds, lentils and cauliflower. If you believe you’re not getting enough of these types of foods, you can always opt for a CoQ10 supplement.
Having a good night of sleep consisting of seven to nine hours of deep sleep can help you protect your heart from many chronic diseases. If you are having trouble falling asleep, try to stay away from screens at least half an hour before bedtime. You may also want to add a few drops of lavender oil to your pillow. A study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine explained how when following about 60,586 adults above the age of 40 years, results were surprising. The conclusion of the study was that short sleep duration and poor quality of sleep are associated with a higher risk for coronary heart disease(7). Many complain of sleep disorders that end up sabotaging their overall health and wellness. These can lead to alterations to the way of sleep and can have many causes like stress, anxiety, depression, and poor sleep disorders. When your poor quality of sleep begins having an impact on your health, somenatural sleeping aids may be recommended.
Keeping your heart healthy and well may seem to be a very difficult task, but, when adjusting your diet, normalizing your sleep habits, working out, and trying to manage stress in your life, you may be able to protect your heart from preventable diseases. It is essential to also keep in mind that stress and your mental health are linked to your physical well-being. The good news is that most cardiovascular illnesses are highly preventable. That being said, a healthy heart begins with the decision to keep it healthy through lifestyle choices and the will to adopt these choices over the years.