February is Heart Health Month so here are five tips to protect your heart holistically! Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Unfortunately, T1D increases the risk of heart disease. High blood glucose from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. The longer you have diabetes, the higher the chances that you will develop heart disease. As a mom of a T1D, all of this can be pretty scary!
Choosing a healthy lifestyle will help your overall heart and circulatory health. Have you heard of the heart-brain axis? Well, science is showing that our stress levels and emotions strongly affect our physical health. External stressors that are not effectively managed have direct internal implications by placing undue stress on the heart. I believe in using a holistic approach when it comes to the fight against heart disease, focusing on the areas of nutrition, fitness, and stress management.
Eating heart-healthy foods is important to improve and maintain cardiovascular health.
Below are some of my family’s favorite heart-healthy foods to protect your heart holistically:
Leafy greens like spinach and kale are powerhouses of nutrition containing a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The beneficial antioxidants can help fight free radicals, prevent cell damage, and slow the development of chronic disease. Check out my kale salad recipe at https://www.ourintentionallifestyle.com/kale-salad/
Avocados are heart-healthy fat which may help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They may also help lower LDL and blood pressure.
Walnuts are one of the most powerful heart-healthy foods that you can incorporate into your diet. Studies show that walnuts reduce bad LDL cholesterol. They may also help improve blood vessel function, decrease inflammation, and reduce oxidative stress. Walnuts also contain dietary fiber, manganese, and heart-healthy fats.
Wild-caught salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can relieve inflammation, decrease triglyceride levels, and lower blood pressure.
Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries (choose organic if possible) are full of heart-healthy antioxidants that play a key role in maintaining optimal heart health. Eating berries can reduce LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation.
Garlic helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol (and it’s a great anti-viral as well)! Garlic also helps reverse early heart disease by removing plaque buildup in arteries.
Green tea is high in polyphenols and catechins and is associated with lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
Exercise and alternative therapies also play a big role in heart health.
Exercise, specifically aerobic exercises like running, cycling, kickboxing, or swimming is essential for optimal cardiovascular health. Aerobic exercise helps lower blood pressure, reduce stress, increase HDL, and improve blood sugar regulation. Incorporating at least 30 minutes of daily exercise will help with your overall mental and physical health! Find something that you enjoy doing and get your body moving!
Alternative therapies focusing on stress management and overall health have also shown success in living a heart-healthy life. Alternative therapies generally offer a holistic view, considering the whole person and the connection between mind, body, spirit, and emotion. This is my jam!
Acupuncture is a practice of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of very thin, long needles into the skin to stimulate certain points on the body. If you are new to traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that our flow of energy flows through pathways in our bodies called meridians. When these pathways become blocked, it stops the flow of energy, and the body becomes sick. Acupuncture is believed to correct this imbalance. Acupuncture reduces stress, alleviates anxiety, and helps regulate blood flow. If you’ve never tried acupuncture, you should! It’s actually very relaxing!
Chiropractic care may help prevent cardiovascular disease. The heart and blood vessels are connected to the central nervous system by millions of tiny connections. One major attachment is the vagus nerve which comes from the brain and the autonomic nervous system which has input into the entire body. These nerves control heart rate and blood pressure, which are both essential for heart health. Chiropractic care impacts these nerves, so the benefits to the heart are tremendous. Chiropractic care may help reduce blood pressure, improve nerve function of the heart, and decrease inflammation.
Yoga is a mind-body practice and good for heart health! Yoga is a fabulous stress reducer and may also lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Psychosocial stressors such as work and relationship stress, as well as anxiety and depression, are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease. When we have chronic stress, the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, which can lead to inflammation and increased blood pressure. Yoga may help put the brakes on the body’s stress response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, through deep breathing and relaxation. I’ve been practicing yoga since I was 16 and love how I have evolved over time! Try a class and let me know what you think!
Cultivating mindfulness also may encourage you to engage in other habits that boost cardiovascular health by promoting self-awareness and self-care behaviors. I hope you can put some of these tips into action to protect your heart holistically! And finally, my best advice is to always be more kind and gentle with yourself and fill your heart with love! Here’s to a healthier, heart-happy lifestyle!