February is American Heart Month, so we wanted to discuss some basic principles that everyone can apply to creating a heart healthy lifestyle. This isn’t a recommendation for a diet or exercise plan. These suggestions are for those of you who may want to make some changes in your life to improve heart health.
Why is Heart Health an Important Issue?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. Additionally, every forty seconds, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack. In 2016, heart attack deaths rose for the first time in over a decade, making heart health something on which we should all focus.
While both men and women are evenly affected by heart disease, heart attacks can be particularly dangerous for women as the symptoms are often less evident than those experienced by men.
Heart attack symptoms for men include chest and upper body pain, dizziness, cold sweats, sweating, anxiety, palpitations, and discomfort in the neck or arms. It’s often described as feeling a clenched fist in the chest.
Heart attack symptoms for women are often more subtle. They include chest pain that can be momentary, come and go, or persistent. Women are more likely to experience one or all of the following as their primary symptom: nausea, vomiting, jaw or back pain, or shortness of breath. They may never feel the classic clenching feeling in their chest. Instead, they may feel more like they’ve had a sudden onset of the flu.
What Other Health Problems Contribute to Heart Disease?
Here at Flow Natural Health Center, we treat disease holistically. This means that we consider the body as a whole when analyzing a particular symptom. Heart disease can be exacerbated or even caused by factors such as:
- Drinking to excess
- Excessive or long-term use of specific drugs
- Poor diet.
A genetic anomaly can also cause heart disease. While this can’t exactly be treated, you can improve your health overall with heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
Five Holistic Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Improvements
As naturopaths, we focus on disease prevention and on improving your health and immune system, naturally. Here are five lifestyle improvements anyone can make that to benefit the whole body.
- Try to break harmful health habits.
Habits like smoking or drug/alcohol addiction are well known to affect your health overall negatively. However, there are other, more subtle habits that many of us have like eating a sugary dessert every night, drinking energy drinks throughout the day, or sleeping too few hours at night. These all make a negative impact on your health.
Habits can be difficult to break, but small changes can make a big difference. The first thing to do is to recognize your poor health habits. From this launching-off point, you can change your life in small ways. For example, instead of a couple of scoops of ice cream after dinner, try eating something healthy and sweet like a bowl of grapes or a few clementines.
As a note, if you have really tough-to-break habits like smoking or drug addiction, don’t tackle your habit alone. Seek help.
- Explore new foods.
There are many excellent, healthy foods out there for you to try as a snack or as part of a meal. For example, many Americans haven’t tried kimchi, which is a source of probiotics. Other rarely eaten healthy foods include:
- Artichokes (without using a ton of butter as dipping sauce)
- Bitter Melon
- Goji Berries
- Organ meats (animal organs like liver and brains)
- Shiitake Mushrooms
There are many, many other foods you can try throughout the year. We recommend eating fresh, seasonal, and organic whole foods as much as possible. So, try that beet salad or some dahl – you may find your new favorite food.
- Add exercise to your daily routine.
It can be really, really difficult to add an exercise routine into an already overflowing schedule. People with a heavy workload, a career involving lots of travel, or children may only be able to make it to the gym once a week on a good week. However, it is possible to sneak exercise in – even if you have a long day ahead of you.
For example, many people can take out five minutes in the morning to stretch. If you work in an office that is above the ground floor, try taking the stairs to and from your desk. Ask your boss if you can have a standing or walking meeting. Try eating outside or in the break room farthest from your office. Get up and stretch your arms and legs once every couple of hours. Try walking, biking, or taking public transportation to work.
There are a number of ways to take time out for exercise – and it all adds up.
- Focus on stress relief.
We all have stress in our life. Finances, interpersonal relationships, and jobs are the most common source of stress – and none of these issues are likely to go away anytime soon.
Stress relief is really a two-part activity. In the first part, you can take a look at the elements in your life that are causing stress and see if there’s a way to better them. For example, if your job is worrying you, you may be able to finish the project with which you are having difficulty. If you are having trouble financially, you may be able to reach out to a financial planner or a friend who’s particularly good with money for advice.
The second part is creating healthy coping and relief mechanisms that you can use on a daily basis. For example, exercising mindfulness, yoga, meditation, finding something to laugh about, getting more sleep, and improving one’s diet can all assist in stress relief.
- Connect with friends and loved ones.
Studies have found that genuine connection with friends, loved ones, and acquaintances can improve one’s health. In today’s online world, it can feel like we are connected with people when we see pictures of their kids, videos of them on vacation, and status updates about their daily lives. However, nothing beats actually physically sitting down with a friend and chatting. So, try inviting a friend out to coffee or have a family member over to catch up. Taking some time to enjoy each other’s company will benefit you both.
There are many other ways you can improve your health holistically – these are just a few. Contact us today and find out how Flow Natural Health Care can assist you in building a heart-healthy life.