February is American Heart Month! Heart month is a celebration of education surrounding heart health, so I’m here to bring you some great, natural ways that you can relieve unhealthy conditions and strengthen your heart.
Add in Exercise
Exercise is simply a non-negotiable when it comes to heart health. Getting your heart rate above 100 BPM not only helps strengthen your heart muscle, but it can also help you lose weight associated with high cholesterol, diabetes, and help to reduce high blood pressure.
The AHA recommends 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week. Luckily, there are tons of great tools out there to help get you moving. Fitness trackers help to remind you to be active during the day, while a multitude of apps connect you with trainers for fitness expertise. Not into the high-tech options? Even a brisk walk around your neighborhood can raise your heart rate and help keep you healthy.
Once we’ve got you moving, it’s time to take a look at what you’re putting in your body. Since 49% of Americans have one or more heart disease risks, it’s crucial to manage them as early as possible.
Lower Cholesterol with Plant Sterols and Stanols
People think of high cholesterol as a disease, as a life sentence. In reality, it’s just a statement of you current condition. It doesn’t predict or control your future. Many folks with high cholesterol find themselves on medications like statins or blood thinners. Unfortunately, these manufactured treatments come with strings attached.
Statins, which lower LDL, often cause liver damage and can even lead to memory loss. And blood thinners like pradaxa, xarelto, and warfarin stop clots, but can inhibit clotting when it’s needed the most. If you cut yourself accidentally, the resulting bleeding can be deadly, and the loss of life has even lead to thousands of lawsuits against drugmakers.
Instead, why not opt for an all-natural, all-positive treatment route? And with cholesterol, it’s a pretty simple fix. First, take out saturated fats for polyunsaturated ones. Then, add in the positive alternatives. Plants that contain sterols and stanols, which include nuts, legumes, and plenty of fruits, help prevent your intestines from absorbing too much cholesterol. At the same time, they contain valuable nutrients that your body can use in a positive way to stay healthy.
DASH Towards Lower Blood Pressure
Like high cholesterol, high blood pressure is a description of a current state, and can absolutely be managed and reversed. In fact, researchers went so far as to prove it! A study sponsored by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung institute created a protocol called the DASH diet. It stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Again, it’s an all-natural alternative to blood-pressure meds that come with an array of dangerous side effects, like angioedema.
Instead of taking a pill, the DASH diet encourages you to fill up on protein, magnesium, calcium, and fiber through what you eat. That means eating plenty of whole grains, nuts, broccoli, carrots, kale, and lean meats.
One in every three adults in America have high blood pressure. That constant state of pressure strains your heart, arteries, and every part of your cardiac system. It can damage the lining of your blood vessels, triggering inflammation which leads to plaque formation. And it’s that plaque, built in part by cholesterol, that plays a huge part in heart disease. So you can see why lowering blood pressure can greatly reduce your heart disease risk. Luckily, the DASH diet was found to be incredibly effective! As little as two weeks on the diet can lower blood pressure, and you can do it without cutting out beautiful, delicious foods.
Reverse Prediabetes Before it Evolves
Prediabetes is often misunderstood. It’s NOT diabetes, type I or type II. Rather, it’s a benchmark of insulin resistance that indicates an impending diabetes trajectory. If prediabetes isn’t treated or reversed, it will turn into type II diabetes, which is irreversible. Again, as with cholesterol and blood pressure, early intervention is essential. The quicker you can regain control, the better the outlook for your overall health.
Like diabetes, however, prediabetes is all about sugar! The less sugar you consume, the less insulin your body needs to produce. With less insulin, your tissues can become more insulin sensitive, rather than resistant, bringing your body back to a stable norm. But how can you be sure the foods you eat aren’t too sugary? Well, there is a tool for that!
It’s called the glycemic index, and it was developed specifically for this purpose. The index starts with a base: white bread. Every carb-loaded food can be compared to white bread, based on how it affects blood sugar levels. Carbs with low impact, have a low GI, and that’s where the “sweet spot” is for prediabetics.
Health as a Lifestyle
Heart health is intertwined with every aspect of your physical health. Every one of the changes I’ve discussed will not only strengthen your cardiac system, but also help you achieve greater overall health and physique. Remember, health is not a task, or a job. It’s a lifestyle, and choosing it can be one of the most positive changes in your life. This February, start with your heart. You may be surprised what a little love can do.
About the author:
Lindsey is an investigator and writer who focuses on public health and safety issues. Through her work, she’s become an avid advocate for consumers, fighting for their right to safe products. In her spare time, Lindsey enjoys reading and spending time with her cat, Lava.