Easy steps to keep your heart healthy

Among the many benefits of maintaining heart health are the possibility of living a long life, alleviating symptoms of depression and reducing the likelihood of dementia. As the saying goes, “With a healthy heart the beat goes on.” The path to a healthy heart is broken down by Luc Coutinho, Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle – Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, Founder of You Care.

Tips to keep your heart healthy.

Emotional health: Today, emotional health is the number 1 priority for better heart health. Negative emotions and thoughts stimulate the flight-fight response, which leads to the production of cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels are also known to increase blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation, all of which can harm heart health. Invest more time in emotional healing through yoga, pranayama, meditation, visualization, laughter, positive affirmations, etc.

Vitamin Breath: One deep breath in and out is all it takes to calm your mind and heart. Deep breathing is known to shift our body from a fight-and-flight state to a state of rest and digestion almost instantly. This makes regular practice of deep breathing an extremely heart-healthy habit.

Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods: The main causes of heart attacks are not cholesterol, but inflammation and oxidative damage to the heart, blood vessels, endothelial lining, arteries, etc. Inflammation and oxidative damage are caused by free radicals from the food we eat, the air we breathe, and several lifestyle choices we make. Foods like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and black pepper are powerful inflammation-reducing foods. Also, eat an array of different colored fruits and berries when they are in season.

Prioritize sleep: Poor sleep or lack of sleep can be devastating to our heart health. This is because when we sleep, the heart gets rest and works less. The heart is a muscle and requires recovery. Lack of sleep also increases insulin resistance, blood pressure and inflammation.

Stay active: Excessive sitting is like smoking. Make sure you are physically active throughout the day. Heart attack risks are higher in people who lead an inactive lifestyle. Walking, yoga, zumba and trekking are extremely beneficial exercises for the heart.

Stop smoking: Both active and passive smoking are toxic to the heart. Smoking contributes to both oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. Chemicals released from cigarettes cause plaque to build up in the arteries. It also depletes several vitamins and minerals and hardens the arteries.

Get more raw food in your diet for fiber and antioxidants.

10 foods that will help your heart stay young and healthy.

Good quality oils: such as coconut oil, pure cow ghee A2 Gir and mustard oil help increase good cholesterol and fight inflammation.

Omega 3 rich foods: Omega 3 fatty acid is an important and extremely healthy fatty acid for the heart. It helps limit inflammation, heals artery walls and raises HDL while lowering LDL. For example: oily fish, flax seeds, walnuts and chia seeds to name a few.

Beetroot: because of its ability to act as a vasodilator and high antioxidant content.

Garlic: because of its anti-inflammatory and bad cholesterol-lowering properties. It also acts as a natural blood thinner.

Organic tea (black, white, oolong, matcha): because of the high content of antioxidants, especially EGCG. In addition, research now finds that it has powerful cholesterol-lowering properties and can prevent plaque build-up in the arteries.

Fruits like grapes, pomegranate and berries: because of their high antioxidant content.

Foods rich in vitamin E: for their ability to limit inflammation, fight free radicals, repair cells and heal arteries. This is a must for people who are exposed to cigarette and industrial pollution. For example: sunflower seeds, unsalted peanuts, avocados, almonds and sesame seeds.

Foods rich in magnesium: for their ability to improve heart muscle health and blood pressure. For example: all nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, cocoa.

Potassium-rich foods: plays a role in every heartbeat. It controls blood pressure and heart muscle contractions and keeps the heart rhythm stable. For example: banana, avocado, pumpkin.

Foods rich in vitamin K: for high antioxidant properties and prevention of arterial calcification. Eg: green leafy vegetables, broccoli, prunes, avocado.

Foods to avoid

Intake of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates: Both can contribute to inflammation, raise blood sugar levels, and thus increase the risk of a heart attack. Additionally, an excess of both can lead to elevated triglyceride levels. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates like dosas, idlis, rotis, hand pounded rice etc. are healthy carbohydrates and can be included in your diet for good health and prevention of heart attack risk. People who give up such complex carbohydrates end up deficient in vitamin K2 – which can lead to calcification of the arteries.

Refined salt: Refined salt and MSG can create inflammation in the body, raise blood pressure, and cause water retention, thus stressing the kidneys. One can choose Himalayan pink or rock salt after keeping their health professional informed.

Refined oils: Refined vegetable oils are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega 6 is harmful to health as it leads to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.

Processed and packaged foods: Processed and packaged foods are also responsible for increased heart attack and stroke rates. This is again because this packaged and processed food is made with low-quality refined oil, which increases oxidative damage and inflammation in the body.

Excessive drinking of tea and coffee, alcohol: Excessive consumption of tea and coffee can worsen or cause acidity and inflammation, especially if the drink contains sugar, cream and other additives. Alcohol can also raise bad cholesterol, cause inflammation and raise blood pressure.

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