Organization: Erin Falco RDN, Inc.
Authors: Veronica Rechten MSc
Publish Date: 1/30/23
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February is American Heart Health month. There has been a lot of conflicting information over the years about what is and is not “heart healthy,” so we thought we’d give an overview of nutrition and lifestyle choices for the health of your cardiovascular system.
Nutrition is one of the most important factors when it comes to protecting your heart. Below, we’ll look at a few things that you can do for your body with food:
FATS AREN’T THE ENEMY!
In the past, fat was considered a big heart no-no, and the “fat free” generation exploded. We now know, instead, that fat is a key macronutrient needed for the cardiovascular system. One of the key fats we need is omega-3 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fats can be found in foods such as: fatty fish (salmon, cod, mackerel, anchovies etc.), flaxseed, chia seeds, avocado, and walnuts. Omega-3s have been shown to lower inflammation in the body and improve heart health by reducing the risk of heart disease. Taking a supplement such as cod liver oil can ensure you’re getting enough of these great fats into your diet, daily!
FUEL WITH FIBER
Another important nutrient for a healthy heart is fiber. Fiber can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Eating a diet high in fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol levels (the “lousy” cholesterol), help to balance blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation in the body, all of which are essential for heart health! Fiber is also important for gut health, which affects all of the functions of your body.
EAT THE RAINBOW
Foods rich in antioxidants have been known to lower the risk of heart disease. They do this by binding to free radicals that cause damage to our cells. Getting our antioxidants from foods (vs supplements) is the best way to help your body absorb them. Getting those antioxidants in your diet is simple if you think about eating the rainbow.
It’s not just what you eat! Lifestyle changes are also important when it comes to protecting your heart!
It’s well known that exercising your body is beneficial to your heart-health. As your body adapts to movement, your resting heart-rate lowers, blood pressure improves, and the heart muscle becomes stronger. What many people don’t know is that you don’t have to go super hard, or work out for hours a day to make a big difference. In fact, that type of exercise can even have a detrimental effect on our bodies over time. Doing something that you enjoy, in a consistent manner is the best type of movement, and is something you’re more likely to keep doing! Try dancing, brisk walks, bike rides, roller skating, or anything that brings you joy!
We talk about stress relief a LOT because stress is such an important factor in all aspects of wellness. As we’ve mentioned in other posts, some great stress relievers are: regular meditation practice (try an app!), journaling, epsom salt baths, and aromatherapy. If you can, seeing a therapist regularly is also a great way to learn how to manage stress and trauma.
A consistent sleep routine is essential for a healthy heart. We all have a circadian rhythm, and that rhythm includes our heart rate, blood pressure, and other functions of the cardiovascular system. While it’s not always possible to have a perfect night’s sleep, striving for a routine at night will assist in getting your system the rest it needs. Turning off electronics at least an hour before bed will help to keep the blue light from the screens from interrupting your sleep. Having a cup of tea and reading a book, or listening to music, taking a warm bath, and using a diffuser, are all ways you can help yourself wind down for a good night’s sleep. Taking magnesium glycinate in the evenings is also a great, natural way to aid in uninterrupted sleep. One of the best (and sometimes hardest) things you can do is to try to be consistent about WHEN you go to bed, even on weekends, in order to keep that rhythm right!
Taking care of your heart is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, and a few simple steps can make all the difference. If you need more nutritional support, visit us at www.erinfalcordn.com for more posts, recipes and webinars, or contact us for a discovery call to become a patient.