We’d like to finish our blog series on heart health with three important lifestyle changes that everyone should incorporate into their life. This information isn’t new; it won’t bring about any aha revelations, but the story about heart health would be complete without it.
The three areas we’ll be touching on is: diet, exercise, and stress.
For many people, food triggers many emotions. Whether connections to our past, being tired or bored, eating can be an unconscious function. Becoming aware of what and when we eat is essential. Making conscious choices to not grab the container of ice cream at night to relax is not as easy as it sounds. While we may not want to give into temptation and know it may not be the healthiest choice, Americans love immediate gratification, and boy, doesn’t that ice cream hit the mark.
According to the book, Reverse Heart Disease Now, Drs. Sinatra and Roberts share that the American Heart Association guidelines promote a diet low in fat and high in energy-releasing carbohydrates. However, integrative cardiologists don’t agree. They have found that replacing fat calories with typical carbohydrates (bread, rice and pasta) actually promotes cardiovascular disease by stimulating the pancreas to provide more insulin. Eating a high carbohydrate diet without an excessive amount of activity will lead to weight gain and increases inflammation.
Heart healthy eating habits emphasis ways to lower inflammation in our systems. The key components to this are:
- Focus your diet on low-glycemic vegetables, grains and fresh fruit. Low glycemic foods have a GI rating of 55 or less. Here’s a link to a list of low glycemic foods.
- Eat foods high in antioxidants which helps to reduce inflammation. Top 30 Foods High in Antioxidants.
- Incorporate high levels of omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. Our body can not make omega-3 fatty acids on their own, so we need to turn to foods rich in this important nutrient. Many oils, types of fish and nuts/seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Compare the foods listed on three lists and you’ll see a lot of overlap. Start by incorporating some of these foods into your diet.
We all know that exercise is good for us, however, because our lives are so “busy”, it’s not always something that is put as a high priority. For many, exercise feels like more of a chore. There are a few ways to easily incorporate exercise into your lifestyle.
- Consider what activities you enjoy doing. Think back to when you were a child. Was there a sport or activity you loved? Do you have fond memories of jumping rope or riding your bicycle around the neighborhood? Why not start this up again?
- Make exercise social. The newest rage is pickleball, not because it’s a great workout, but for most people, it’s a social outing. Finding a group or companion to exercise with will not only make the task more enjoyable but will help to pass the time while you’re doing it.
- Incorporate exercising into your daily schedule. Are you an early riser or a night owl? This can help to determine the best time of day to commit to exercising and hold yourself accountable to scheduling it into your week.
- Start today. People wait to make exercise a New Year resolution or attach it so a significant date. There is no better time than the present to start exercising. Remember, like any new habit, there are going to be times where you fall off the wagon. Don’t give up or berate yourself. Give yourself grace and restart your exercise regime.
According to the Drs. Sinatra and Roberts, “stress is like an arsonist with matches in one hand and a gasoline can in the other. You must disarm this perpetrator before it hurts you.”
Stress is our way of reacting to life situations. The amount of stress one feels is based on their perception of a situation. Stress will never go away, so we need to have tools to help us defuse the effects of stress on our mind, body, and soul.
- Did you know that children laugh an average of 400 times a day and adults only 15? Why does life have to get so serious as we age. Research provides clear evidence that laughter helps blood vessels function better! Watch some funny videos on You-Tube every day.
- Think about how you feel when someone gives you a loving hug. It is a natural stress reliever that has also been found to improve sleep and increase well-being. How hard is it to give someone you care about a good, long hug to improve both of your health!
- Meditation has been found to help manage stress, high blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. There are a number of programs that can train you on the art of meditation, and apps or You-tube videos that provide you with guided meditations to help you move into a deep level of relaxation. Even devoting 15 minutes a day to meditation can make a huge difference in your heart health.
Our heart is one of the most important organs in our body. Most people can easily identify small changes they can make in their diet and lifestyle that can make a huge difference in their heart health. Without reading this series of blog posts, most of you instinctively knew how you could be living a healthier life. Now, it’s up to you to make just one small change – that is all it takes. Commit to one small change for 3 months, then incorporate another small change, and before you know it, you’ll see a huge difference in your health, self-esteem, and life. We dare you!