Heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women, and kills more people yearly than all of the forms of cancer combined. Approximately 92 million people either have some form of heart disease or are recovering from a stroke. In addition, over 1/3 of American adults have high blood pressure, which puts them at a high risk for developing heart disease. How do you ensure that you do not become a statistic and wind up a victim of a heart attack or stroke?
Focused nutrition is the place to start when getting your heart health under control. Naturopathic medical schools and clinics have long used patient education as a means of encouraging people to eat healthier. The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), features a healthy-foods cafeteria to help serve and educate people on what healthy eating looks like. Similarly, the National University of Health Sciences is showing its commitment to nutrition by hosting a first-of-its-kind conference to focus on trends and research in nutrition.
Naturopathic Doctors receive advanced training in nutrition to better help their patients. Some NDs choose to specialize in this area. When it comes to eating healthy, here’s what you need to do:
Fruits and Vegetables
It may sound cliché, but the most important dietary change for your cardiovascular health is to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that heart disease risk decreases with more produce consumption.
Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and antioxidants and help protect the heart in multiple ways. Fiber helps with detoxification, lowers cholesterol, and lowers glycemic load by slowing absorption of sugars. Antioxidants prevent inflammation before it can even start. In general, the more colorful the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidant power the fruit or vegetable is going to have. The same pigments that give plants color, act as antioxidants in your body. Eating a rainbow – having some red, orange, yellow, green, and blue fruits and vegetables in your diet every day is a great place to start.
In the early 1900’s manufacturers found they could process vegetable oil in a way that made it solid. This increased its shelf life and let it be marketed as a healthy replacement for butter. In the 1950’s it was discovered that this solidified vegetable oil, often marketed as margarine, contained a substance called trans fat that was formed during processing. By the 1980s and 90s it was becoming clear that these fats had serious negative health effects and increased the risk for heart disease. Food labels are required to list the amount of trans fat in the food or product and some grocery stores, cities, and even countries have decided to ban trans fats entirely. This year, partially hydrogenated oils, a main source of trans fats, were officially banned as an allowable food ingredient by the FDA. To stay away from trans fats, stay away from highly processed pre-packaged foods, and read the labels. By law the amount of trans fat has to be listed.
We generally eat around double the amount of salt that we should. This increases the risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. If you are looking to spice up your foods, use natural spices like garlic and ginger and decrease the amount of salt you use. Garlic can lower blood pressure and ginger decreases inflammation. By using spices, not only can you cut down on your salt intake, but the spices themselves can have beneficial effects for your heart and cardiovascular system.
Because alcohol can be addictive and interact with medications this is something you’ll want to discuss with your doctor before considering.
Studies have shown the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption to heart and cardiovascular health. The key is moderate consumption which means 1-2 glasses of wine per night. These same studies show that excessive alcohol consumption, meaning 3 or more glasses, has negative affects throughout the body including the heart. A standard serving of wine is 5oz. There are right around 25oz per bottle of wine, so a good measure of consumption would be making sure a bottle of wine lasted 4-5 days.
One of the best tips for eating healthy is to plan your meals. Clear your pantry of everything that is unhealthy and then sit down and plan what meals you will cook at home. From there, you can restock your cupboard with better food choices. The Mediterranean Diet is a good place to start if you need a source for recipes. By eating out less, you can control what’s in your meals and the portion size as well.
Besides eating well, staying active is an important part of being healthy. One of the major principles of . So, while you may be eating healthy, it is still necessary to do other things, like exercise. Here are a few things to think about:
• Walk—Using a FitBit or some form of pedometer can help you record your steps during the day. This will help you track how active you are. Try walking in place at your desk, parking at the end of the lot so you have to walk farther, and taking the stairs whenever possible. All of these things will help you move and exercise throughout the day.
• Be Reasonable—Many people create a plan to work out every day for an hour. This can be unrealistic and discourage you if you don’t hit your goal. Instead, start with something small like 20-30 minutes per day, three times a week.
• Get Your Heart Pumping—Exercise is great, but if you really want to get your heart healthy, you have to make it work. This means taking part in aerobic exercise designed to raise your heart rate such as running/jogging, swimming, and bike riding as well as aerobic exercise classes. Talk to your healthcare provider about what your heart rate goal should be.
The last of the big three that can have an impact on your life and health is stress. Stress can increase blood pressure and inflammation, increasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Naturopathic medicine looks at health holistically, integrating stress management techniques like meditation and acupuncture. Traditional naturopathic therapies such as hydrotherapy can help boost the immune system and promote relaxation. Here are a few techniques that you can start today to help with stress:
• Write About the Stress—One important idea is to keep a journal that can help you deal with stress. Writing about the things that are causing emotional upset and how you are feeling has been shown to reduce stress and improve health outcomes for a number of conditions. The general recommendation is to give yourself 15 minutes to write your innermost thoughts and feelings down on paper. The only caveat is that if you’ve just gotten over a traumatic event then immediately writing about it can make things worse. If you’ve experienced a major trauma, make sure you talk to a healthcare provider if you’re going to start journaling.
• Practice Gratitude – At first practicing gratitude can sound really cheesy. You mean I should be thankful for my chair, my shoes, and my dinner plate? Yes! We usually focus on what we lack. Gratitude short circuits that process and helps us be thankful for what we have. Clinical trials support how effective it can be to reduce stress and help with conditions like anxiety and depression. Practicing gratitude can be as easy as before going to bed writing down 3 things that you are grateful for that day. It might be the worst day ever, but you probably have a bed to sleep in, a pillow, 4 walls and a roof over your head. Maybe you don’t, but you heard a song that day you enjoyed or tasted some good food. Try it for a week and you’ll start to notice your stress level decrease and more joy come into your life.
• Get Rest—Many people are irritable and stressed out because of lack of sleep. Eating well and exercising will help provide a deeper and more restful sleep. Giving yourself at least an hour before bed without looking at a screen and minimizing light in your room can also improve sleep quality. The blue light from electronic devices alters the way melatonin, the main hormone of sleep, is produced. Finding a way to naturally get the sleep you need every night is a good way to help reduce your stress levels.
Leading a healthy and active lifestyle by eating well, exercising, and using regular stress management exercises will help you keep your heart healthy. In naturopathic medical school, students become experts in helping their future patients meet these goals. If you need more guidance on heart health tips seek out care from the clinic at one of the naturopathic medical schools or contact your local naturopathic provider.
Thank you to https://zerocater.com for this graphic.