by Dr. Kristen Bovee, Peninsula Naturopathic Clinic, Hydrate IV Wellness Centre –
Our heart is the hardest working muscle in our body. It is a complex organ and has many components that make it work tirelessly whether we are awake or asleep. Considering heart disease is still one of the highest causes of death in Canada, we are still, with all our scientific advances, unable to curb the trend. The following is a list of five things you can start to do today to appreciate your heart in order to prevent heart disease.
Take a brisk walk. Your heart, like any muscle, needs to be worked to function properly. In the journal Circulation in 2015 it found that, especially for the older population, the faster and longer a person walked, the lower the risk of heart disease. In addition, other moderate activities such as gardening, swimming, biking and hiking also lead to a significant reduced risk (by up to 50%).
Find ways to reduce stress. Stress impacts many parts of our health and research is finding links on how it contributes to heart disease. What we do know is that the way stress affects the heart is in the behaviours that people turn to when under stress. Smoking, drinking, overeating, sleeping too little, or overworking are common ways that people deal with stress. More positive behaviours to reduce stress include meditating, exercising, journaling, and seeking professional help to teach us better coping tools.
Consume foods with a high ORAC value. Our diet has one of the greatest impacts on our health. Our heart is highly vascularized, which means preventing damage to these vessels is essential. Antioxidants are particularly important for the heart because they help to prevent oxidative (“free radical”) damage to our vascular walls. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and is the antioxidant capacity of a food. Foods that have the highest ORAC values include wild blueberries, elderberries, gogi berries, and dark chocolate.
Keep your blood flowing. Perfusion of our red blood cells to our tissue is essential to our survival, particularly for the heart. Foods that help the blood stay “thin” and oxygenate the cells include ginger, vitamin E, turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. However, be sure to limit these if you are taking a pharmaceutical blood thinner like Coumadin. Other ways of reducing your blood viscosity include staying hydrated, donating blood and eating foods that do not cause inflammation. Low inflammatory foods are those low in animal fats, non-GMO, low in glyphosates (ie. organic) and consuming foods you know you are not allergic to.
See your doctor once a year. Heart disease and high blood pressure are often diagnosed too late because the signs and symptoms are often only detected by blood work and physical exam. Having yearly checkups will keep you aware of the health of your heart. Remember, heart disease is not just about cholesterol: it’s merely a sign that there is something underlying causing the cardiovascular system to require more.
Loving ourselves includes treating our bodies well and making the effort to prevent potential health problems. If we all make a daily commitment to take a walk on the Lochside trail, purchase foods from our local farms, keep a positive attitude, eat well and visit our doctor regularly, we are committing to ourselves and supporting a healthy heart.