February is a month filled with hope, love and lots of Valentine hearts. It also happens to be the month designated to heart health awareness. Many of you may not realize that heart disease is actually the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Fortunately, it also is a condition that responds very advantageously to healthy changes that in turn provide prevention of heart diseases. Simple changes can make a significant improvement in your heart health, which will also beneficially impact the rest of your mind, body and overall health. Here are some quick reminders to support a healthy heart. If you love your heart, it will love you back.
- Monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure. There is a lot of false information about what good cholesterol levels should look like. Cholesterol has gotten a bad reputation, but it really isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s very critical to maintaining optimal function of the cell membranes and is a precursor to our hormones estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and vitamin D. If you’ve been informed that your cholesterol is dangerously elevated, dietary modification will be crucial for controlling high cholesterol levels. Good food choices include fiber rich foods, which are found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes. Of course, Omega 3 essential fatty acids and regular exercise are important too. For more extensive support, your naturopathic doctor can put together a plan to fit your needs.
- Nutrition – less sugar and simple carbs, less industrial vegetable oils (corn, soy, cottonseed, sunflower and safflower); more fermented foods (sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, etc.) for the benefits of Vitamin K2, which lower calcium deposition in the arteries.
- Monitor your weight. Finding and maintaining a healthy weight for your particular height and body size will also play a role in lowering your risk for cardiovascular diseases. Research has shown that excess stomach fat is linked to high blood sugar, high blood pressure and elevated triglycerides (a fat that circulates in the blood). Therefore, the less fat around the belly/mid-section area, the lower your risk for cardiovascular disease. Get out and find an activity that keeps you active! It’s not just about your weight, but also about how you feel inside your body. Physical activity naturally brings about happy feelings, so get those endorphins buzzing.
- Avoid cigarettes and second hand smoke. This should go without saying, but the chemicals in tobacco smoke will damage nearly every organ in the body. It will specifically wreak havoc in the structure and function of your blood vessels, ultimately leading to atherosclerosis, also known as plaque buildup.
- De-stress! I know life can be challenging and it seems that it often never gives you a chance to slow down…. We know that stress is detrimental to our health, but did you know that a well known study found that stress tripled the risk of heart disease?! Stress management is so important to our wellness. What engages you in a peaceful way or brings you joy? Take some time to spend managing and balancing the rigors of life with an activity that provides a healthy outlet for stress. Ideas: mindfulness meditation, acupuncture, counseling or reading on a topic that would help you improve upon yourself, artwork, crafting, dancing, yoga or another exercise activity that you enjoy, spend time with people who lift you up and bring out the best in you. If your stress is extreme, consider a meeting with your naturopathic doctor to discuss ways to improve your health and mitigate physiological damage.
Witten by Dr. Andrea Minesaki. Dr. Minesaki is offering acute visits and wellness care for our pediatric patients. Please call the office at 480-970-0077 to schedule a visit.