February is heart healthy month. There has long been a debate about which organ is more important, your heart or your brain. While both may take equal importance, February’s focus on the heart has us talking about what we can do to keep our heart healthy.
At the top of the list is exercise. Even if you do not need to lose weight, cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes, five times per week will keep your heart healthy. Besides burning calories and helping with keeping your blood pressure controlled, cardiovascular exercise helps build extra blood vessels which can save your life if any blood vessel becomes occluded. By having alternative blood vessels supplying blood to the same area of the heart that is not receiving a normal supply of blood, you avoid any permanent damage to that part of the heart.
Next and just as important is getting the proper amount of sleep. Recent studies show that getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep nightly may cause hormonal dysfunction that contribute to weight gain and elevated blood sugars. Even more obvious is that your heart rate decreases while sleeping, giving your heart time to recover from your day.
Diet is also clearly another key aspect to keeping your heart healthy. It is widely agreed that the Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy diet. The key components of this diet are: low fat proteins (beans, white meat, Tahini, low fat cheeses), olive oil, whole grains, nuts, bread (whole grain), veggies and fruit (instead of dessert). These foods should be fresh, not processed. Adding Mediterranean spices decreases the need for higher amounts of salt. An added plus is that some spices like Coriander and Rosemary are also antioxidants. To top off the diet: wine – another proven antioxidant. Because this diet is healthier and lower in calories, it often times produces weight loss. Antioxidant-rich foods are also brain friendly which keeps your brain sharper.
Hydration is another key element of heart health, especially in females who typically have lower blood pressure than men. Not being well hydrated can damage all of your organs – especially your heart. If your blood pressure is low and you are not well hydrated, you are at higher risk of getting dizzy and passing out.
While going about your days in February, let the red around you remind you that just like the four chambers in your heart, there are four easy things that you can do every day to keep your heart healthy. By giving love back to your heart, it will keep you healthy and will lead to a happy body and heart relationship!