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There are so many reasons to enjoy dark leafy greens, including the fact they’re a good vegan source of heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.Romaine lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale, purslane and other raw greens are obviously low in fat but high in their Omega-3 ratio. Even a cup of cooked spinach carries about 350mg of Omega 3 (and only trace amounts of Omega 6, which you want to limit anyway to get the right balance in your diet). The good Omega-3 fats maylower blood pressure, decrease triglycerides and lessen the incidence of blood clotting. Add in high levels of calcium and iron, and it’s all the more reason to eat plenty of leafy greens – along with broccoli, collards and grape leaves.
Deep abdominal breathing helps you relax. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces stress; all good for the heart. What’s even better is that slow, deep breathing activates the diaphragm and helps move a lot of blood through the body. That helps take some of the workload off of the heart, great for the short and long term.
Laughter is the best medicine. It’s one of the oldest sayings. Researchers believe the benefits are related to how laughing and a sense of humour appear to reduce mental stress, high levels of which can affect the protective lining in our blood vessels and in turn lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in our arteries. So as part of your heart healthy regimen, check out the nearest comedy club. If you watch TV, pick a sitcom or a funny video or movie. Laugh it up with your friends. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Bottom line: Live light-hearted. It’s good for you!
Packed with protein, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and other nuts are good for your heart, especially when they replace less healthy snacks. By going nuts, you can lower bad cholesterol levels because of how high they are in the good (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats. Raw nuts are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, Vitamin E, plant sterols and L-Arginine, all of which either reduce bad cholesterol or improve the health of your arteries. Go nuts, but like with anything, eat in moderation.
There are so many reasons to stay hydrated for overall body, brain and heart health. Taking good care of your heart is one of the most important. Drinking enough water helps the heart pump blood more easily through the arteries in the body and helps the muscles and other tissues work more efficiently. Drink at least one litre a day and more with exercise. Specific conditions such as diabetes and cystic fibrosis may also require more water in your system. Consult your physician when in doubt.
With its focus on breathing, yoga is heart healthy because it’s good for the respiratory system and the overall cardiovascular system in the body. That’s true of yoga at either end of the scale; from hatha and power yoga to exercise the heart to yin yoga to rest the heart. Some poses pump up and strengthen the heart. Others relax the system. For more on heart healthy yoga, ask your yoga instructor, personal trainer or visit www.purica.com
If you’re going to snack during the big game, go heart healthy. At the coin toss, try unsalted sunflower seeds or nuts such as almonds or walnuts. Rely on carrots and celery sticks or cherry tomatoes in the first half. Kale chips or unsalted rice cakes make for a good half time snack. The best plays in the second half include frozen bananas or grapes and fresh fruit. That’s a nutrient-rich roster of heart healthy snacks made for champions!
To strengthen a muscle you have to challenge it. That’s as true of the heart muscle as it is any muscle in the body. You will burn fat, tone your muscles and condition your cardiovascular system! For a heart healthy circuit, read on…
Blood pressure – measuring the pressure circulating blood puts on the arterial walls — is one of the key barometers of heart health. The optimal ratio is 120 over 80. If your blood pressure is significantly higher or lower, make sure to check with your physician. A heart healthy BMI is in the range between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2, usually the sign of a pear-shaped instead of an apple-shaped body. If you’re a man over 40 or a woman over 50, you should also ask your doctor to have your cholesterol tested. For more on these important vital numbers, visit www.heartandstroke.com
Regardless of where you’re at in your current fitness, walking is the most natural, easiest and cost effective form of exercise. Harvard Alumni studies suggest that walking just 30 minutes per day can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Brisk walking raises the heart rate and strengthens it and increases blood circulation throughout your body. Start out slow and short, increasing both pace and distance gradually. You might pump up your motivation by wearing a pedometer to count your steps or joining a local walking group.
There is often a lot of hidden sodium in many of the foods we eat, particularly in processed or prepared foods. Getting into a habit of reading labels and being more conscious of our salt intake can help ensure we are not over-consuming. Too much sodium can tax the kidneys and overwork the heart. Eating too much salt – especially over an extended period of time can potentially cause high blood pressure. It also plays havoc with our body fluid levels (because sodium holds water).
Legumes such as alfalfa, clover, lentils and beans are winners in a heart healthy diet. As examples, black and kidney beans can support your cardiovascular system when added to soups or salads. They’re rich in B-complex vitamins, niacin, folate, magnesium and calcium, along with soluble fibre; helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels. They carry an array of phytonutrients that protect us from oxidative damage and inflammation; big concerns for the cardio-vascular system. They’re also big on Omega-3 fatty acids, which are pillars in a heart healthy diet.
Music therapy is a relatively new field but studies into the effects of music on the cardiovascular system have been undertaken for almost 35 years. Key indicators such as blood pressure, heart rate and even blood flow can be affected by music. Of course, music is highly-personal and different kinds of music (from classical and ballads to dance and rock) may trigger different effects. Yet hospital studies have shown patients listening to short periods of music had better heart vitals (and less stress) than those who didn’t have access to music.
A glass of red wine tonight could be more than just a romantic scene-setter. It could be part of a plan in which you drink red wine responsibly and in moderation in order to benefit from flavonoids such as catechins and especially resveratrol. Some research has shown that red wine may improve your good cholesterol (HDL). Ingredients in red wine may also burn fat, dilate the arteries and lower blood pressure, all of which are good for the heart. Be careful, of course, with alcohol and check out the Mayo Clinic online for more information.
Berries – most notably organic blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cranberries – are good for the cardiovascular system because of antioxidants such as the flavonoid anthocyanin. These berries are another of the heart healthy foods high in fibre, along with carotenoids (Beta and lutein), vitamin C and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. Studies show that blueberries are at the top of the list for fresh fruits and vegetables in terms of heart healthy antioxidants. Try them in smoothies, salads, and trail mixes with seeds and nuts.
Fruits and veggies are good for overall health, not just for the cardiovascular system. Among the best are those coloured orange (oranges, carrots, squash, papaya and mangoes) and red (tomatoes and red peppers). They are rich in alpha and beta carotene, vitamin C, and potassium. Like many heart healthy foods, they’re high in fibre. For those of us on the run, these orange and red fruits and vegetables are easy to bring along for the ride. Led by oranges and tomatoes, they also make for great juices, especially when freshly squeezed or juiced with some of the fiber.
Rice is a staple food world-wide, but when it comes to heart health, it’s important that you make brown rice your go-to. It’s high in B-complex vitamins, niacin, magnesium and the fibre that is essential to well-functioning digestive and cardiovascular systems. Brown rice contains a specific natural compound that inhibits the protein angiotensin II which can thicken and harden the arteries. Brown rice is also such a versatile player and can help you fix up a heart healthy lunch for the day. When having sushi or burritos, be good to your heart and ask for brown rice.
When it comes to achieving optimal heart health, planning ahead can make a difference. It’s easier to eat healthy meals when you’ve planned ahead because it helps you avoid defaulting to fast food. Even planning your meals for the next day will help you get your daily share of heart healthy fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, legumes and beans. Yet planning ahead at work and in your personal life not only helps you get things done – which creates the endorphins associated with pride and satisfaction – it reduces stress, both of which are good for the heart.
As you build your heart healthy regimen, think like a kid and bring your bike into play. Cycling is a rewarding form of physical activity, because of the workout it gives your heart and the de-stressing that’s associated with changes of scenery. There’s nothing like the fresh air that fills your lungs and oxygenated blood that pumps through your body while cycling. That’s especially true if you have a mountain bike and forest trails nearby. Cycling is also extremely practical: Many of us can get our share of exercise in simply by riding our bikes to work.
Your blood sugar level is the amount of glucose in your bloodstream at any given moment and balancing it regulates hormones, increases metabolism and helps burn stored fat. Two of the smartest ways to achieve healthy blood sugar levels are: 1. Trying to eat a balanced meal of proteins, fats and carbs at each meal; and 2. Ensuring that you don’t go too long between meals, especially at the start and end of each day. The heart healthy rule of thumb is eating every three hours to keep your blood sugar levels in check. You don’t want them to ever get too high nor too low.
Not all fats are created equal. Avocado for example is a superfood winner because it has monounsaturated fats and no cholesterol or sodium, while being packed in nutrients. Other healthy options include egg yolks, olives, nuts and seeds. The bottom line is that a balance of healthy fatty acids is essential to optimal health. When it comes to fats, avoid denatured and unstable fats and incorporate natural whole foods. Avoid vegetable oils used in deep frying; they’re often reheated and subject to becoming rancid. Hydrogenated fats such as certain margarines or shortening contain trans fatty acids, which research suggests raises your bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers your good cholesterol (HDL).
While aerobic exercise has typically been perceived as essential to cardiovascular fitness, weight training – anaerobic exercise — has also demonstrated benefits. Weight training produces a widening of blood vessels in response to increased flow, one of the key contributors to heart health. Although it can cause small increases in arterial stiffness, research on weight training showed greater increases in blood flow compared to cycling. Weight training also helps promote heart health as good cross-training for aerobic exercise such as running, swimming and cycling.
The heart health benefits associated with all forms of dance stem from more than just the obvious physical benefits. By facilitating weight loss and strengthening the bones and muscles in your legs and hips, dance is highly-regarded as exercise because it moves the whole body. Research shows that an average adult dancing for 30 minutes can burn about 150 calories. Dancing challenges the mind and can reduce stress. Ballroom dancing and salsa dancing are among the heart healthy winners because of what they do to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.
The mineral magnesium regulates over 300 enzymes in the body. It helps transmit nerve signals and relaxes muscles. Magnesium deficiencies are common in people with heart disease. The Catch 22 is simple: Stress can cause magnesium deficiency and a lack of magnesium can cause stress. The heart healthy mineral can be found in foods such as kelp and dulse from the sea, leafy greens such as spinach and almonds and brazil nuts. Supplementing as necessary is a good back-up plan.
Several studies suggest that a positive outlook reduces stress in the body and that happy people are more inclined to eat well, exercise more, sleep better and overall make healthier lifestyle choices. Although many people are naturally light-hearted, some of us have to work on developing a positive outlook; particularly during times when life can be a rollercoaster of unexpected events. Living in the present, overcoming grudges through forgiveness, focusing on what you can control and developing an attitude of gratitude are steps towards a positive mindset.
We’ve encouraged you to consider walking, circuit training, yoga and biking as among the best forms of physical activity you can do for your heart. If you’re looking for the biggest bang for your buck, it might be swimming. It gets all of the major muscle groups involved, emphasizes steady and deep breathing and gets the heart pumping without jarring impact. Research also shows that the buoyancy of being in the water triggers relaxation for most people. If you’re on target for 30 minutes of exercise five times per week, make a trip to the pool as part of your plan.
We’ve dedicated the month to reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke by promoting heart healthy eating, exercise and lifestyle tips. However, another potential lifesaver is the ability to recognize the signs of a stroke or heart attack so that swift action can be taken immediately. The key is readily recognizing warning signs such as chest pain and shortness of breath. For more symptoms, visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s website:www.heartandstroke.ca/HeartSigns or www.heartandstroke.ca/StrokeSigns. Know the signs and don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1.
With heart disease a concern to adults of all ages – not just the middle-aged and elderly – small lifestyle adjustments have never been more important. Supplementation is one of the ways we can take better care of ourselves, especially in today’s hectic lifestyle. It can make a difference in heart health by supporting your cardiovascular system in several ways. That’s why Purica developed Provascin, a natural formulation that addresses the overall function of the heart. It is a blend of Coenzyme Q10, l-carnitine, alpha-ketoglutaric acid, betaine, chaga, alpha lipoic acid, and Nutricol®. To learn more about Provascin, visit: www.provascin.com
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