Simple steps to keep your heart healthy

Among the many benefits of maintaining heart health include the ability to live a long life, relieve symptoms of depression, and reduce the chance of dementia. According to a proverb, “With a healthy heart, the beat carries on.” The path to a healthy heart is broken down by Luke Coutinho, Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle – Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, Founder of You Care.

Tips to keep your heart healthy.

Emotional health: Today emotional health is a no.1 priority for better heart health. Negative emotions and thoughts stimulate the flight and fight response which results in the production of cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol are known to also elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation, all of which can harm heart health. Invest more time in healing yourself emotionally through yoga, pranayama, meditation, visualization, laughter, positive affirmations, etc.

Vitamin Breathing: One deep inhale and exhale is all it takes to calm your mind and heart. Deep breathing is known to shift our body from a state of fight and flight to a state of rest and digestion almost instantly. This makes a regular practice of deep breathing an extremely heart-healthy habit.

Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods: The main reasons behind heart attacks are not cholesterol but inflammation and oxidative damage in the heart, blood vessels, endothelial lining, arteries, etc. Inflammation and oxidative damage are caused by the free radicals from the food that we eat, the air that we breathe, and several lifestyle choices that we make. Foods like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and black pepper – are potent foods to curb inflammation. Additionally, eat an array of differently colored fruits and berries when they are in season.

Prioritize sleep: Poor sleep or lack of sleep can be destructive to our heart health. This is because when we sleep, the heart gets a break and works lesser. The heart is a muscle and it requires recovery. Lack of sleep also increases insulin resistance, blood pressure, and inflammation.

Stay active: Sitting excessively is like smoking. Make sure you are physically active throughout the day. The risks of heart attacks are more in people who live inactive lifestyles. Walking, yoga, Zumba, and trekking are extremely beneficial exercises for the heart.

Cut out smoking: Both active and passive smoking is toxic to the heart. Smoking contributes to both oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. The chemicals emitted from cigarette cause plaque build-up in the arteries. It also depletes several vitamins and minerals and hardens the arteries.

Get more raw food in your diet for its fiber and antioxidant intake.

10 foods that will help your heart stay young and healthy.

Good quality oils: like coconut oil, pure A2 Gir cow ghee, and mustard oil help boost good cholesterol and fight inflammation.

Omega 3-rich foods: Omega 3 fatty acid is an important and extremely healthy fatty acid for the heart. It helps in curbing inflammation, heals arterial walls, and boosts HDL while lowering LDL. E.g.: fatty fish, flax seeds, walnuts, and chia seeds to name a few.

Beetroot: for its ability to act as a vasodilator and high antioxidant content.

Garlic: for its inflammatory and bad cholesterol-lowering properties. It also acts as a natural blood thinner.

Organic tea (black, white, oolong, matcha): for its high antioxidant content, especially EGCG. Also, research now finds that it holds potent cholesterol-lowering properties and can prevent plaque build-up in the arteries.

Fruits like grapes, pomegranate, and berries: for their high antioxidant content.

Vitamin E-rich foods: for their ability to curb inflammation, fight free radicals, cell repair, and heal arteries. It’s a must-have for people who are exposed to cigarette and industrial pollution. E.g.: sunflower seeds, unsalted peanuts, avocados, almonds, and sesame.

Magnesium-rich foods: for their ability to boost cardiac muscle health, and blood pressure. E.g.: all nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, cacao.

Potassium-rich foods: plays a role in every heartbeat. It manages blood pressure, and cardiac muscle contractions and keeps the heart rhythm steady. E.g.: banana, avocados, pumpkin.

Vitamin K-rich foods: for high antioxidant properties and preventing calcification of arteries. E.g.: green leafy vegetables, broccoli, prunes, avocado.

Foods to avoid

Refined sugar and refined carbohydrate intake: Both of them can contribute to inflammation, spike blood sugar levels and thus increase the risk of a heart attack. Also, excess of both could lead to elevated triglyceride levels. On the other hand, complex carbs like dosas, idlis, rotis, hand-pounded rice, etc are all healthy carbs and can be included in your diet for good health and preventing the risk of a heart attack. People who give up on such complex carbs end up being deficient in Vitamin K2 – which can result in the calcification of arteries.

Refined salt: Refined salt and MSG can create inflammation in the body, elevate blood pressure and cause water retention thereby burdening the kidneys. One can opt for Himalayan pink or rock salt after they keep their health professional in the loop.

Refined oils: Refined vegetable oils are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega 6 is harmful to health as it leads to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.

Processed and packaged foods: Processed and packaged foods too are causative to increased rates of heart attacks and stroke. This is again because this packaged and processed food is prepared with low-grade refined oil which increases oxidative damage and inflammation in the body.

Excessive tea and coffee, alcohol: Overconsumption of tea, and coffee can aggravate or cause acidity and inflammation, more so if the beverage contains sugar, cream, and other additives. Alcohol too can raise bad cholesterol, cause inflammation and elevate blood pressure.

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