Caring For Your Heart Should Be On Everyone’s To-Do List
As we stroll along the Main Streets of the Hamptons eating ice cream and enjoying BBQ’s this summer, take a moment to consider your heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people in the United States. With 655,000 people dying from cardiovascular disease every year, caring for your heart should be on everyone’s to-do list. Risk factors for heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity. Diet and lifestyle interventions have a solid track record on helping reduce these risk factors. Follow the “3 M” guidelines about meals, movement and mindfulness and you can make your heart happy.
In matters of the heart, diet is king. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates and lean proteins and low in saturated fats and refined sugar is the cornerstone of a heart healthy diet. So, what does that look like?
Complex carbohydrates are long chains of sugar molecules, or polysaccharides, that make your body work to digest them. These fiber-rich foods release glucose slowly into the blood stream which keeps blood sugar stable. A far cry from the rollercoaster ride that refined sugars put you on! Complex carbs also tend to help keep you feeling fuller for longer, so can help with weight control.
Some heart healthy stand-outs include: Buckwheat, millet and whole oats. Also, sweet potatoes, squash, beets, avocado, berries and apples are great options.
Lean proteins are protein sources that are low in saturated fats. In the animal protein world this means lean cuts of beef, fowl without the skin, and omega-3-rich fish. In the plant-based protein world this means beans, nuts, seeds and even algae.
Heart healthy stand-outs here are lentils and beans, including tofu. Also, spirulina, quinoa, hemp seeds, chickpeas, salmon, anchovies, extra-lean ground beef, grilled chicken and pork tenderloin.
Maintaining a healthy body weight and minimizing belly fat are essential for a healthy heart. A big part of achieving this is accomplished by regular exercise. Data suggests that 61% of American’s do not get enough. That’s a lot! Moving your body on a regular basis helps reduce body weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. Additionally, exercise has been shown to help control blood sugar. As few as 15 minutes of walking or gardening a day has been shown to increase lifespan by an average of three years. The benefits of exercise are multiplied by the amount of time and intensity, though the benefits tend to plateau at about 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day. So, get out and get moving! Even just a brisk walk around the block helps.
Another way to lower your risk of having a cardiovascular event is to meditate. Meditation has been shown to help reduce blood pressure and lower heart rate. It does this by activating your parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for your ‘rest-and-digest’ mode. This is in direct contrast to your sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for your ‘fight-or-flight’ mode. By activating your parasympathetic nervous system, you are deactivating your sympathetic nervous system, causing your body to de-stress. A 2019 study showed that after 8 weeks of less than 20 minutes of meditation per day, patients with hypertension reduced their ambulatory blood pressure by a clinically significant amount. The extra bonus was they were also less depressed!
So, in this green issue – think red! During these warm summer months make a point to love your heart by choosing lean proteins, eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts and seeds while minimizing sugars and refined carbohydrates. Get out and move your body and make some time to manage your stress with mindfulness and mediation. Your heart will thank you.