With February officially serving as Heart Health Month, we turn to Naturopathic Doctor* Julia Strickler for the rundown on little-known heart facts and tips on how to best care for your heart and overall cardiovascular system. The good news is that the best foods and activities for your heart may also be the most delicious and enjoyable, as well!
Facts about your heart:
- On average, your heart beats about 100,000 times per day. Over the course of an average human lifespan, the heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times.
- A healthy resting heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute for an adult. Athletes often have slower heart rates, while children typically have faster average heart rates.
- A healthy adult heart is about the size of your two fists. Located in the center of your chest between your lungs, your heart pumps blood through over 60,000 miles of blood vessels and capillary beds.
- The majority of heart attacks occur on Monday mornings. The theory: Stress. Watch this TED talk to learn how to make stress your friend.
- Heart disease is the #1 Killer in the US. About 600,000 people die of heart disease every year in the US. 1 in every 4 deaths is a result of heart disease.
Natural ways to support heart health:
- An-apple-a-day. An apple-a-day may prove to be just as beneficial as a low-dose statin when looking at preventing vascular death in people over 50 years old. A study in the British Medical Journal revealed that consuming an apple-a-day helped to reduce vascular deaths almost as much as statin drugs with virtually no side effects. Apples are not a replacement for current medications, but this is promising research.
- Move more, sit less. Looking at data from the California Men’s Health Study, over the course of 8 years, the men who were most sedentary outside of work and overall were more likely to develop heart failure, regardless of their level of exercise. The more you can stand or walk during the day, the better your cardiovascular profile. There are even desks that cater to standing work-stations to reduce the number of sitting hours per day for office workers.
- Fat feeds your heart. A 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found a 30% reduction of heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease when people switched to a Mediterranean diet. The study was cut short after the researchers saw such clear results that they felt it was unethical to continue for the groups that were not eating Mediterranean style meal plans. To follow a Mediterranean diet, encourage olive oil, nuts, beans, fruits and veggies, fish, and moderate wine consumption.
- Laughter is the best medicine. Belly laughing can send 20% more blood flowing through your body. The increased circulation from laughing helps to provide the essential nutrient exchange to your tissues for healing. This is one good reason that laughter really is the best medicine!
- Love, sex and heart health. A healthy, active sex life can decrease a man’s risk of heart attack by half. A British study looking at men who orgasm three or four times per week found significant reduction in heart attack and stroke. On the flipside, erectile dysfunction could be an early warning sign of developing heart disease and should be discussed with your doctor as part of a cardiac work-up.
- Mood matters. There is a strong association between increased incidence of heart disease associated with depression. A review of positive psychological well-being and coronary heart disease (CHD) found that there is a modest, but consistent reduced risk of CHD in people with positive outlooks. However, a mechanism for the relationship has not yet been identified. The bottom line: taking care of your mental health may help your heart.
- Heat up for heart health. Saunas may be able to help heal the heart. People with chronic heart failure went to the sauna five times per week and improved their heart function and their exercise endurance. Serotonin-releasing neurons also fire in response to the increased body temperature, helping to make the sauna experience more pleasurable. Peoples Wellness Center at US 183 and 620 offers a state-of-the-art infrared sauna treatment for optimal benefits without the extreme heat. Click here for more details.
Take Home Tips:
- Eat. Follow a Mediterranean-style meal plan.
- Move! Sit less. Try a sauna.
- Don’t smoke.
- Laugh. As much as possible!
- Love. With your whole self.
by Julia Strickler, ND*. Julia is available for consultation at the Central, South and Westlake Peoples locations.
*Naturopathic doctors are not currently licensed in the state of Texas.