It’s February and, thanks to Valentine’s Day, you’ll be seeing pink and red hearts everywhere you go. This is a good reminder to think about your own amazing heart, which beats 100,000 times every day! You don’t have to think about your heart to make it beat, but caring for your heart will help it be healthier and beat longer and stronger. Traditional Chinese medicine regards the heart as the master of the entire body, linking and harmonizing the body-mind-emotions. A healthy heart supports overall wellbeing.
Eat For Your Heart
The heart is a muscle. It needs lots of nutrients to have enough energy for all those heartbeats! Here are some foods your heart will love.
Salmon – This lean protein is a great energy source, is super-rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and contains astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant.
Avocado – Another healthy fat source, avocados help lower LDL levels and raise HDL cholesterol and they improve the absorption of nutrients from other foods.
Greens – Spinach, kale, arugula, chard… so many greens, all of them great sources of folate and other B-vitamins as well as artery-clearing fiber.
Berries – Full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components, berries are great for your heart and the entire cardiovascular system. Organic berries are best!
Chocolate – Dark chocolate is more than delicious! It is also full of antioxidants including polyphenols, which can increase nitric oxide levels, lower blood pressure, and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Supplement Your Heart
Sometimes food isn’t enough for optimal heart health. These supplements can help.
CoQ10 – A powerful antioxidant and an essential building block for cellular energy, it is useful in preventing and treating many cardiovascular conditions. Supplementation is especially important for people taking statin medications.
Fish oil/Flax oil – Concentrated omega-3s for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support.
L-Carnitine – This amino acid supports energy production by helping fatty acids (fuel) get into the mitochondria (cellular energy centers). All muscles need carnitine, and this includes the heart!
Magnesium – Muscles also need magnesium for proper functioning. Low magnesium can contribute to muscle cramping and heart arrhythmias.
Vitamin D – In addition to supporting immune function, boosting mood, and aiding in building strong bones, vitamin D is useful in maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Live For Your Heart
Daily lifestyle choices can support long-term heart health.
Exercise – Like all muscles, your heart can benefit from a good workout. Exercise also increases deep breaths, improving oxygen delivery to the heart and the rest of the body.
Sun – Plants aren’t the only living things to benefit from sunlight! Sun exposure can increase vitamin D and nitric oxide levels, boost mood, and recent studies have shown that exposure to full spectrum light greatly improves recovery after a heart attack.
Stable blood sugar – High blood sugar levels can irritate the heart and blood vessels, setting the stage for plaque build up. Keeping blood sugar stable decreases the risk of vascular inflammation and plaque formation.
Sleep – Sleep is the time of repair and restoration! Research has shown that 6-8 hours of sleep per night helps to stabilize blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar, as well as decreasing risk of many cardiovascular diseases.
Love – Love is a powerful emotion and the driving force for many of our actions. It’s also good for your health! Research shows that the positive emotional states of love, appreciation, and gratitude balance the heart rate and rhythm, increase cognitive function, and improve healing response throughout the entire body.
So this month, and all year long, remember to love your heart!
-by Amy Love, ND