February is Heart Health month and is a great reminder to focus on your cardiovascular health. Understanding risk factors for heart disease and how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle are a part of practicing self-care. Instead of jumping straight to dieting or restricting certain foods let’s look at ways to increase nourishing foods and enhance our physical and mental health. We know diets don’t work and many people gain weight back or cannot sustain unrealistic eating habits. Most of us know exercise and eating more fruits and vegetables helps improve our heart health, but what else can we do? Here are my top intuitive eating tips for a heathy heart!
Intuitive Eating for Heart Health
Bump up heart healthy high fiber foods
Look for color and choose a variety of fruits and veggies to add to your diet. If you are overwhelmed with the 5-10 servings a day recommendation start by adding in one at a time to your usual snacks and meals. Try sprinkling spinach into your eggs or adding strawberries to your yogurt. Think about ways you actually enjoy produce. For example, I hate raw plain cauliflower but love mixing cauliflower rice with white rice. It’s an easy way to sneak in a veggie and goes great with Asian inspired dishes like my cauliflower fried rice. Fruits and vegetables contain many healthful nutrients, especially fiber, which seems to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and improve blood vessel function.
Sprinkle in Heart Healthy Fats and Omega 3s
Heart healthy fats can make meals more flavorful and promote satiety. Omega 3s get a lot of hype because they are linked to reducing blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Omega 3s are also know as a mood booster nutrient and may be helpful for people experiencing anxiety or depression. Good sources of omega 3s include salmon, tuna, oysters, flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts and more. The American Heart Association recommends 2-3 servings of fish a week but if you have allergies, don’t like fish, consider a supplement. My favorite omega 3 supplements are made by Nordic Naturals, check out the options through my supplement dispensary to ensure high quality supplements.
Building muscle and preserving muscle mass helps prevent heart disease. Cardiovascular exercise and strength training lowers blood pressure, supports bone health, reduces insulin resistance and promotes circulation. In addition, proper strength activity can improve daily movements, decreasing the chance of injury. I don’t know about you but I’d like to live a long healthy life maintaining my ability to sit, stand and walk! It’s undeniable that exercise helps prevent multiple chronic diseases. Research shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance work may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Joyful movement centers pleasure and fun. Exercise shouldn’t feel like punishment. Joyful movement is a yoga class that leaves you feeling zen. It’s walking outside in the sunshine with a loved one and connecting. It’s lifting weights and leaving the gym feeling empowered and badass. So finding movement you enjoy is important! Check out my CrossFit testimony to see why I incorporate strength training! Movement tips for a heathy heart is my favorite to talk about!
Stress Less and Sleep More
Stress increases cortisol and may lead to high blood pressure, which can pose a risk for heart attack and stroke. In addition, stress can lead to other unhealthy habits but also anxiety and depression, making harder to take care of yourself. It’s important to find coping mechanisms for stress. Consider therapy if you find if difficult to identify your stress relievers. I personally have found so much joy in yoga and crafting, it’s been a game changer to connect with my body and mind! Here are some reducing stress tips!
Sleeping restores the body, helps decrease stress and increases overall happiness. Easy said than done though right? Try to get 7 hours a night and get into a routine. Better sleep can reduce inflammation and is linked to lower blood pressure. Try these strategies to improve sleep.
Empower yourself with knowledge and discuss with your healthcare team
Screen for diabetes: Untreated diabetes can lead to heart disease, among many other complications. It’s important to assess your risk factors and prevent it or have a strategy to manage it. Want to know more? Head to the Centers for Disease Control’s Diabetes Risk Factor Sheet or the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Website for Prediabetes Screening Information!
Stop smoking: It is the best thing you can do for your heart and overall health. Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the U.S, and smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, including atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries.
Know your blood pressure and total cholesterol: These three health values are something to keep track of. Ask your healthcare provider about ideal numbers specific to you.
Heart Healthy Snack Ideas
- Fresh fruit dipped in Greek yogurt or dark chocolate
- Bell pepper slices with salsa and guacamole
- Zucchini or cucumber circles with tuna salad
- Roasted chickpeas or kale chips (try my homemade version with peanut sauce)
- Broccoli and cauliflower florets with hummus
- Popcorn with almonds
- Rice cakes or whole grain toast with peanut butter
- Cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks
- Low-fat or fat-free cheese with apple slices
- Overnight oats
- Fruit and veggie smoothie
- Baked apple or peach with cinnamon
- Raisins, dates, figs and other unsweetened dried fruits with nuts
- Lean turkey slices with lettuce, onion, tomato
- Frozen banana or grapes with dark chocolate
Heart Health Fun Facts:
- The heart can continue beating even when it’s disconnected from the body.
- Your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood every day.
- A woman’s heart beats slightly faster than a man’s heart.
- The first implantable pacemaker was used in 1958. Arne Larsson, who received it, lived longer than the surgeon who implanted it. Larsson died at 86 of a disease that was unrelated to his heart.
- Most heart attacks happen on a Monday.