We think February should be heart health month! With that in mind, it seems like a great time to hone up on healthy habits that are very good for our hearts.
First, let’s define a habit. If you look it up, there are actually at least five definitions for the word habit. We are mainly interested in one: a customary practice done frequently if not daily. Keep in mind, as it is something we are actively practicing, we may not always be good at it. This means it’s normal if you mess up your diet or skip your walk, or whatever. Don’t give up. Just start practicing again ASAP. The more you practice good habits, the better. 😉
This list of heart healthy habits are in no particular order as a few could be number one!
Exercise for Heart Health
You knew this one would be up there. But do you know it doesn’t have to be a lot? For people with low activity levels it can be adding in a 10 minute walk most days. Higher activity? Make it jogging, or running or dancing! Just adding in ten minutes daily of activity that gets your heart rate up can help more than you realize.
Many people sit all day at their jobs. Sitting for hours restricts the blood flow to our legs, which can lead to arterial disease, heart attack or stroke.
Dr. Samantha Smith, a physician of sports medicine at Yale Medicine, explains it well: “When we stand or sit, our blood can pool in our legs,” but when we walk “our muscles are squeezing, [and] that helps with improving our circulation in our body.”
Heck, walking just two minutes out of many hours during the day is also a great habit. Gets some activity in, and gets your eyes away from the computer screen.
But, there are other new exercise habits you can give a try. Instead of elevating your heart rate and keeping it there for an extended period, many experts are expounding the benefits of adding in High Intensity Interval Training to their weekly workout routines.
I can’t say enough about how adding in two 12 minute HIIT workouts a week has improved my cardiovascular health. My heart rate is lower when I workout now, my heart recovers faster, and I have much better respiratory endurance. Not quite heart health, but closely related. I can get in stretching a little before and after and still be done in 20 minutes!
Even though I only do this twice a week, I’ve been doing it for 18 months, so it definitely classifies as a habit.
According to Dr. Smith, “Increasing your cardiac output during exercise helps to strengthen the heart muscle and improve fitness”.
So, bottom line, make physical activity a habit and you will be doing your heart a favor.
Learn to Relax
It’s the opposite of our first suggestion, but taking time to just breathe for a few moments and relax can do wonders. There are many different relaxation techniques out there including meditation, breathing exercises, and casually walking in the woods. When we are relaxed our heart rate is slower and our stress levels are down. Studies show that practicing relaxation may help with
• Lowering Heart Rate
• Lowering Stress Levels
• Lowering blood pressure
• Improving digestion
• Increasing blood flow to major organs
• Regulating blood sugar
• Reducing muscle pain
• Improving focus
• Improving sleep.
What a list!
Again, this doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just breathing deeply for a few minutes can alleviate stress! Other daily relaxation techniques used by people in my life:
• Massage chair
• Hot tub
• Knitting, woodworking or other hobby
• Meditation, chanting, prayer, prayer beads
• Casually walking in nature – in the woods or park or on the beach
Below is a list that can be relaxing, but may also be stimulating for some people, so set your intent and choose accordingly before using these as relaxation techniques.
• Watching TV or movies
• Scrolling through social media
Keep Your Immune System Healthy
There are a couple reasons why our immune system is linked to heart health. First, being sick is hard on our whole body, including our heart. Not being sick is much better for our heart!
Secondly, the primary cause of coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease and stroke is atherosclerosis. This is widely accepted by experts to be a chronic inflammatory disease. And it has come up a lot lately that inflammation is often an immune response. In recent years cardiologists have begun using therapies that trigger an immune response as a way of preventing and treating cardiovascular disease.
I’m a huge fan of certain supplements as a good daily immune boosting habit.
Raw Cod Liver Oil tops my list for general health tonic and immune booster. All three brands we sell are clean and processed without heat or chemicals so, essentially raw. Your body will thank you!
A good whole food Vitamin C Supplement is a close second on my list of the best immune boosters. My all time favorite for price and quality is Perfect Acerola in Powder or Capsules. Acerola cherry powder is naturally high in vitamin C with 1/4 scoop having a whopping 267% of the RDA for vitamin C – plus all the wonderful co-factors so our bodies absorb it properly.
Eat More Heart Healthy Foods
Another one you knew would be up here. Yes, eating a clean diet of real food is better for your heart, but not always possible all day at every meal. Here is a list of small changes you can practice that add up:
• Eat one more fresh fruit or veggie every day – Did you catch that? One more. So if you generally eat a salad, add in something else at a different time of day. If you rarely eat fresh fruits or vegetables, then it’s time to start!
• Replace empty calories with water – Empty calories are soda, processed sweetened teas and coffees, bottled and powdered fruit drinks like Kool Aid and Country Time Lemonade, and even many fruit juice drinks.
A good way to start is have a glass of water for every serving of the other stuff, you will be doing your body some good.
You can also, try these alternatives to drinks sweetened with sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other toxins. I like herbal teas sweetened with honey, maple syrup, stevia or monkfruit. And coffee sweetened with real maple syrup is amazing!
I have the world’s best iced tea station in my kitchen. My new favorite herbal tea is Blood Orange Vanilla Rooibos twig tea from Posively Tea Company. They also sell an amazing Root Beer Rooibos! And they sell conscientiously sourced and real food flavored coffees! With beverages like this around, you don’t need the sugary processed stuff.
• Replace your usual snack with nuts – Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans and more. Nuts in general are very good for your heart. But don’t get them with sugar and loads of salt or you may cancel out the heart health benefits. Try this easy recipe for Maple Glazed Nuts that will get you wanting to eat nuts as a snack every day!
• Try to eat fresh fish once a week – Adding most types of fresh seafood to your diet adds beneficial omegas along with other vitamins and minerals like Vitamins D and A, as well as B vitamins. Or try adding in a good daily Oyster supplement like the ones we sell:
>>>Try Oyster Power Here<<<
>>>Try OysterZinc Here<<<
• Eat grass-fed heart organ meat – I know this sounds crazy to most modern people, but eating grass-fed bovine heart is very good for our hearts. There are oodles of important nutrients in the heart, including heart specific protein, enzymes, peptides, amino acids, and co-factors. You see, heart meat contains nutrients only found in the heart that our body recognizes and sends to our heart, thus requiring our bodies to spend less energy and other resources to create them. And this theory is backed by science!
>>>Try NXGEN Wholefoods Organic Beef Heart Here<<<
Count Your Blessings
Does this one surprise you? It is all too easy to get stuck in negative thinking patterns. By taking a few moments every day to acknowledge the good things in your life you start to tap into positive emotions. Experiencing positive emotions has been linked to better health and greater well-being. Kind of like negative emotions – chronic anger, worry, anxiety etc. – have been shown to contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.
The power of positive thinking has very similar benefits to the above. But this involves extending those positive emotions to many situations throughout your day. 😉
Another similar concept is putting out there what you want to attract. This involves talking and thinking about good things you want to happen. For example, if someone wants a new job this year, they would regularly think about and discuss their ideal job. 😉
Anything we do to add more positive emotions into our day is a good thing for our heart.
So that’s our list. As you can see it doesn’t have to be drastic changes. You can take baby steps and still do your heart a world of good. What do you think? Are you ready to start adding some heart healthy habits into your life?