You know that big organ beating away in your chest? You know, that life line that keeps going without us really thinking about it.
You’re right, our heart.
Just sit and take a second to appreciate just how amazing our bodies are designed. It’s pretty hard to comprehend how every system works synergistically with one another. Designed to protect, react, feel, grow, thrive.
The heart and vascular system is one of the most important systems our body has. Not only does this system deliver vital oxygen and nutrients throughout our entire body, it also aids in the removal of waste products.
But these days, we sure do like to push our bodies to the limits, and our heart and arteries taking majority of the blow. Stress, processed foods, and stimulants being the big kahunas. Sure, our bodies are designed to adapt, but if we push too far there comes a point when it has to tell us enough is enough. And this message comes out loud and clear, usually in different form of heart disease and stroke. According to Stats Canada, heart disease and stroke are two of the three leading causes of death in Canada. The major risk factors for these being:
- Elevated blood cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
So what can be done to keep our hearts healthy and happy? Below are 8 simple nutrition or lifestyle recommendations that every single one of us has the ability to adopt for a healthy heart.
1. If you’re a smoker, take the steps to stop.
Probably stating the obvious here, but did you know that smokers who quit this habit cut their risk of heart disease in half over the span of just one year. Amazing, right?
2. Increase your consumption of fiber-rich plant foods
Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, raw nuts and seeds all contribute to a healthy ticker.
3. Reduce caffeine consumption
I’m not telling you to cold turkey cut it out of your system, but instead savouring that cup in the morning, grabbing a green tea in the afternoon, and making sure you have a water bottle with you at all times. Baby steps. Don’t shock the system. General rule, for one cup of coffee consumed, you should be rehydrating with two cups of water.
4. Regular exercise
Regular exercise is extremely important in reducing your risks. And I’m putting emphasis on regular exercise. Not only does moving our bodies help to balance out cholesterol levels and improve the supply of blood and oxygen to our heart, it makes us feel great! Go endorphins go.
5. Magnesium and whole foods
Magnesium is essential to proper functioning of the entire cardiovascular system, and it’s not uncommon that most of us are not meeting the daily requirement of 350mg for men and 300mg for women. And guess what? In nature, magnesium occurs abundantly in whole foods. Best sources being legumes, seeds, nuts, whole sprouted grains, and dark leafy greens.
6. Ease up on the processed foods
For many reasons: reducing empty calories, trans fats and sodium levels. Remember, the closer to the whole form of the food the better. An example of a simple change: Replacing a bag of potato chips with homemade baked sweet potato fries.
7. Watch your sodium intake
Sodium is essential for the heart to function, however in today’s Standard American Diet, the sodium level is through the roof leading to high blood pressure. Staying clear of overly processed foods, getting your whole foods, and lightly seasoning with a high quality sea salt are all steps in the right direction.
8. Love your healthy fats
Fats used to get a seriously bad rep, where all fat was categorized into one big bad scary thing to avoid. I could do an entire blog post just on fats, but for now remember this: steer clear of the bad fats such as highly processed vegetable oils, corn oils, soy oils, reduce saturday fat from red meats, and incorporate in healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, sesame oil, cold pressed olive oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds, free range eggs and cold water fish.
In health and happy hearts,
Heart and Stroke Foundation
World’s Healthiest Foods