Building a Healthy Heart

chia seeds

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:
  • Smoking
  • Elevated blood cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • 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,
Jennifer
References
Heart and Stroke Foundation 
World’s Healthiest Foods 

Motivation – Where do you get it?

Motivation is defined simply as: the reason to act.

Seems pretty basic right? If I have motivation, I have a reason to act. If I’m lacking motivation, I don’t have a reason to act and therefore I don’t.

So how does that play out in real life and the world of fitness?

I’ve been spending more time on Twitter lately and it’s been a very interesting experience. I like doing searches to see what kind of things people are saying about fitness, health, nutrition and motivation.

If you do a search for “need motivation” for example, you’ll see people posting every 10 minutes or less on average. Now, this isn’t fitness only, but it still relates.

If you start doing searches about needing a personal trainer, it seems one of the top reasons anyone wants a personal trainer is because they’re lacking their own motivation and need someone to motivate them.

Some examples:

Motivation 1 Motivation 2 Motivation 3 Motivation 4 Motivation 5

What these are essentially saying is: I don’t have my own reason to act so I want you to give me one.

I see a major problem with this kind of thinking: The motivation is NOT IN YOUR HANDS. In this scenario, the motivation would be in the personal trainers hands. THEY would hold the stick, not you.

If they’re the ones holding the stick and pushing your forward, how are you ever going to build your own motivation? For the rare person, they do build their own motivation, but for most they don’t.

Now this doesn’t mean personal training is bad, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m trying to express is that if you feel you need motivation, getting someone else to push you isn’t going to work in the long run.

What you need instead is to develop your own motivation.

Yes, it’s that simple!

… In theory.

Ever heard someone say: “that’s easier said than done”? Ya, it fits here too.

Building your own motivation can be hard and can take a while. Some days it will be high, others it will be low. Some weeks will be awesome, some will suck. It’s the nature of learning anything, there’s ups and downs.

So the big question should be: How do I build my own motivation?

I know for sure that there isn’t some magical equation that will work for everyone (sorry), but I think there is a guideline we can follow.

Here are 5 steps to building your own motivation:

  1. Vision – create a strong vision of your goal and where you want to end up. Make a vision board, change your screen saver or post pictures around the house. Having a clear vision of your goal will help inspire you on low motivation days.
  2. Belief – build the belief that you can. Start slow and start small. Small wins over a few weeks does wonders for self confidence and believing you can succeed.
  3. Consistency – following through on your goal is huge. Now this is normally where people feel they need the motivation to do this step, but this step can be how you build motivation. Even on the days you don’t want to, follow through with your plan. (this is where it’s very important to start small)
  4. Reminders – review your vision and goals daily. You’ll need constant reminders to stay focused and not lose sight of what you’re trying to build.
  5. Expect setbacks – failures, road blocks, set backs and struggle are all part of growth. It’s literally impossible to have growth without them. So stop pretending you’ll be perfect and be okay with the fact that you will have setbacks on your journey.

The final thing I’ll say about building motivation is that it’s often best to reach out to others for support. Even the best of us can use a hand here and there.

Support in my mind is someone who will keep you accountable to your own goals. Someone who can support you to build your own motivation, not be the motivation for you.

I hope this gives some insight into motivation, how we perceive it and where I personally think it should come from. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.

Chad