February is American Heart Month, and while it’s a good idea to care for our hearts every day of the year, now is a particularly great time to focus on holistic ways to combat heart disease.
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 cause of death globally. Here are a few ways to give your heart a little extra love:
Choose heart-healthy foods.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If your numbers are high, there are foods that can help decrease your blood pressure naturally: oats, fruits and vegetables including kiwi and spinach, probiotic-rich yogurt and even dark chocolate. While most diets emphasize foods you should avoid, at Integrative Nutrition, we like to focus on adding in more good things to your diet to “crowd out” the bad stuff and ultimately kick unhealthy cravings to the curb.
Sweat it out.
It’s no secret that exercise has been linked to heart health, and the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of both. Exercise can include anything from walking to dancing to yoga—choose the one that speaks to you so you'll stick with it.
Adding a little Zen to your daily routine might just extend your life. At Integrative Nutrition, we believe in nurturing our bodies with primary food, too, which can include fostering healthy relationships and a spiritual practice. Meditation is just one way to feed your soul—and there’s research to back up its benefits. A 2012 study found that African-Americans with heart disease who practiced transcendental meditation regularly were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die than those who attended a health education class over more than five years.
There’s also evidence that gratitude can help fend off heart disease, so be sure to say thanks today. A study published in the American Psychological Association found that recognizing and giving thanks for the positive things in life can improve the health of patients with asymptomatic heart failure. Patients who kept gratitude journals for eight weeks actually showed a decrease in inflammation and improved heart rate. Consider keeping a notebook handy to jot down all the things you love about your life.
Get some rest.
If you’re a troubled sleeper, you’re not alone. With all the technology at our disposal, it can be difficult to turn off our computers and our minds at night. Unfortunately, poor sleep can take a toll on our hearts. Lack of sleep, especially when it’s chronic, has been associated with high blood pressure and heart disease. To help get a good night's rest, avoid caffeine late in the day, exercise regularly and stick to a sleep schedule to keep your body’s clock running smoothly.
What steps are you taking this month to improve your heart health? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Want more healthy tips? Check out our "Ready for Love" Guide! This guide showcases what TRUE LOVE is all about and how to make it part of your life this month and the whole year-long.