13 Feb 2019
A Valentine’s Day Guide to Heart Health
13 Feb 2019
People around the world reflect on love and heartbreak on this Hallmark holiday. As a naturopathic doctor, Valentine’s day always makes me think about heart disease. As the world floods with heart-shaped cards, candy and chocolate, why not use this day as an annual reminder to check in and see how physically healthy your heart is?
When we talk about heart health and naturopathic medicine, the two biggest areas I focus on are blood pressure and cholesterol. High levels set you up for higher likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. Some risks of developing heart disease, our genetics for example, can’t be helped. The good news is that there are easy lifestyle changes you can make to control many of the other risk factors.
Here are my top 5 tips to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels healthy:
- Dark chocolate for the win!
Put dark chocolate on your Valentine’s Day wish list this year! It’s low in sugar compared to it’s milk chocolate friends and full of flavonoids that can protect the heart. One study showed that people who ate dark chocolate 5 or more times a week had a 57% lower change of developing heart disease than people who didn’t eat chocolate. Look for a bar that is at least 70% cocoa and keep your serving size to 2-3 squares.
- Healthy fats for a healthy heart.
Consuming a diet with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids is wonderful for heart disease prevention. Eating wild fatty fish like salmon on a regular basis as we age helps to lower total cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. If you can’t stomach seafood, don’t worry. There are plenty of fish oil supplements available. Look for a product with high eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This omega-3 is important for managing inflammation, which reduces risk for heart disease.
Get moving! 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day helps to lower blood sugar and blood pressure. It also helps to increase your HDL (good cholesterol). All factors in managing risk for developing heart disease. Added bonus: exercise helps with stress management and improves circulation for a stronger immune system.
- Limit alcohol.
No it’s NOT good for your heart health. This summer a large study was published that really illuminated the issue of alcohol consumption. Overall, we drink too much, especially Canadian women. The only amount of alcohol that helps prevent chronic disease is none. So instead of reaching for a glass of wine after work, consider sparkling water or a mocktail instead.
- Get your veggies!
Colorful vegetables and fruit are rich in antioxidants. Dark berries and green veggies (kale, broccoli) help protect our cells from damage that increases risk for heart disease. Add them to your smoothies for breakfast or chopped up in a salad for lunch. They are a high source of vitamin K that helps to ensure healthy blood clotting and nitrates that help to lower blood pressure. One study found that a diet higher in green leafy vegetables reduced the risk for heart disease by 16%.
If you are struggling with high blood pressure or cholesterol and would like to know what else you can do to get these levels under control, click HERE to book a visit with me!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
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