I walk into my local grocery store and am bombarded with red and pink hearts, boxes of heart shaped candies, and flowers. I’m sure you have experienced the same this month as it is the month for Valentine’s. Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, whether you have a sweetie to celebrate with or not; one thing’s for sure… you can be your own Valentine. This can be the year that you celebrate the month of Valentine’s Day by making a commitment to loving yourself more. In other words, taking better care of yourself and especially since it is the month for hearts, taking better care of your heart health.
Importance of Hearth Health
Most heart associated deaths are caused by heart attacks and congestive heart failure. High blood pressure, obesity, irregular heartbeat, bad cholesterol levels and other conditions that overwork the heart are all culprits. The number one most important thing you can do to improve your heart health is to change your nutritional habits. One research study in Circulation reported a reduction in the risk of heart attack or stroke death for people eating diets of heart healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and fish by 35%. For those participants that had heart disease already, they still showed a 28% risk reduction in having a second heart attack or stroke by eating foods for a healthy heart. Walter Willett, MD, Harvard School of Public Health chair of nutrition, is convinced that eating heart healthy foods can do more for keeping a heart healthy than medications for heart disease as medications only reduce the risk by 25 to 30 percent and a heart healthy diet can reduce the risk by 70%.
Nutrition for Heart Health
When getting on board with a heart healthy diet, take the following into consideration. If you aren’t getting enough of these types of foods, then it’s time to make some changes.
Healthy Fats – Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to be not only important for heart health, but also for brain health. This polyunsaturated fat has been found to help reduce plaque in arteries, lower triglycerides, raise HDL cholesterol levels, and reduce inflammation that can cause clots that lead to heart attack. You can get omega 3’s by eating cold water fatty fish like salmon, halibut, and mackerel, by taking fish oil supplements, from seeds such as chia or flax, and from olive oil. AFA bluegreen algae is also a rich source of omega 3 and has the balance of omega 3 to omega 6 that is optimal for humans. Consider that the American Heart Associate recommends having meals with fish at least twice a week and that gives you an idea of how much omega 3’s you should have in your diet. Monounsaturated fats are another type of fat to add into a heart healthy diet as they can help reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. Foods with this type of fats include avocados, olive oil, sunflower oil, nuts, and peanut butter.
Fiber – Lauren Graf, registered dietician and co-director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, tells us that soluble fiber foods help absorb cholesterol while in the intestines thus keeping it from getting into the bloodstream. Good food sources for fiber include oatmeal, whole grains, chia seeds, beans and legumes, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, and fruits with the skin on.
Coenzyme Q10 – Many scientific studies have shown the value of coenzyme Q10 for heart health and boosting immunity. It is also something our bodies need to make cellular energy. We do make some of this naturally ourselves, but as we get older, we tend to produce less and less. This is when it can be helpful to turn to whole food supplements. Ubiquinol, the active form of coenzyme Q10, can be found in conjunction with other heart healthy ingredients such as beta glucan, mushrooms, and wild bluegreen algae in this supplement. There aren’t many foods that we can get coenzyme Q10 from so supplementation is usually the best way to get more of this coenzyme. You can get some small amounts by eating organ meats like liver or kidney, sardines, mackerel, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and peanuts.
B Vitamins – B vitamins, including folic acid, are important for healthy red blood cells, and have been found to be helpful in reducing risk of death from stroke and heart disease. Getting enough B vitamins in your diet helps reduce production of the amino acid homocysteine that in high amounts can contribute to heart disease, blood clots, heart attack and stroke. Food sources to add to the diet for B vitamins include lettuce, spinach, beans, liver, fish, legumes, whole grains, and fortified cereal. You can also find B vitamin supplements if your healthcare provider thinks you need additional help and bluegreen algae is a good B vitamin source from wholefoods rather than turning to synthetic vitamin supplements.
These are just a few things to get you started on a heart healthy diet. Consult your healthcare provider and do some research online and you’ll find lots of recipes and foods to spice up your meals in a way that supports heart health. Making these changes now is one way to start taking better care of yourself, but don’t stop after Valentine’s is over. Make these changes a lasting lifestyle change and be your own Valentine all year round.