Do you love your heart? It surely deserves to be loved and cared for – you know where you’d be without it! World Heart Day 2013 is 29 September, so it’s a great opportunity to think about your heart and learn more about the things you can do to take better care of it.
In this month’s newsletter we’re looking over the risk factors for heart disease, thinking about the link between your heart and your emotions, and taking a look into a special island community that has exceptional heart health among its long-lived locals.
A healthy heart is the starting point for overall good health, so we’ll also introduce our foundational supplements – Total Balance for overall health, Kiwi-Klenz for digestive health and Omega-3 to support your cardiovascular and heart health.
Who’s at risk from an unhealthy heart?
Many people assume that the only people at risk of heart disease are elderly, overweight men. While it’s true that your risk increases as you age, getting older is by no means the only risk factor for heart disease. Every single person – regardless of their age, race or gender – should understand that heart disease is complex, and is related to many risk factors including genetics, lifestyle – even their emotions.
The sooner you become aware of your heart’s health and function the better. The good news is that it’s never too late. It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, how you live your life or even the size of your waistline…the important thing, is that you can always reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your current heart health.
Tips to get your heart attitude in shape
Firstly, adopt an ‘only if’ approach to your health rather than an ‘if only’ approach. Faced with a decision like whether or not to have that second piece of gateau, an ‘only if’ response might be ‘only if I’ve done all my scheduled exercise for the week’. An ‘if only’ response, however, would be to eat it without much thought, but then spend hours regreting it.
If you take time to look at the benefits that come from an ‘only if’ attitude to protecting your heart, you’ll prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to make the right decision and take the right action when you have to make a call.
The following tips aren’t new, but by starting each one with ‘only if’ you’ll see what a difference these two words can make to your heart attitude:
Only if I schedule an annual check up with my GP will I get a better understanding of my health
There are many reasons why people don’t like visiting their doctor. Ignorance may be bliss but an attitude of ignorance can be dangerous for your health. Some people might say, “So what if I don’t have an annual checkup, what’s the worst that can happen?” Having a check up will give you the facts you need to maintain the health of your heart as well as the overall wellness of your body.
Set a date for your checkup every year. If you want to make sure you don’t forget, schedule it on your birthday. That’s right, treat yourself to a checkup…it could be the best gift you’ve ever given and the best one you’ll ever receive.
Only if I start an exercise regimen will I improve the function and health of my cardiovascular system
Make time for heart health by making time for exercise. Doing some form of regular physical activity will ultimately strengthen your heart.
What if your heart could pump more blood through your body without difficulty or strain as a result of a simple exercise regimen? Sounds good, right? What if all you needed was 30 minutes of exercise a day to lower your risk of heart disease?
If you have an hour to spare, why not spend it by doing some kind of physical activity. It can be as simple as walking around your office building and the park across the road. Other activities that are good for your heart include gardening, cycling, jogging and swimming – in fact any aerobic exercise.
Only if I make sure that my diet is balanced and healthy will I be able to improve my health from the inside out
What if an active lifestyle would help improve the health of your heart even more when complemented with a healthy diet? What you put inside your body matters, so think twice before you go down the easy, convenient, junk-food-buying route. Every time you choose a healthier alternative to fast food, you are taking care of your heart.
Try eating more fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain substances that help reduce the risk of inflammation and cardiovascular disease. A Total Balance supplement that’s right for you can also help to top up the vitamins and antioxidants that are found in fresh produce.
Have a go at limiting your intake of refined foods and unhealthy fats. Opt for protein sources that are low in fat, such as lean chicken or turkey, and prepare it by baking or roasting. When choosing fish, go for species that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as hoki, sardines, mackerel and salmon.
Another source of protein that’s well worth considering is various forms of legumes. Beans, lentils and peas have no cholesterol and less fat than animal protein, making them a great choice.
Only if I stay at a healthy weight will I be able to maintain my heart health, as well as my physical and emotional wellbeing
Exercise and a healthy diet are the foundations on which to start a safe, natural, weight loss program. Losing weight for heart health is one thing, but maintaining it is another matter. To help keep the additional pounds off, learn to control your willpower as well as your portions. Besides your heart health, your energy levels, overall wellbeing and self-esteem will improve as well.
Only if I stop smoking will I see and feel the improvements to my health
When you smoke, you increase your risk of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, aortic aneurysm and heart attack. It’s never too late to quit, and it may take more than one attempt, but don’t give up! Your entire body starts the healing process the moment you stop, and even if you already have heart disease, you’ll be able to manage your condition better and enjoy improvements as a result of having stopped smoking.
What if you stopped smoking or even cut down the number you smoke? The benefits speak for themselves and should encourage you stop before you find yourself saying “if only I’d stopped smoking”.
Only if I could manage my stress, I could relax more and reduce my risk of heart disease
Stress affects the body in many ways and the amount of stress you have may be detrimental to your heart. One of the secrets of supporting the health and function of your heart is learning how to deal with stress. Relaxation techniques, reading, exercise and yoga are known to help reduce stress levels.
By approaching World Heart Day with an ‘only if’ frame of mind, not only will your awareness of heart health improve, but you’ll also be able to help and support others around you. This will improve your emotional wellbeing even more…which as you’ll read in our next article, can play a crucial role in heart health and function.
The link between your heart and your emotions
On Valentine's Day, the heart symbol is everywhere. You’ll find heart-shaped decorations, heart-shaped gifts and edible treats in all the shops. While we’ve come to expect this, from a physiological perspective it’s completely false – emotions such as love and affection are not felt in the heart, but in the brain.
But there’s a good reason for hearts to remain the global symbol of love. While emotions do occur in the brain, the heart is also very involved in the emotional experience.
The brain-heart connection
Experts now believe that the brain is not solely responsible for emotions, and recent studies have revealed that the heart may play a very significant role in the generation of emotions. In fact, research suggests that an emotional experience is the result of the brain, heart and body acting together.
The heart does more than just pump blood throughout the body – it actually sends messages to the brain as well. There is an ongoing dialogue between the brain and heart. It is important to understand that while the dialogue is two-way, the heart may be sending more information to the brain than the other way around.
For instance, someone who feels anger, anxiety or frustration will experience an erratic heart rhythm. This rhythm pattern is then sent to the brain, which identifies the pattern as a negative feeling or emotion. The signals that the brain sends are what actually create the feelings. Without the erratic rhythm patterns sent by the heart to the brain, the brain would not have generated the negative feelings.
The connection between emotions and health
In times of stress, have you noticed how your body reacts? You may sense that stress comes with its fair share of various aches and pains, affecting areas such as the neck, stomach, back and most often, the head.
These aches and pains are actually quite minor when compared with the negative effects of stressful emotions on the heart and the body as a whole. Emotions such as anger or irritation contribute to higher stress levels and may result in constricted blood vessels and high blood pressure, which can then cause the immune system to become weaker. In this case, your brain is influencing your heart health.
As the frequency of these stressful events increases, the more you are at risk of serious health problems, including heart problems.
So, what about positive emotions like love and compassion? If stressful emotions produce erratic rhythm patterns, positive ones tend to create smoother patterns and better rhythms. This has to be good for the cardiovascular system.
Some researchers believe that expressing affectionate feelings towards a partner may help decrease cholesterol levels. Interestingly, positive emotions like gratitude, trigger the release of oxytocin, which is a hormone created by the limbic area of the brain. This hormone, which is secreted when there is a feeling of connection (during sexual climax or breastfeeding for example), effectively eliminates stress by allowing the nervous system to relax.