Happy February everyone! While many of us indulged on chocolates and sweets to celebrate Valentine’s day last week, the entire month of February is actually dedicated to American Heart Month, a time to talk about all of the ways that we can help our hearts be healthier and stronger. Did you know that heart disease is the #1 killer of Americans? While genetics can play a role, there is SO MUCH we can do each and every day to decrease our risk of developing heart disease and live longer and healthier lives.
Move It To Use It
Believe it or not, your heart is a MUSCLE! The more you use it, the stronger and healthier it becomes. You don’t need to be a professional athlete or run a marathon to build a healthy heart, any exercise that increases your heart rate over an extended period of time can be beneficial. Here are examples of some cardiovascular exercises:
- Dancing – Put on your favorite tunes and have a dance party!
- Brisk Walking – Grab a friend or neighbor and instead of catching up over coffee, talk while you walk. You can also take a conference call while you pound the pavement.
- Cycling – Put on a helmet and hop on a trail. Or check out your local gym’s spinning class.
- Swimming – This low impact workout is gentle on your joints but amazing for your muscles.
Just 20-30 minutes per day can make a huge difference. And the benefits are priceless! Exercising regularly can help you lower your blood pressure, reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase your HDL (good cholesterol), all while burning calories.
You Are What You Eat
There are a few things to focus on when eating healthy for your heart. Watching your portion size is important because when we eat too much we gain weight, and excess body fat puts extra strain on your heart. But it’s not just about how much we eat – what we put on our plates is vital to our health. Choosing the right types of fats and focusing on our fiber intake can help decrease your chance of developing heart disease.
Fat free does not necessarily equal heart healthy, like we once thought it did. Mono- and Polyunsaturated fats can improve blood cholesterol levels, and decrease your risk of heart disease. Make sure to include foods like salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, avocados, and olive oil into your regular meal planning. Saturated fats and Trans Fatty Acids raise total cholesterol, particularly increasing LDL (bad cholesterol) and decreasing HDL (good cholesterol). Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils, and limit high fat animal products, like fatty beef, lamb, poultry with skin, butter, and cheese and dairy products from whole or 2 percent milk.
Finally, don’t forget to focus on fiber. Think of fiber like a toothbrush – it helps scrub plaque build up from your arteries and move food through your digestive tract. It also keeps you full for longer – win-win! Foods like oatmeal, nuts, beans, fruit, whole wheat bread, and brown rice are all foods that will help keep your heart (and stomach) happy.
Your nervous system runs along your spine. Did you know that your nervous system controls the healthy function of almost every part of your body? When your spine is out of alignment, it affects your entire nervous system.
Your heart, in particular, is controlled by the vagus nerve and the autonomic nervous system. The vagus nerve, which runs along the cervical spine, controls heart rate, contractility, and blood pressure. When you visit a chiropractor for a spinal adjustment, they work to realign your spine. According to the Journal of Human Hypertension, by adjusting the 1st vertebra in the neck, blood pressure can be lowered by as much as 17 points. When your spine is in proper alignment, you can also exercise more effectively (without restriction), and digest and absorb food more efficiently. Combining chiropractic care, healthy nutrition, and physical activity can lead to a heart healthy life!