Most of us only get one heart in this lifetime, and with second-hand hearts so hard to come by, nothing is more important than taking good care of the one you were born with. If by chance you haven’t been treating yours as the precious organ that it is, it’s never too late to start showing your heart some love.
To start improving your heart health –today – my prescription is a simple one: Follow the tips below, adding one or two a week to your routine. These heart helpers will become second nature in no time; healthy habits that will gift your ticker with benefits that no pharmaceutical can match. So, let’s get started:
1. Cut Out Sugar
I’ve long maintained that sugar is poison – and in a nutshell here’s why: Sugar raises blood sugar levels, which raises insulin levels, which in turn slows metabolism, decreasing the burning of calories for energy and increasing the calories converted to fat. Sugar also pushes up cholesterol, especially small particle LDL, the most damaging kind and the stuff that’s most closely correlated with heart disease and heart attack. Drop sugar and your heart will avoid the whole mess.
2. Cut Out Processed Foods
Processed foods are high in sugar and mass-produced vegetable oils so they’re a sure bet to invite the blood sugar and insulin problems which in turn abuse your heart. In addition, virtually all processed foods are manufactured with an alarming list of chemical ingredients. When you drop processed foods, you drop all those chemicals and sugar – and that makes your heart sing.
3. Cut Out Vegetable Oils
Because when you cut ‘em out, you’ll reduce the cardiac risk associated with taking in too many omega-6 fatty acids (and not enough omega-3s). As with cutting back grains, dropping vegetable oils reduces the inflammation triggered by an over abundance of omega-6’s, found in so-called ‘healthy’ oils like canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower and so on.
4. Cut Back on Grains
Grains are carbs that are one step away from being broken down to sugar (glucose) by the body. Particularly if you are insulin-resistant or carb sensitive, go light on the grains, especially the refined grains, if you want to protect your heart from the ravages of sugar. Grains are also high in omega-6 fatty acids, which, consumed in excess, are pro-inflammatory.
5. Add Good Fats
Your body, your heart, your brain need fats to function and flourish – but the fats we’re talking about are the ‘good’ ones – the ones that are rich in omega-3’s, monounsaturated and the saturated fat found in coconut. You’ll find the good stuff in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut, coconut oil and fatty fish, so let go of your fat-o-phobia and let your heart reap the benefits. My favorite good fat – the avodado – see my post Get to Know the Avocado.
6. Add a Weekly Sauna
Numerous studies have shown that frequent saunas, particularly dry or infra-red, have a positive impact on cardiovascular health, offering improvement even in very ill heart patients. Not only do they relax your blood vessels and lessen the strain on the heart, they also help tamp down inflammation, flush out toxins and boost immunity – all of which helps your ticker.
7. Get a Good Amount of Sleep
While you snooze, your body is busy refreshing, repairing and rejuvenating just about every organ in the body – including your heart. When you don’t make time for sleep, you’re interfering with your body’s ability to heal itself, leaving it in a compromised, run-down state. To keep your heart healthy, don’t scrimp on sleep – cut out the late night TV instead!