In my previous post, 7 Ways to Boost Your Heart Health Now, I shared a few of my favorite diet-related and behavioral tips to help you improve your heart health, but there’s even more you can do to give your heart as much love as possible. Try adding a tip a week or all at once if you’re rarin’ to go. What’s wonderful about my happy heart prescription is that overdosing is all but impossible, the side-effects boost health rather than undermine it, and each tip puts you on the path to a healthier, stronger, more resilient heart. Sound good? Then climb aboard the love-your-heart train:
1. Get Into a Meditation Groove
No matter what the physical state of your heart, you can support it with a regular meditation practice – and it doesn’t have to mean days on end in the lotus position. With a little practice, you can train yourself to meditate anywhere, anytime, and bust stress on-demand. Doing so will increase your resilience and resistance to stress as well as lower blood pressure within minutes and reduce the level of cortisol (aka the stress hormone) – all of which is great news for your heart. In addition, the deep relaxation that meditation creates also stimulates the release of nature’s happy pill, oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that’s also released during orgasm. To start your meditation practice, or brush up on your skills, take a look at 6 of our favorite meditation apps.
2. Get Moving
Even if you’re not training for an Ironman race, the heart and the rest of you gain so much from exercise, it’s crazy not to make it part of your regular routine. As long as you’re well enough for exercise (check with your doc), a workout – as in one that gets your heart rate up —every other day for at least 30 minutes will help cut heart disease risk, lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, boost circulation and good (HDL) cholesterol. Other pleasant side effects? Better sleep, increased muscle tone, less weight – all those things that those of us in the over-30 (and then some) crowd crave. Looking for a great and efficient way to give your heart a hard-core workout? Consider interval training, where you alternate between moderate and high intensity activities for a minute or two at a time. It makes the heart work harder and helps strengthen it as you go. Not a lot of time to spare? Even two 15-minute sessions that get your heart rate up counts so, as they say, ‘Just do it.’
3. Get Off Your Arse – And Stand Up – A Lot
The bad news: many studies suggest that sitting all day is horrendous for your heart, going so far as to call sitting the new smoking. The good news is that you can combat the problem simply by standing more that you sit every day. How to work around the perils of toiling at a desk all day? Start by getting a stand-up desk or laptop stand that raises your computer and keyboard, effectively forcing you out of your chair, saving your health in the process. Options start as low as $70 so do your heart a favor, buy your own if the boss won’t spring for it and stand up for the health of your heart.
4. Give Your Heart a Helping Hand – Supplement Strategically.
I’ve always said that supplements won’t ‘fix’ a bad diet but they’re a great way to help fill in nutritional gaps and provide additional support and protection, particularly for the heart. Among my favorite heart-helpers:
- Fish oil supplements to help protect the heart by tamping down inflammation throughout the body.
- Vitamin K2 which helps protect heart function by helping remove calcium from places where it shouldn’t be – like your arteries – and to move it to where it should be, like your bones.
- CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that helps improve cardiovascular health and is especially important for those over 40 or for those taking statins, as both aging and drugs deplete the body of this essential enzyme.
- Magnesium which help keep blood pressure in check by relaxing the blood vessels and promoting blood flow.
5. Brush and Floss to Your Heart’s Content
Numerous studies have shown a link between poor dental hygiene and cardiovascular health so think of a frequent brushing and flossing routine as being akin to daily spa treatments for your ticker. Good dental hygiene in addition to regular pro cleanings and checkups, will go a long way to help keep gum disease at bay and oral bacteria from entering the bloodstream and triggering heart-harming inflammation.
6. Bust Out Laughing…A Lot!
Laughter is so good for you it’s ridiculous! Granted you’d look a little odd if you were laughing all the time, but it would be a good idea to commit to doing more of it. In addition to making you feel good – thanks to the laugh-induced release of endorphins – a bout of hearty laughter helps reduce blood pressure and stress hormone levels and boost immunity. Ever notice how many of your fun-loving, more positive friends rarely seem to get sick? Blame all that laughter – it really is the best medicine.
7. Have More Sex With Your Special Someone
During sex, particularly between emotionally supportive partners, the release of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin helps reduce stress, blood pressure and cortisol levels – making your heart, not to mention the rest of you, very happy. Bonus: Sex is a form of aerobic exercise — it helps get your heart rate up!
8. Connect With Others and Create Community
We are by nature social animals – we’re not meant to live in isolation, which is actually bad for our hearts. Even if you’re not a particularly social person, if you want to help your heart, you need to connect. Be a part of a community, of a larger world. Loneliness stresses the heart, suppresses the immune system and may contribute to a shorter life span. So remember to develop and nurture relationships for their own sake and for the sake of your heart.
For a few more thoughts on how support your heart, take a look at 4 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress.