Rob MacDonald, CH
Our hearts, in a tireless and endless effort, work to circulate blood throughout our body. But in return we tend to often neglect and abuse our hearts, with heart disease being the number one cause of death in Canada..
Our hearts, in a tireless and endless effort, work to circulate blood throughout our body. But in return we tend to often neglect and abuse our hearts, with heart disease being the number one cause of death in Canada.
Despite billions of dollars spent on research, modern medicine has not found a cure for heart disease. This is because the cause of the disease is never addressed. Many conditions can arise from neglect to the heart; these include heart attacks, strokes, angina, varicose veins, atherosclerosis and heart failure. But there are many simple and easy things that can be done to protect your heart and keep it functioning optimally.
1. Flex Your Muscles
Exercise helps to strengthen the heart muscle and is also a powerful stress reducer. Twenty minutes of exercise helps to tone and condition your muscles, lungs and heart. The exercise does not need to be heart pounding or at a high intensity; a brisk walk, swimming, walking, laps in a pool, or bike riding four times per week is sufficient. Regular exercise is extremely important in reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes. Exercise accomplishes this goal by lowering cholesterol levels, improving the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart, reducing blood pressure, and helping to maintain a normal bodyweight.
2. Feed Your Heart
Eat foods that are high in potassium and low in sodium such as fish, nuts and beans. High sodium diets lead to water retention, thereby increasing the pressure on the blood vessels, causing hypertension.
A diet high in fibre and fresh organic vegetable and fruit and low in refined foods, especially flour products and sugar, will go a long way in reducing heart complications. High fibre foods such as apples, flax seed and psyllium bind cholesterol in the body and aid in its elimination in addition to helping keep bowel movements regular.
Garlic and onions help thin the blood and decrease your blood platelets from clumping together. This is useful for arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure. Cayenne acts as a good circulatory tonic to strengthen the heart, arteries and capillaries. Cayenne is also useful in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Cayenne and garlic are more effective to the heart when not over-cooked. Add these to your food shortly before serving.
Coffee and black tea consumption should not exceed two cups per day. The stimulating effects of caffeine are not good for the cardiovascular system and can lead to nervousness and headaches. Regular intake of coffee aggravates cholesterol levels and raises blood pressure.
People who consume a diet rich in omega-3 oils from fish or vegetable sources have a significantly reduced risk of developing heart disease. Essential fatty acids also inhibit platelet aggregation and help lower blood pressure. Eat cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut or herring at least three times per week and eat one tablespoon of flax seed oil daily.
3. Herbs for the Heart
Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) acts as a tonic to strengthen cardiac function and regulate blood pressure. Hawthorn also acts as a mild diuretic, helping to get rid of excess fluid in the body that can complicate hypertension. Hawthorn berries, leaves and flowers are traditionally used for nervous heart disorders, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, leg cramps and heart valve problems.
Linden (Tilia europea) is a well known relaxing remedy for nervous tension and restlessness and is useful for arteriosclerosis and hypertension. It is considered a specific in the treatment of high blood pressure associated with arteriosclerosis and nervous tension. It is also useful for headaches caused by high blood pressure.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is a relaxing tonic herb for the heart, ideal for palpitations, angina, anxiety and nervous heart disorders. Motherwort is also useful in lowering fatty deposits in the blood and lowering blood pressure. As the name indicates, Motherwort is a great herb for women to help with menstruation problems or menopause, but should not be used during pregnancy.
4. Super Supplements
Magnesium deficiency is directly linked to heart disease due to spasms in the heart. These deficiencies are more pronounced in men, yet women after menopause become equally affected. Magnesium also acts to increase the strength of cardiac contractions and to regulate arrhythmias. Supplement your diet with 300 mg of chelated magnesium per day.
Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a powerful antioxidant that is specific to the heart muscle, promoting optimum heart function and improving oxygenation to the tissue. It has been shown to prevent recurrences in individuals who have had a heart attack. Coenzyme Q10 is made by the body, but production drops as we age. Heart disease patients have been found to have 25 percent less CoQ10 than healthy people. CoQ10 is found naturally in sardines and peanuts but not in sufficient quantities to nourish the heart, as 60–90 mg are needed to prevent heart complication.
Vitamin E is also a strong antioxidant that helps prevent blood cells from clumping together and forming plaques in the blood vessels. It helps normalize cholesterol levels by reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels and increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Recent research is showing that low levels of vitamin E in the blood is more strongly correlated with increased risk of heart disease than increased cholesterol levels. To lower your risk of heart disease and stroke take between 400 and 800 IU of vitamin E.
5. Laughter is the best Medicine
Laughter has been shown to decrease pain and boost the immune system. Learn to see the humorous side of life, as often as possible, especially when situations seem tense. Laughter improves circulation and cardiovascular function, and let’s not forget the fact that it just feels good.
6. Eat, Drink and be Merry?
Excessive alcohol, like too much coffee, increases adrenaline production that leads to blood vessel constriction that increases sodium reabsorption, thereby increasing total cholesterol.
One of the largest problems with excessive alcohol consumption is its diuretic effect. This causes the loss of a great number of nutrients, mainly B vitamins, amino acids, magnesium and vitamin C. When these nutrients are in low supply, the risk of cardiovascular disease jumps up dramatically. However one drink per day, preferably red wine, has been shown to be beneficial in thinning the blood and reducing cholesterol.
Smoking increases your chance of developing cardiovascular disease by 300 percent. The more than 4,000 chemicals that are contained in tobacco smoke are extremely damaging to the cardiovascular system. In addition, cigarette smoking also contributes to high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels. Consult a clinical herbalist for assistance in quitting smoking. Even as a non-smoker you are still not in the clear; exposure to second-hand smoke can also increase your chances of developing heart disease and lung cancer.
Stress causes the entire body to be tight, including the walls of the arteries, which constrict, increasing blood pressure. Deep breathing exercises are a good way to consciously relax. Planting a tree and connecting with nature also have a profound way of slowing you down and teaching you to appreciate the great outdoors.
Type A personality traits put excess demands on the heart and nervous system. These traits include being over-worked, competitive, stressed, multi-tasked and impatient. Those who allow their type A personality traits to run unchecked generally skip breakfast as well. This behavior carries twice the risk of coronary heart disease and higher cholesterol levels.
Essential oils can help you cope and calm you down. Having a relaxing aromatherapy treatment using oils in your bath or in massage oils helps to relax tense muscles in addition to calming the mind. Useful relaxing oils include; geranium, ylang ylang, lavender, neroli and marjoram. Burning essential oils on your desk at work or home has a calming effect on you and those around you. You can place a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a scarf or handkerchief and smell it whenever you are feeling stressed.
It is simpler, less expensive and more effective to prevent heart attacks before they occur with nutrition, exercise and stress management than to treat them after they occur with drugs and surgery. Look after your heart and you’ll keep it happily ticking for a long time.