You’re minding your own business, and all of a sudden, you feel a weird flutter in your chest. You get a little anxious and before you know it, you’re checking Dr. Google, who tells you that you’re having a heart attack and you need to start saying your goodbyes. We’ve all been there, right?
When it comes to weird sensations in our bodies or around our hearts, it’s easy to get a little worked up about it, but it’s even easier to forget and move on. Why? Because life gets busy. We seem to only pay attention or care about our heart health when we’re reminded that something might be wrong.
While we’re reminded each February – aka National Heart Health Month – that we should be more aware of our cardiovascular health, we can’t forget about it the other 11 months of the year! With that in mind, I want to share three of the most effective lifestyle modifications to lower your risk for heart disease and prevent cardiometabolic dysfunction.
Fat is Not Bad For You
Let’s please put to bed the myth that fat is bad for you. The idea that eating fat will make you fat, clog your arteries, or cause heart disease is a thing of the 1970’s that, unfortunately, many people still believe.
But all fats are not created equal. And in fact, some fats actually have health benefits that reduce your risk of heart disease and help lower inflammation.
Fats that have been linked to a decrease in our heart health include trans fats and hydrogenated oils from corn, sunflower, and vegetable oils. These fats have been created by food manufacturers to extend the shelf life of processed foods.
Fats that have been linked to heart health benefits are saturated fats sourced from avocado, whole raw nuts and seeds, pasture-raised eggs, coconut, ghee, grass-fed butter, and polyunsaturated fats from wild-caught fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. These fats help fuel the body, providing energy and supporting cell function.
Living a sedentary life may seem unavoidable, but it’s one of the leading causes of poor heart health. When you move your body with intentionality you increase your heart rate, lower your risk for heart disease, and increase your long-term health and well-being. Research shows that 20 to 30 minutes of exercise within your healthy heart rate zone is a moderate and safe way to increase cardiorespiratory benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, maximizing oxygen uptake, and lowering your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Practice Stress Reducing Activities
End the day with a meditation, mindfulness practice, or breathwork. We all know that stress can impact our whole body and is a leading cause of chronic disease – especially heart disease. Meditation, gratitude, and deep breathing techniques stimulate the vagus nerve, which lowers resting heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and balances your heart rate variability (HRV).
Let’s put this to work! Next time you meditate or debrief, I want you to measure your resting heart rate and heart rate variability before and after your practice. This allows you to see firsthand how your physical body responds to your nervous system. If you have a device such as a smartwatch or an Oura ring you can check your data there, however, the good old-fashioned technique of checking your resting heart rate via your pulse on your wrist works just the same.
Give this whole-body approach to a healthy, happy heart a try – your heart will thank you!
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