Little changes in the way we live each day can make big differences in every aspect of our health, especially the health of our heart. While you probably know the importance of regular exercise, the foods you choose, your exposure to toxins, your attitude and your social life all have significant effects on your cardiovascular system.
Be good to your heart every day with these four tips.
1. Cut back on the sugar. It’s not just the calories.
Researchers now believe that chronic inflammation is a major culprit for many serious diseases, including heart disease; in fact, it may be a greater cause of heart disease than cholesterol. Sugar is one of the top food triggers of inflammation. Limit your added sugar to 20 grams a day. Cut way down on the usual sweets like cookies and candy, but also eliminate fruit juice, soda and excess alcohol. Download a low glycemic diet. Remember sugar has many names such as agave, sucrose, fructose and many others Don’t be fooled.
2. Chill out. Breathe.
When work, time pressures and relationship demands become more than we think we can handle, we may get annoyed and short-tempered. Blood pressure surges, heart rate increases and blood vessels constrict. The body is primed and ready for a heart attack. In fact, recent research has found that in the two hours following an anger outburst, the risk of having a heart attack increases 230%.
While you can’t always change the events in your life, you can change how you react to them. Make a conscious effort to change your perception of stressful events and react without anger. Before saying something you will regret, take a time out. Breath in and out to the count of five. If you’re stuck in traffic, use the time to listen to your favorite music. When demands get to be too much, take a break and go for a 10-minute walk. Learn alternate nostril breathing to disrupt your body’s stress response. It’s actually very simple and can be practiced daily. Follow these quick steps. With your right thumb close your right nostril and take a moderate deep breath through your left nostril. Now close the left nostril with the third and fourth finger of your right hand and exhale through the right. Repeat this pattern of breathing in through the left and out through the right nostril for three to five minutes. Now switch. With your left thumb close your left nostril and breath in through the right. With the third and fourth fingers of the left hand close the right nostril and breathe out through the left. Practice for three to five minutes on each side and your brain will feel totally refreshed.
3. Make social connections. Your Tribe is important.
Depression is an important risk factor in heart disease and overall health. Research on 7,000 men and women over 17 years found that those who lacked social support, such as friends, relatives, social circles or religious groups, had a death rate three times higher than average.
Your “Tribe” is vital to heart health. Make it a point to connect with family members or friends, even if it’s just a phone call. You can socialize through groups that share your professional or personal interests or religious beliefs, in person or online. Try volunteering which is a great way to make friends and support a cause you are passionate about. I even prescribe getting a pet for some of my heart patients. If you live alone and have time to care for a pet, adopt a dog or cat from a local shelter. The important thing is to make a heartfelt connection.
4. Practice gratitude.
Take time every day to be grateful for what you already have. Sometimes we forget just how blessed we are. You may be grateful for a friend, a beautiful sunset, a soothing cup of tea – in fact, just about anything you tend to take for granted. Take a moment to really appreciate it, and let yourself experience true heartfelt gratitude. As you do, you will find that your heart rate slows, your breathing deepens, and you feel more at peace. Learn to carry this “attitude of gratitude” with you throughout the day.