Holistic Tips to Boost Your Heart Health
Why is your heart health so important?
Your heart is the most important muscle in your body: it pumps gallons of blood daily, providing oxygen, nutrients, and other compounds to every tissue in your body.
You may not give it much thought, but your heart health is one of the keys to a healthy and long life. Your heart works every second of your life. When it stops, vital functions fail, several almost instantaneously. Considering this never-ending workload, it's admiring how it works perfectly for so many people over numerous years.
According to the World Health Organization, heart disease is the primary cause of death worldwide, taking around 17.9 million lives annually. However, even though many people suffer from some cardiovascular disease, especially as they get older, it isn't inevitable.
Logically, when you don't take proper care of your heart, problems can eventually arise. But a healthy lifestyle, mainly if initiated at a young age, will help you prevent these problems. Lifestyle changes can also help to support and improve heart health if damage has already occurred.
Maintaining your heart’s health is essential to a healthy life. Keep reading this blog to understand how to prevent and manage heart disease and keep your heart in its best condition.
First, let’s look at the most common heart diseases and their symptoms.
What Is Heart Disease?
Several heart problems are included in the term heart disease. Each one, of course, has its symptoms and appropriate treatment, which must be discussed with a health professional.
Are you at risk?
Anybody can develop heart problems. However, some factors put you at a higher risk, including:
- Having diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.
Your age and family history can also put you at a higher risk of getting heart disease, if:
- You’re a woman over 55 years old.
- You’re a man over 45 years old.
- Your brother or father suffered from heart disease before age 55.
- Your mother or sister suffered from heart disease before age 65.
Hence, certain risk factors for a heart condition are lifestyle-based, such as stress, smoking, diet, physical activity, and sleep habits. In contrast, others are genetic, including your sex, family history, or ethnicity. You can't change your genetics, but your lifestyle choices have the power to keep your heart healthy. Keep reading to find out the ones you should adopt.
What are the most common heart diseases?
Coronary heart disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease, is the most common type of heart disease. Frequently, when someone talks about heart disease, they refer to CHD.
This disease occurs when the coronary arteries, responsible for taking blood to heart, are narrow or blocked. It happens when plaque – cholesterol and fatty material – is built up inside the arteries.
Various factors can build up plaque inside your arteries, such as excessive cholesterol in the blood, high blood pressure, smoking, and large amounts of sugar in the blood because of diabetes.
When an artery gets blocked due to plaque building up, it's hard for blood to flow to the heart, keeping it from getting the oxygen it needs. This may cause pain or discomfort in your chest, called angina, shortness of breath, body aches, fainting, or nausea, and it can even lead to a heart attack.
This disease happens when your heart has a disturbed beating pattern. It can beat too quickly (tachycardia), too slowly (bradycardia), or in an irregular pattern. Heart arrhythmias might occur independently but often develop from other heart conditions.
Heart failure occurs when your heart doesn't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. CHD, thyroid disease, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, and other conditions can cause it.
What are the symptoms of heart failure?
- Frequent shortness of breath.
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Swollen legs, ankles, abdomen, and feet.
- Nausea and less appetite.
- Lack of concentration.
- Decreased capacity of exercising.
- Constant cough with white or pink-tinged mucus.
- Rapid weight gain.
Heart Valve Disease
The four valves in your heart open and close to direct blood supply among your heart's four chambers, blood vessels, and lungs. The presence of an abnormality may make it difficult for a valve to open and close properly. As a result, your blood can leak, or your blood flow may be blocked.
Problems in the valves can overload your heart muscle, causing symptoms such as:
- Chest pain (palpitations or angina).
- Swollen ankles.
- Shortness of breath.
- Dizziness or fainting.
The pericardium is the sac that encloses your heart and the roots of the great vessels. All the diseases of the pericardium are referred to as pericardial diseases. The most common is pericarditis, the inflammation of the pericardium.
In most cases, the cause of this disease is unknown. Common symptoms are:
- Chest pain, which is intense and stabbing. It might worsen when you cough, swallow, take deep breaths or lie fat, and improve when you get up and lean forward.
- Pain in your back, left shoulder, or neck.
- Dry cough.
- Heart palpitations.
- Trouble breathing when lying down.
Cardiomyopathy incorporates conditions of the heart muscle (myocardium). It happens when the heart chamber walls become stretched, stiff, or thickened, affecting your heart’s capacity to pump blood to the rest of your body effectively.
Many factors, such as previous heart attacks and CHD, can cause it.
In the early stages of this disease, there may be no symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Swollen legs, calves, feet, or ankles.
Congenital Heart Disease
This disease refers to a range of problems with the heart’s structure that exist since birth and impact the normal way the heart works. It may affect the way blood flows across the heart. There are numerous types of congenital heart defects.
Frequent symptoms include:
- Quick heartbeat and breathing.
- Swelling of the legs, belly, or around the eyes.
- Intense exhaustion and fatigue.
- Skin or lips with a blue tinge (cyanosis).
If you have the mentioned symptoms of any of these diseases, consult a medical professional as soon as possible. Keep in mind that:
- Professionals will help you identify the accurate diagnosis and term for your problem and an adequate treatment plan.
- It's perfectly normal to feel concerned and confused when diagnosed with heart disease but remember: there is much knowledge and assistance accessible to you!
12 Natural holistic tips to improve heart health and prevent heart diseases
By now, you already understand that heart diseases affect the heart’s capacity to work efficiently. However, the good news is there’s a lot you can do to prevent them and keep your heart healthy! Here are some strategies.
1. Be more active.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you should:
Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week (e.g., dancing, water aerobics, gardening, brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week (e.g., hiking, running, jumping rope) or a combination of both. You should spread the amount of exercise you practice throughout the week. Remember that vigorous-intensity activities will push you further, and, therefore, they will require more effort from you. Here are some additional examples of vigorous and moderate physical activity.
- Add moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening training (such as resistance and weights) at least twice a week.
- Sit less, given that even light-intensity activity can reduce certain risks of sedentarism. Studies have associated being inactive and sitting too much with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon and lung cancers, and premature death.
- Increase the time and intensity of your activities progressively over time. Don't worry if you can't achieve the desired 150 minutes of exercise per week yet. Any amount of movement is better than none. We advise walking as a great way to start moving and enhancing your health. Walking has several benefits. It's free and easy, and you can do it anywhere. Also, remember that you can break your exercise into short sessions over the day. For example, walking five or ten minutes a few times daily will improve your health.
Being more active benefits everyone and will help us live longer and healthier lives. So, the bottom line is clear: Spend less time sitting, exercise more, and gradually increase the intensity of your activities.
2. Start a heart-healthy diet.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calories, helping you keep a normal weight and decrease inflammation. The fresher they are, the better for your health.
- Reduce your sodium intake. Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. The AHA recommends that a healthy adult not ingest more than a teaspoon of salt daily. Try to reduce the salt you use and replace it with herbs and spices when cooking. Also, be aware of the amount of sodium in the processed foods you buy, especially condiments and prepared meals. Whenever you can, choose foods with no added salt.
- Decrease your saturated and trans fats intake. Limiting your ingestion of unhealthy fats is essential to reduce your blood cholesterol and your risk of heart attack, stroke, and developing coronary artery disease. Examples of these fats include butter, gravy, or bacon fat.
- Select heart-healthy fats. Choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats are also a good option for your heart's health. You can find them in many fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds. These fats can help you lower your total blood cholesterol. However, remember that moderation is key since all fats are high in calories.
- Pick low-fat protein sources. Some great alternatives are low-fat dairy products, including eggs, lean meat, poultry, and fish. Legumes, such as beans, peas, or lentils, are too low-fat sources of proteins and have no cholesterol. Thus, they constitute an excellent replacement for meat. Also, several types of fish, including salmon, mackerel, or herring, are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These acids can reduce triglycerides, which are blood fats. Other sources include flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans, and canola oil.
- Enhance your fiber ingestion. Fiber helps you feel more satisfied and may help you reduce your cholesterol levels. High-fiber foods include beans, fruits, and vegetables.
- Choose whole grains. These are good sources of fiber and other nutrients essential to control your blood pressure and heart health. Examples are oats, brown rice, and whole-grain bread.
- Monitor your portion size. How much you eat is equally important for your heart health. Overeating causes blood to shift from the heart to the digestive system, leading to a faster and irregular heart beating patterns that can result in heart failure.
- Allow yourself a sporadic treat. This is essential to maintain a balanced and healthy diet in the long term.
3. Be aware of your family’s health history.
Talking to your family and doctor about your health history can help you know the risks and apply preventative measures before heart disease becomes an issue.
4. Have good sleep habits.
You are more likely to develop health conditions if you sleep less than 7 hours each night.
5. Control your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and heart attack. You should check these levels regularly; if they are high, you can take measures to lower them.
6. Monitor your chronic health conditions.
If you have conditions that impact the heart’s health, such as diabetes or chronic kidney disease, manage these to enhance your well-being. To do so, follow your treatment plan correctly and visit your doctor regularly.
7. Manage your stress.
Stress may increase your blood pressure, enhancing the risk of heart disease. Also, chronic stress can lead to unhealthy coping strategies, such as smoking, alcohol intake, and overeating.
To manage your stress, try this:
- Take time to relax each day, even if just for a few minutes.
- Employ practices that help you calm down and manage stress, such as meditation or deep breathing.
- Talk with friends when you need to feel heard.
8. Quit smoking.
Smoking is a significant risk factor for heart disorders, severely impacting your heart health. If you want to quit and need help, you can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a 24/hour line with resources for quitting smoking. We know it can be a difficult process, but your health will improve drastically. Emotional support from a friend or family member can also be an essential part of this process.
9. Avoid secondhand smoke.
Exposure to secondhand smoke also harms your heart health. If someone in your household smokes, ask them to smoke elsewhere and help them quit.
10. Moderate your alcohol intake.
Drinking too much alcohol is linked to the development of heart disease. If you drink alcohol, the AHA suggestion is to limit your daily intake to 2 drinks if you are a man or 1 drink if you are a woman.
11. Visit your doctor regularly.
Do regular checkups to guarantee you haven’t developed any conditions that increase your risk of having heart disease and to control any conditions you might have.
12. Control your weight.
When you maintain a moderate weight, you don't put excessive demands on your heart. Talk to your doctor about what moderate weight is for you.
The Bottom Line
By following these powerful tips, you will be able to naturally improve and strengthen not only your heart health but also your overall health!
Remember that your heart's health is essential to living a long and healthy life, and take your time to incorporate some of these tips into your lifestyle.