February is Heart Health Month, an important time to reflect on heart disease- the #1 killer of Americans for the last several decades. 1 out of every 4 deaths in the United States is caused by heart or cardiovascular disease. Most of us know at least one person who has high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arterial plaque disease, or has suffered a heart attack. The truth is, these diseases are largely considered preventable, and even reversible, with the right diet and lifestyle. There are also many wonderful heart health supplements that can be a vital part of your regimen, whether you currently have heart disease or want to prevent it.
In the vast majority of cases, heart disease is caused by lifestyle behaviors such as poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise, and unmanaged stress. It’s an unfortunate reality that cardiovascular disease (CVD) claims the lives of nearly 18 million people every year, worldwide, according to the WHO. Coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease, and related conditions can not only shorten your life dramatically, but can reduce your quality of life overall.
Symptoms To Look For
While some people don’t experience any symptoms, many people notice a gradual increase in things like:
- Shortness of breath, or getting winded easily
- Worsening fatigue
- Chest pain, tightness, or discomfort
- Coldness, numbness, or weakness in the legs or arms
- Skipping, fluttering, or racing heartbeat
- Swelling or edema in the legs
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important that you seek medical care as soon as possible. For those who are able to catch it early, heart disease doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Whether you have diagnosed heart disease or not, it’s always a great idea to make changes in your life to support your heart health! Prevention is priceless, especially in cases of cardiovascular conditions.
So, in honor of February, Heart Health Month, I thought I’d share with you some of my tips for how to keep your heart healthy, along with some of my favorite heart health supplements.
Tips for heart-healthy living
1. Prioritize rest and relaxation
We all know how dangerous stress can be, when it comes to our overall health, and your heart knows it too! Those who are sleep-deprived and those who don’t manage their stress are at much higher risk for CVD. Devote at least 7-9 hours to deep, restful sleep every single night, and carve out as much downtime as you can throughout the day. If you’re not already, practice mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques like meditation, breathwork, earthing/grounding, or mindful eating.
2. Eat the rainbow
Nutrition plays a big role in our susceptibility to diseases in general, but especially those affecting the heart and blood vessels. If you are eating a diet that is high in processed foods, artificial ingredients, vegetable oils or other rancid fats, white flours or sugars, and similar things, you’re going to place a lot of strain on your body and will likely end up with a chronic disease. To keep your heart healthy, emphasize fresh, whole plant foods in a variety of colors. Fresh, and especially raw, fruits and veggies are cleansing and healing to the entire body.
3. Move your body
We were never meant to live in such a sedentary world. Our bodies are made for movement, and when you move your body regularly, you lower your risk of a whole host of deadly diseases including heart disease. But don’t be intimidated by the thought of exercise- you don’t need to punish yourself with high-intensity, grueling workouts to see benefits. Simply find ways to move around that feel good! Take a walk through the park, do yoga or tai chi, take a dance class, play sports with your kids, or try a rebounder. Daily movement is key for toning the heart and blood vessels, improving stamina, and feeling your best.
4. Know your stats
Heart disease is sometimes known as the “silent killer.” Too many people aren’t even aware that they have developed high blood pressure, hardening of their arteries, or other dangerous signs, until it’s too late. One of the best ways to prevent or reverse heart disease is with knowledge! Get your yearly wellness exams. Know what your cholesterol numbers are. Take your blood pressure often, especially if it’s high. Know your family history of chronic diseases or conditions. If you’re on medications, take them as prescribed. Knowledge is power, and is the best place to start when taking charge of your health.
Best supplements for heart health
While herbs and supplements should never be a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle, they can be a powerful addition to keep you strong and resilient for years to come. There are several key ingredients to look out for, when shopping for heart health supplements, and these are some of my favorites:
Nattokinase is an enzyme that is extracted from fermented soybeans. Natto is a popular dish in Japan, but isn’t palatable to most of us! Thankfully, we can get the heart-protective benefits in supplement form. There is a whole list of nattokinase benefits, but it’s most known for preventing blood clots, thinning the blood, and improving overall blood flow. This can be a key nutrient in preventing heart attacks and strokes.
One of my personal favorite herbal medicines, hawthorn berries and leaves have been used for centuries to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and to treat heart failure. Hawthorn is loaded with powerful antioxidants and can support the heart in handling stressors. It has some anti-anxiety and mood-lifting properties as well.
3. Olive leaf
A staple of the Mediterranean lifestyle, olive leaves can offer some benefits for heart health. They are astringent, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and packed with antioxidants. Olive leaf is a great supplement for not just viral infections, but also, when combined with other things like those listed above, can protect the heart from disease.
4. Grape seed extract
Another potent antioxidant, grape seed extract is a popular heart health supplement for reducing blood pressure, improving blood flow, and reducing oxidative damage to the cardiovascular system. It can protect the heart as well as the brain, through blood vessel function, and also help support your liver and kidneys as well.
If you’re looking for the best heart health supplements, these four are a great place to start. I like the Complete Blood Pressure Solution supplement from Newport Natural Health, since it contains all of these in one convenient package.
Please note: if you are currently taking blood thinners, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers or other cardiovascular medications, or you have low blood pressure (hypotension) or a bleeding disorder, make sure you talk to your doctor before taking any of these supplements.
Someone dies of cardiovascular disease every 40 seconds here in the U.S. If you want to avoid being one of these statistics, start with the tips in this post. With the right diet and lifestyle, along with supportive heart health supplements, you can take charge of your well-being for years to come.