Hearts are not just for Valentines!

February 1, 2022

This month we see hearts everywhere we look, as all the marketing focusses on Valentine’s Day, did you know it is also the month chosen to represent heart health with National Heart Month raising awareness about heart health issues and how to look after yours.

We can’t always be aware of just how well our hearts are functioning, many people will not know if they have high or low blood pressure or if their cholesterol level is a healthy one. It is always important that if you do feel something is not like it normally is, that you check it out with your health professional. However, the good news is there is plenty we can do to help look after our cardiovascular system and hopefully avoid heart health issues. The NHS website has an interactive quiz you can take to help you discover your ‘Heart age’. Although it won’t replace a proper diagnose of any issues, it might help guide you in right direction if you need help from your health professionals.

The Mediterranean diet is one rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil and fish. It can be a good basis to build your healthy eating on.

It has been well documented that the Mediterranean diet of plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, seeds and nuts and olive oil is good for overall health and especially the heart. Following these types of eating habits can often be easily achieved and the benefits can be ongoing. Try to eat a a variety of coloured fruit and veg every week, these are the foods that are rich in antioxidants. Important nutrients that help protect cells from oxidative damage and can help stop cholesterol oxidising.

Regular exercise is important too. If you are not used to regular exercise, don’t rush into an extensive programme. Take it gently with gradual increases in duration and types of exercise. For example, a 30 minute walk three times a week is a great start if you never do any exercise. Done regularly, you will soon increase the distance you walk and the speed at which you travel. A good pace is at a speed is to walk fast enough that you can still hold a conversation but are not out of breath.

February is a month full of hearts, a good time to consider your own.

Although in early days of research, there is some evidence to suggest that sleeping well is an important factor in protecting yourself from heart disease. Some research is even suggesting that there may be a window of between 10 and 11 pm, that could be the optimum time for going to sleep for heart health. No doubt, we will hear more about these developments in the future. There is no harm in planning ahead and ensuring you get adequate sleep now. If you have trouble falling asleep, things like reducing screen time before going to bed, a warm bath, reading a book, using essential oils such as lavender and even a calming cup of chamomile tea. All help many people drift off. Try to discover what works best for you.

You might thing gut health has little to do with a healthy heart, but as a large percentage of our immune cells are made thanks to a healthy gut microbiome, it makes sense to think of your digestive system too. Eating food rich in antioxidants and polyphenols are important, the brightly coloured fruit and veg plus good quality olive oil, will all improve your intake of polyphenols.

We often hear that red wine is good for the heart, this isn’t an excuse to down a bottle on a regular basis, the important part is an active principle within the red grape. A glass two or three times a week may be fine, but excess alcohol can outweigh the benefits of the antioxidants! Resveratrol is the main antioxidant compound that is famous for being found in red wine and grapes. In supplement form, it can be sourced from Japanese Knotweed which contains more trans-resveratrol, the active form of this nutrient, than grape seed does. By using this invasive plant as a source, it helps in the management and environmental impact of this plant.

We often hear about red wine being good for a healthy heart, but too much can outweigh the benefits.

Resveratrol can also be taken in combination with benaGene™ stabilised oxaloacetate, a compound that is used in the body’s energy cycle. Vitamin C, which protects cells from oxidative stress, is also a good addition.

The mineral selenium is hard to get from our food these days as so much is depleted from the soil, nuts such as Brazil nuts are considered a good source as is shellfish, not always things that people consume a lit of. Selenium helps prevent oxidative damage to the cells and also supports proper functioning of the immune system. Look for a supplement providing selenium as selenomethionine, a natural form of the mineral that that is the most prominent form that the body absorbs from food.

Review your supplements and consider if you are taking the right combination for your wellness regime.

Eating oily fish provides a source of the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, ideally you need to eat a good portion 2-3 times a week, not always easy to do! These fatty acids have been shown to play an important role in maintaining cardiovascular health, so a regular intake is important. If you can’t eat oil fish regularly you can take a supplement of EPA and DHA, either from fish oil or if you prefer a vegan source, you can take a supplement made from algae. In both cases, look for sustainable and clean sources.

This February, take the opportunity to give your own heart some TLC, a few simple steps you can take include:

  • Take a look at your diet and include more heart friendly, antioxidant rich fruit and veg.
  • Reduces saturated fats and increase healthy fats such as olive oil and fish oils.
  • Introduce some regular exercise, even a brisk walk two or three times a week can make a difference.
  • Review your supplements and consider adding vitamin C, selenium, essential fatty acids and antioxidants such as resveratrol.
  • Speak to your health care professional if you have any concerns about your heart health.
  • Regularly check your blood pressure, we are all different and rarely get a text book reading, but it can be good to be aware of what is normal for you.

Looking after your heart can easily become part of your healthy living lifestyle, preventing an issue is easer and better than having to correct one, so give yourself some love this Valentine’s Day and look after your heart.

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