Happy Valentine’s to your own heart

February 1, 2023

How are the New Year resolutions to be more healthy in 2023 going? Chances are, most of us have given up on many  of our plans, partly due to the fact that we often give ourselves targets that are almost impossible to achieve from a standing start.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take a look at your lifestyle and see if there are areas you can tweak to help you build and maintain good health. It doesn’t have to be the first day of a new year to take stock and see where you are when it comes to your health.

Make February the month that you think about your heart too.

February sees the shops and media full of hearts and loving thoughts as we head towards St Valentine’s Day, instead of overpriced flowers, we aren’t saying there is anything wrong with flowers, just buy them next week when the prices are back to normal,) why not give yourself or a loved one, a gift of a bit of TLC and look at the health of your heart. Taking a few moments to consider if your diet and lifestyle is the best it can be when it comes to the health of your heart, can give many long term benefits.

Regular exercise doesn’t have to mean joining a gym, it can be walking, swimming or even following a yoga routine online.

Cardiovascular health is something that is important to all of us, even more so if you have a history of heart disease or health issues in the family. The good news is that simple measures can go a long way in helping you look after your heart without extreme lifestyle and dietary changes.

Regular exercise is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to join a gym! A brisk walk for around half an hour 3-4 times a week can be helpful in maintaining good circulation and heart health. The added bonus is that regular movement is also good for your joints and if you are trying to lose weight, regular activity can help that too. Best of all, it is free, although if you become a fan of regular walking and want to head further afield, investing in a good pair of walking boots is a wise move.

Other exercise options include swimming, cycling or gentle aerobic exercises or yoga. You can find a local class or lots of inspirational routines can be found online. Just check with your health practitioner if you have existing health issues, before starting on any sort of vigorous exercise routine.

It has been well documented that the Mediterranean diet, rich in fresh fruits and veg, healthy fats and lean proteins and oily fish, has a beneficial effect on our heart health. But more recently, researchers have moved towards suggesting that a ‘green’ Mediterranean diet is an even better option. This includes reducing the amount of red and processed meat consumed and increasing intake of green foods such as Duckweed, an aquatic plant used in smoothies, green tea and walnuts.  This resulted in a reduction of LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

Looking after your heart, no matter what your age, can have positive and long term benefits.

If you struggle with lots of salads and fresh greens at this time of year, opt for warming soups that can be made from a wide range of vegetables and topped with a dash of olive oil or nuts and seeds, simple ways to get vitamins and minerals from your food.

Porridge is a great breakfast for a healthy heart too, especially if you hold off on the cream and sugar! Oats contain a gummy fibre in the bran part of the oat and this has been shown to help manage cholesterol level. It is easy to add extra oat brand to your porridge or even make breakfast muffins, for extra creaminess whilst avoiding the dairy, use oat milk and a dollop of oat cream. Top off with some fresh berries and seeds and you have a healthy, filling and warming breakfast.

Stress and anxiety are also known to affect our heart health, the more tense we get, the harder our heart has to work, plus our demand for nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin C and B vitamins will increase, the more stressed we get.  Having a varied diet can help supply all these important nutrients, however a food supplement can be useful if you think you are missing out certain nutrients or your diet is not as varied as you’d like.

Healthy fats such as those found in oily fish have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system. Ideally, you need to eat oily fish 2-3 times a week, which is not easy if you are not a fan of fish or choose not to eat it, for example if you are vegetarian or vegan. This is where a supplement can be useful, the essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA are available as a supplement and can be taken on a regular basis.

If you know you easily get stressed or tense, you might benefit from taking a B complex too. B vitamins contribute to normal psychological health, they won’t get rid of the stresses and strains, but they do help how our body copes with them. Magnesium is important too, helping keep muscles relaxed and again contributing to our psychological wellbeing. You might also be taking vitamin C at this time of they year for your immune health, the good news is that it also helps us absorb the B vitamins from our diet and supplements.

Earlier we touched on the ‘green’ Mediterranean diet and mentioned that researchers had used green tea as part of the regime. Green tea is a good source of the amino acid L-theanine, this amino acid helps us stay calm and relaxed without being drowsy. So enjoy a cup of green tea every day, or think about taking a supplement of L-theanine if green tea is not your favourite brew.

When looking at supplements, use ones that reflect the nutrients found in food such as all the components of vitamin E, not just one tocopherol.

Co Q 10 is  co enzyme that has antioxidant properties helping vitamin E function properly in the body, it also supports the circulation and if popular with sports people for energy. It works in the mitochondria of every cell, the engine room of the cell, helping us to produce energy and can be a useful addition to your regime.

Vitamin E is another antioxidant that works closely with vitamin C to help prevent oxidative stress, keeping our cells healthy and helping against substances such as cholesterol, oxidising and becoming an issue. When taking a vitamin E supplement, look for one that contains more than just the one form of vitamin E. The most common is d-alpha tocopherol, ideally you want to find all four tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols too, this is far closer to how nature provides vitamin E.

Building the right regime for a healthy heart can be a gift that keeps on giving. The long term benefits are much more than just once a year, so this Valentine’s, show yourself some love too!

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