February is National Heart Health Month. What are you doing to support optimal heart health and avoid heart disease? It’s important to make changes, if needed, so that you can have a healthy heart and avoid becoming a statistic.  A healthy heart gives us energy to live a fuller life and accomplish our goals. When our heart health isn’t up to par, energy levels decline, life gets hard, and we wind up spending more time at the doctor’s office than working on our passions or dreams. Part of having a healthy heart is knowing what to avoid. 

There are 3 threats to heart health that everyone should know about and avoid at all costs: 

1) Inflammation is a threat. High levels of inflammation have been linked to heart disease and heart attacks. Inflammation is mostly caused by unhealthy foods. For example, sugar and excess meat consumption are common causes of inflammation and put us on a road to increased risk of heart disease. Plaque in the arteries also triggers inflammation which attracts white blood cells and then can cause a blood clot. The solution to inflammation is two parts: 

A. The first part is to increase your antioxidant intake through eating brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Eat more foods like spinach, kale, red bell peppers, blueberries, zucchini, squash, apples, cucumbers, etc. You can even enjoy a bit of 72% dark chocolate on occasion and the antioxidant capacity will be good for your heart. 

B. The second part of the solution to inflammation is to take a high quality fish oil supplement like Omega Complete Fish Oil which will provide omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are shown to reduce inflammation and promote overall heart health.

Here is a list of the foods with the highest antioxidant capacity:

  • Gogi berries, also called wolf berries are great to eat as a dried food snack in moderation.
  • Blueberries (or any bright colored edible berry) are a healthy, fresh treat all on their own or in a salad.
  • Dark chocolate. Need we say more?
  • Pecans are surprisingly loaded with antioxidants and make a great salad topping or raw snack.
  • Artichoke is a great choice for a steamed vegetable and tastes great with a seasoned oil dip or melted organic butter.
  • Kidney beans are a great source of antioxidants and work great in a low carb chili recipe or as an addition to your favorite winter soup or summer bean salad
  • Cilantro is also a great antioxidant and can help lower inflammation. More pico de gallo please!

2) Sedentary living is a threat.  It’s estimated that 35% of coronary heart disease is due to physical inactivity alone. By being inactive you could increase your risk of CHD by 30-50%. Only about 22% of Americans report getting regular and sustained physical activity. A healthy heart is a fit heart. When you get moving your heart gets pumping and stays strong. The more you move, the more efficient your heart muscle becomes, and the healthier it is. Just a 1-2 mile walk or jog daily can make a big difference in overall health. Taking a walk is good physical activity for almost any age or ability level. It’s also good for stress relief and when planned strategically it can help create more time with those you love. Take a walk together so you can both be healthier.

3) Smoking is a threat. About 20% of deaths from heart disease are directly related to smoking. Smoking increases blood pressure, reduces exercise tolerance, and increases risk for blood clot. Smoking also damages the lining of your arteries which leads to arterial build up and blockage. Add this to the fact that smoking ALSO increases risk for lung cancer and you have more than enough reason to either stop smoking or make sure a family member knows the risks.

Having a healthy heart starts with a decision to make it a priority. Make your heart a priority today and avoid these threats to optimal heart health. Incorporate antioxidants into your eating plan, take a high quality fish oil supplement, get moving, and stop smoking. Your heart depends on it.