Though winter’s best known for colds and flu, it’s also a time to protect your heart. Dim, wintry sunlight means less vitamin D and more depression, risk factors for heart problems. Comfort food, holiday treats and less exercise can lead to heart-threatening body fat. So ’tis the season to melt your cold, cold heart and make simple but powerful lifestyle changes that boost cardio wellness and may save your life.
State of the Heart
National statistics show that an American suffers a heart attack every 25 seconds. That kind of danger means that taking measures to support your circulation and cardiovascular system is critical, especially during the cold months. Frosty weather and shorter days keep outdoor activities to a minimum, limiting many people to a sedentary winter lifestyle. These seasonal challenges make people gain weight, decrease their circulation and can lead to destructive inflammation and oxidative stress.
Fighting Inflammation Is Top Priority
Doctors now know that cholesterol and fat don’t necessarily contribute directly to heart disease, but that chronic inflammation is often responsible for damage to the heart and circulatory system. This results from the excessive wear and tear of oxidative stress, a situation similar to an overheating engine.
Oxidative stress occurs when harmful free radicals (byproducts of toxins and normal cellular waste) run rampant, damaging DNA and compromising cellular integrity. Normally, the body’s antioxidant reserves neutralize free radicals and repair their destruction. Oxidative stress, however, depletes antioxidants as a result of illness, exhaustion, stress, toxins, poor diet, lack of exercise and other drains on the body’s resources. In addition to these risks, chronic inflammation also disrupts heart health by triggering the deadly process of fibrosis, uncontrolled scar-tissue buildup that takes place in organs and tissues. Damping down oxidative stress and inflammation with hydration, a balance of adequate rest and exercise, a whole foods diet, and supplementation with effective antioxidant and anti-inflammation formulas offers invaluable long-term benefits.
Recognizing Good Fats and Bad Fats
Without adequate levels of good cholesterol and healthy fats, you increase your risk for heart disease. These beneficial lipids help fight inflammation and provide critical antioxidants, nutrients and building blocks for health. The type of fats and cholesterol circulating in your system are critical: Essential fatty acids (EFAs) and healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils, for example, reduce the risk of many chronic conditions. Trans fats and excess saturated fats found in most processed and fried foods, however, are harmful and often damage cardiovascular and overall health when they generate free radicals, promote inflammation and increase oxidative stress.
Similarly, the quality of your cholesterol, not the quantity, determines your risk of cardio difficulties. Though not often acknowledged, the key issue with cholesterol is whether it is oxidized. When cholesterol, particularly LDL (bad cholesterol), becomes oxidized through chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, it turns into a deadly substance. Luckily, testing for cholesterol oxidation is simple and straightforward. With a whole foods diet, regular exercise, healthy stress relief and the right supplements, you can protect against cholesterol oxidation and prevent it from occurring, boosting your chances for optimal cardiovascular and overall health.
Poor circulation leads to stagnation, which, in turn, generates inflammation. This allows toxins to collect, slows their removal and impedes the flow of nutrient-rich blood. Thus, it’s important to keep your circulatory system well-conditioned and running smoothly with brisk walks, yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi and other nourishing movement exercises.
Heart Healthy Diet
Almost everyone knows by now that a balanced whole foods diet is essential for maintaining a healthy heart. As I have discussed, this includes an adequate supply of foods high in omega-3 fats and essential fatty acids (EFAs), which help decrease inflammation and improve circulation.
Some of the best heart-healthy foods include:
- Beans: Black and kidney beans are high in B-complex vitamins, folate and magnesium.
- Nuts: Almonds and walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium and fiber.
- Fish: Salmon, sardines and herring are fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in mercury than other types.
- Greens: Spinach, broccoli and kale are packed with lutein (a carotenoid), B-complex vitamins, potassium and fiber, as well as vitamins C and E.
My top recommendation for heart health is Padma Basic, an ancient Tibetan herbal formula supported by more than 30 years of clinical research. It offers strong antioxidant, immune, anti-inflammation and circulatory benefits. Another important daily supplement is modified citrus pectin which protects heart health by inhibiting a molecule called galectin-3 (which is at the root of inflammation and fibrosis-related diseases, including congestive heart failure). Other important heart nutrients include nattokinase, a clot-busting enzyme derived from fermented natto soybeans; hawthorn berry; Chinese salvia and medicinal mushrooms.
These simple yet powerful steps can improve not just heart health, but your overall health as well, giving you improved immunity, extra personal energy and increased well-being. All those benefits can protect you against myriad chronic ailments.
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