5 Heart-Healthy Tips from a Naturopathic Medicine Expert

5 Heart-Healthy Tips from a Naturopathic Medicine Expert

Heart disease is one of the biggest health concerns facing Americans today. As the No. 1 killer in the United States, it accounts for one in every four deaths, according to theCenters of Disease Control and Prevention.

The good news is it is also preventable. You might think that heart disease is only a concern for older adults, but even at a young age, lifestyle decisions can put you at a higher risk for heart issues later in life.

Following the principles of naturopathic medicine can provide natural, non-invasive approaches to healthy living and disease prevention. No matter what your age, the tips below can help you maintain good heart health.

A recent discovery regarding heart health is the impact inflammation can have in causing or contributing to heart disease. Inflammation occurs when the body's protective immune system attacks and damages tissues. In addition to being a symptom of conditions like arthritis, it can also occur in the inner lining of our arteries.

Diets that reduce inflammation can include a Mediterranean diet of mostly plant-based foods, whole grains, legumes, nuts, healthy fats and using herbs and spices to season foods instead of salt.  The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet comes recommended by the American Heart Association, which has been shown to lower blood pressure as effectively as first line blood pressure medication. The diet includes reduced salt, less refined grains and is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and fiber.

For some time, the health care community has had a misplaced fear of fats. Natural fat is no longer as harmful as previously thought; they can actually be very beneficial. For example, eggs once considered a bad diet choice because they are high in cholesterol, are now considered good for you because the cholesterol raised is the healthy HDL cholesterol.

Instead of worrying about healthy fats, you should be more concerned with food quality such as foods that are chemically modified, have trans-fat or can raise blood sugar levels.

The adage 'you are what you eat' is true when it comes to health. While the food industry adjusts some of its products to respond to these new health concerns (and consumer demands), make sure to read food labels and know just what exactly you’re consuming.

Exercising regularly can significantly help improve cardiovascular health. This should include moderate to high intensity activities such as jogging, swimming, cycling, walking up stairs, lifting weights, playing sports, etc.

TheAmerican Heart Associationhas a number of different recommendations that you can work into your schedule:

Before and after exercise, it is important to warm up and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes. Exercise has the added benefit of reducing stress, which can also help prevent heart problems.

Physical and mental stress can lead to higher heart rates and therefore increased cardiac demand. Relaxation techniques like meditation may help reduce this stress and decrease your risk of heart disease, according to aSeptember 2017 studypublished in theJournal of the American Heart Association. Of course, there are many other forms of relaxation that may achieve the same effects. Be sure to find the one that works best for you.

Exercises that include meditation like yoga and tai-chi may be particularly helpful along with massage therapy. In addition to lowering stress levels, research has shown that these activities reduce blood pressure too.

One principal of naturopathic medicine is to help teach patients better lifestyles in order to help prevent diseases from occurring in the first place. Coupled with these lifestyle changes, herbal remedies can be very impactful.

Naturopathic doctors recognize that certain stages of heart disease require medication, however, herbal extracts and proper supplementation specific to an individual can help improve many risk factors including diabetes, obesity, high LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure. Other risk factors are genetics, age, gender.

While Americans can't control all risk factors regarding heart health, there are certainly some lifestyle and nutritional changes that can significantly alter the degree of individual risk.

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