This post and photography are courtesy of Nic Abraham.
February is American Heart Month! During this time, Americans are encouraged to take an active approach to combat heart disease, a leading cause of death in the U.S. Luckily, there are a lot of simple actions you and your loved ones can take to protect your heart, health and wellbeing in February and beyond!
If you’re looking to live a heart-healthy lifestyle, now’s the time. A few small changes to your daily routine can lead to a healthier you. Remember, it only takes 21 days to form a new habit!
With the many benefits that tea offers, green tea is the best option for heart health. The catechins and polyphenols in green tea indirectly function as antioxidants to reduce inflammation and prevent cell damage. This tea can also decrease LDL blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Traditional Medicinals has a light blend organic green tea with lemongrass that stimulates and supports health.
Rich in antioxidants, berries can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, regulate blood clotting, control blood pressure and decrease LDL cholesterol.
Other heart healthy fruits include apples, bananas, grapes, oranges pears and prunes.
Eating fruit is a great way to get essential nutrients and can also replace traditional desserts. Try a berry medley instead sugar-packed treat!
I’m adding avocados to the fruit section because they are fruit by nature, even though they’re often considered vegetables. Either way, they are high in potassium and monounsaturated fats. Eating avocados can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.
Broccoli promotes a strong, healthy heart by preventing inflammation and the buildup of plaque in certain arteries.
Carrots offer specific benefits thanks to their vitamin A, C and K content. Vitamin A can help prevent hypertrophy, vitamin C can lower the risk of coronary heart disease and vitamin K can help regulate blood clotting.
Tomatoes are known to increase HDL cholesterol, which keeps excess cholesterol and plaque at bay. Tomatoes are also lycopene-rich, offering antioxidant properties, which help regulate harmful free radicals, reduce inflammation and prevent oxidative damage.
Leafy green vegetables are high in nitrates and vitamin K and can help reduce blood pressure and improve arterial function. What’s more, research suggests that increasing leafy green intake can reduce the risk of heart disease. Cabbage, collard greens, kale and spinach are all in this category.
Beans contain resistant starch, which decreases cholesterol and triglycerides levels. It’s also believed that certain beans can reduce blood pressure, as well as inflammation. Consider adding black-eyed peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils or lima beans to future dinner menus.
Nuts and Seeds
As a nutrient-dense nut, almonds are ideal for a healthy heart. They are a good source of fiber and monounsaturated fats and can reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Research suggests that adding walnuts to your diet can decrease LDL cholesterol and aid in the protection against heart disease. Not to mention, they are rich in copper, fiber, magnesium and manganese.
Fiber and omega-3 fatty acids can come from seeds. Overall, seeds can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation and triglyceride levels. Try chia, flax, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds as a heart-healthy snack.
Nut and seed butters are also a great option for taking advantage of these heart healthy benefits.
Eating a piece of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate 2 -5 times a week is said to lower the risk of coronary heart disease and the development of calcified plaque in arteries. However, this means consuming chocolate in moderation. If weight management is a concern, opt for fruit instead.
Olive oil is excellent for the heart. It’s rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids, which can decrease chronic disease risk and reduce inflammation. Studies suggest that those who consume olive oil are less likely to develop heart disease.
Other oil options include canola, corn, safflower, sesame and sunflower.
Whole grains contain the germ, endosperm and bran. They are high in fiber, which can lower LDL cholesterol levels and decrease systolic blood pressure. Some options include brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat and quinoa.
To start your day off right, Quaker Oats offers heart healthy oatmeal. This whole grain option is high in cholesterol-lowering fiber.
Vitamins and Supplements
When magnesium levels are low, it can indicate heart disease and high blood pressure, plaque buildup in arteries, calcification and more. Supplements may be necessary if enough magnesium isn’t consumed from food. Various combinations and forms are available.
- Trace Ionic Magnesium Drops for heart, energy, mood and muscle support.
- New Chapter Magnesium + Ashwagandha for bone, heart, muscle and relaxation support.
- Garden of Life Multivitamins to lower the risk of heart disease and promote optimal health if proper nutrition does not come from the diet alone.
Garlic is a natural detoxifier that can improve heart health. Consuming garlic in fresh or supplement form can help reduce blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and risk of blood clots. Heinen’s supplement line offers garlic tablets that provide antioxidant protection, immune function support and promote cardiovascular health.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids lower triglyceride levels but are not something your body naturally makes. Nutritional Roots makes a plant-based omega-3 spray for brain, eye, heart and skin health.
If you are not getting enough fiber, consider adding a psyllium fiber supplement to help lower cholesterol. Metamucil is a popular option.
Make Heart Health and Everyday Goal & Seek Medical Advice
If you’re looking to change your heart health through more than just food try to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, manage stress and get adequate sleep.
An essential aspect of living a heart-healthy lifestyle is knowing if your blood pressure and cholesterol are in a healthy range. If you don’t know, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to assess your risks.
Please consult with your primary care physician before making any dietary changes or adding any new vitamins, minerals or supplements to your daily regimen.