by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac

February is National Heart Awareness Month. Throughout this month, I will be taking a look at the best ways to keep your heart healthy, strong and emotionally pliable.

Heart disease is still the number one killer of both men and women. Awareness is the first step. Know your cholesterol, blood pressure and ideal weight. Lower risk factors and prevent early disability, illness or even death from heart disease or stroke.

Improving Heart Health

1. Maintain a Healthy Weight with Exercise: Move it! The body was designed to move, so do not be stationary. Incorporate the right amount of cardiovascular aerobic exercise to get your heart pumping and a regular regimen of weight baring exercise and gentle stretching!

2. Eat Heart Health Foods – These foods include non meat sources of protein (grains, tofu, nuts), fish, poultry, lean meat (35-60 grams per day), skim or low-fat milk, cottage cheese, margarine , non hydrogenated, that is high in vegetable oils (such as corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, sesame, or soybean). Also onions, garlic, chickpeas, fresh vegetables and fruit.

3. Check Your Cholesterol – Cholesterol is a type of fat that is an essential nutrient for your body. High levels of saturated fats can cause an excess of cholesterol to build up in the arteries. Cholesterol is considered abnormal when the Total cholesterol is 200 or higher. HDL or “good” cholesterol level is less than 40. LDL or “bad” cholesterol is more than 160.

4. Maintain A Normal Blood Pressure – Range Those with high blood pressure are three times more likely to have a heart attack! The upper (systolic) number represents the pressure while the heart contracts to pump blood to the body. The lower (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats. Blood pressure below 120 over 80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) is considered optimal for adults.

5. Stop Smoking Period! – No ifs, ands or butts! Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by raising blood pressure, abnormal blood clotting and hardening of the arteries or Arteriolosclerosis, not to mention lung disease.

6. Control Blood Sugar Levels – A normal fasting blood sugar is 100 or less. A fasting blood sugar of 126 or greater indicates diabetes. Overweight and too little exercise is what increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and even blindness.

7. Maintain Lean Body Mass – According to The Cleveland Clinic, A BMI (Body Mass Index) of 40 or more indicates morbid obesity, which increases a person’s risk of death from any cause by 50% to 150%.

8. Balance Stress and Emotional Tension – The fight or flight reaction to a stressful situation is normal and important. The constant bombardment with stressful, over stimulating situations over time, causes adrenaline levels to rise, becoming chronic and abnormal. This continues pattern promotes hardening of the arteries and the formation of blood clots. Drug use, especially the use of cocaine has been shown to cause heart attacks. Say NO to drugs.

9. Work on Anger Management – The “Type A Personality” has been recognized as a definable risk factor. This personality type usually has higher blood pressure, higher blood cholesterol levels and both higher and lower levels of certain hormones.

10. Know Your Family History – Although you can’t help heredity, you can certainly “be aware” of any risk factors that may have been passed down through your family tree. Especially your immediate family. Below, you will find a list of family medical history questions about heart disease.
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