Around these parts, February is considered heart health month.  Before I even launch into this post I want to advise that I am NOT a Medical Professional nor am I a Registered Holistic Nutritionist yet so I am not able to give out health advice. 

Instead I have a few tips on how to make small adjustments in your daily life to keep your ticker ticking optimally and keep you living a long and fruitful life!

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1. Exercise

Exercising gets your heart rate up and helps to keep your heart strong and healthy.

The new Canadian standards for exercise (according to the Public Health Agency of Canada) suggest a minimum of 150 minutes per week, that works out to about 20 minutes a day.  You can do that right?

If the idea of joining a gym scares you or you can’t can’t afford to go to boxing classes there are so many other options available that saying you can’t exercise just becomes an excuse.  Many yoga studios have karma classes where you can take a class for a small fee that usually benefits a charity, bootcamps can be motivational and you can go with a friend, workout DVDs that you can borrow from the library, check craigslist for workout equipment or simply go outside for a walk…the possibilities are endless.

2. Adopt a plant-based diet, if not full-time then part-time

On today’s episode of Oprah, she and her staff went vegan for 1 week.  Some of my co-workers are trying out vegetarianism.  This past year, Bill Clinton went on a mostly vegan diet for heart health.  A plant-based diet doesn’t mean existing on tofu and seeds.  There are so many great alternatives such as quinoa, millet, brown rice, kale, beets, sweet potatoes, walnuts, lentils…the bookstore, library and internet are full of amazing recipes to help inspire you. 

In general animal-based foods are much higher in saturated fats then plant foods and a leading contributor to cardiovascular disease.

If giving up meat all together doesn’t appeal to you, hey that’s cool.  Just make smart choices, choose organic and local meats.  The quality is better and knowing that the animals were treated humanely will make your heart feel good.  Try 1 or 2 days per week where you go meatless, you’ll save on your groceries, help the environment and your heart.

3. Regular check-ups with your Medical Professional

Please don’t be scared of the doctor’s office, a yearly physical isn’t so bad.   It’s 1 hour of your life once a year.  Sure it’s awkward and intimate but it’s better to find out where you’re at health-wise then live in the dark.  Also, be an advocate for yourself, if you have questions, ask them.  If something doesn’t sound right, never be afraid to get a second or third opinion, you  know your body the best.

4. Meditation and yoga

Having stress in your life is normal and mostly unavoidable.  But there is a huge difference between manageable stress and stress which consumes you and becomes unhealthy.  This takes a major toll on your heart.  Through meditation and yoga you create positive effects on the body by creating a calm and peaceful state of being.  Try to incorporate some form of this into your weekly routine.

I’d like to point out here that there is no such thing as being “good” at meditation and yoga.  It is a deeply personal and spiritual practice and while you might look around the room and compare yourself to the person beside you who has effortlessly folded themselves into a pretzel and you can’t touch your toes, fear not.  If you are focusing on this then this becomes stretching and not yoga.  Focus on yourself and creating peace  and harmony in your mind and body and worry about nothing else.

5. Have fun, create balance, give love

Creating balance in your life between work and play is perhaps the most important of all these points.  Revel in all life has to offer – eat a piece of dark chocolate, go to a concert with friends, nap on the couch with your kids.  Find whatever it is that warms your heart and enjoy it.

How do you keep your heart healthy?

NOTE – Please consult with your Naturopath or Medical Doctor before starting any fitness regime, altering your diet or changing your medication.

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