Heart month is one month of the year that I never thought would resonate so strongly with me. During my pregnancy, I had HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia, that consequently have left me with a 6-8X higher risk of heart disease than someone my age. For a health conscious individual with no other complex health issues, this was astounding to hear, and frankly, a little scary-especially with a little one. The harsh reality, is that I am not the only one who needs to spend time examining my health habits: according the the Government of Canada’s website, over 1.6 millions Canadians report having heart disease.
Thankfully, there are a number of things that can be done to prevent heart disease, and while many of the recommended guidelines can be confusing as research is continually changing, there are a few simple strategies that you can incorporate into your lifestyle to prevent heart disease. I thought I would share with you a few of my own personal ideas to help keep my heart in good shape, as well as some recommendations for supplements that you can take regularly to protect your heart.
I’m trying to find a way to tell people to quit smoking, manage stress, exercise and eat well without boring everyone every time I write a blog post, but those factors are crucial in every aspect of health ESPECIALLY in the prevention of heart disease. It is also important that if you need guidance that you involve your doctor and seek help from professionals who can help you such as a holistic nutritionist, naturopath, psychologist or personal trainer. There are a lot of qualified individuals who have the ability to help you move forward with your health goals.
I did want to share with you a handful of things that I have incorporated, though I realize that not all of these things are feasible for everyone. More than anything, I hope that it encourages you to think outside of the box to look for solutions that work well for you and your lifestyle.
1) Focus on what you can ADD to your diet:
I’ve never done well with people telling me what to do, especially when it comes to being told what I can’t have-even if it is in my best interest. So instead of meticulously coordinating my diet around all of my limitations, I look for ways to increase my vegetable and fruit intake, because that’s one area that I know I really struggle with. I like to aim to have a smoothie, soup or salad each day, because there are so many ways you can make each of these things with an abundance of veggies and variety. A lot of eating well is shifting your attitude away from a person of deprivation.
AND as a side note, here are some links that reiterate the value of consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables for heart health.
Increased consumption of fruit and vegetables is related to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of cohort studies.
Fruit and vegetable consumption and stroke: a meta-analysis of cohort studies.
Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studes.
2) Meal Prep
When I think of meal prep I often think of bodybuilders and fitness models: I do not come close to falling into either of those categories. But going back to work even part-time was bittersweet because on one hand I love my job and I missed it, but on the other hand I knew I was sacrificing time with my son. So truly, meal prepping didn’t start out as something I was doing for my health, it was to maximize my productivity.
Meal prepping to me is spending 1-2 hours on Sunday getting my lunches ready for the week, and getting suppers ready, or at least as much preparation done so I have minimal work to do in the evening. It means I have to think a little bit during the week about what I want to eat the following week, but that usually happens when I see recipes while cruising around on Facebook. This has been one of the most advantageous habits I could have developed over the past few weeks because it has saved me a tremendous amount of time (and kitchen clean-up) during the week, and I have not had to leave work to go for lunch, or snack on unhealthy foods. Not only that but I have saved a pretty decent amount of money too.
3) Exercise and my Stand Up Desk
I am not quiet about the fact that I hate making the time for exercise, even though once I start I do actually enjoy it. One of my best pieces of advice is just to start doing SOMETHING, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s going to do a whole lot. I downloaded the 7 minute app on my phone, and most days when I do 7 minutes of exercise it turns into 14, or 21, or 28 on a good day. I also try to minimize the amount of time I do sitting, because sitting all day isn’t good for conditioning the heart, or aiding circulation. I am so grateful that my boss provided me with a stand-up desk for work, and the limits my time sitting at a desk.
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Interestingly enough, there is a lot of controversy around whether or not Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can prevent heart disease, so you may wonder why they are number one on my list. The reason for that, is that there are many very positive studies on Omega-3 fatty acids and the triglycerides, which are arguably a more important determining factor in whether a person will develop heart disease than cholesterol is. We also know that Omega-3 fatty acids play a major role in the reduction of inflammation, and while inflammation may not be a direct cause of heart disease, it is very intimately linked to its development. Inflammation can arise from a variety of factors including poor diet, and even stress. When it comes to supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids, and selecting a dose, I think we need to use a bit of logic: use enough but not too much. Start with 1g per day with food, and if you already have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about increasing your dose. Do NOT combine Omega-3’s with other types of medications, especially blood thinners.
CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) is an antioxidant found in high concentrations in the heart. It has a long track record for strengthening the heart, lowering blood pressure and preventing subsequent heart attacks after an initial heart attack. Coenzyme Q10 comes in two different forms in capsule: ubiquinol and ubiquinone. Ubiquinone is fantastic if you are just looking to take it preventatively, however if you are at high risk for a heart attack or stroke, or you have previously had a heart attack or stroke, you may want to consider ubiquinol, which is the converted form of CoQ10 and requires little work from the body to utilize.
3. Healthy Heart:
There are a lot of comprehensive heart formulas on the market, but I do really like this company. We have worked with CanPrev for a number of years, and they do their due diligence when formulating products. This formula is intended for reducing blood pressure and cholesterol and strengthening the heart.
Sealicious Omega-3, Natural Factors CoQ10, and CanPrev's Healthy Heart are all on sale for 20% for the month of February 2017!