The heart is synonymous with love itself but how often do we actually give this important muscle the TLC it deserves? One way to care for your heart is to support your heart health naturally.
The heart is the center of our circulatory system. It works with the lungs to oxygenate the blood and then disperses it throughout the body, keeping all organs and tissues alive and nourished. Learning to naturally support the circulatory system can help the heart do its job well.
The heart is also connected to our autonomic nervous system, so during times of physical or emotional stress, the heart rate and blood pressure increase to supply more blood, rich with oxygen and nutrients, to the body. Since the heart reacts to perceived danger, like mental and emotional stress, as if a real danger was present, chronic stress can eventually lead to heart disease.
In addition to stress overworking the heart, difficult emotions can cause us to reach for sweets or other “comfort foods”. But, a poor diet affects our overall health, including hormone production. Hormones send chemical messages throughout the body which regulate important functions such as temperature, caloric retention, and circadian rhythm.
A few simple daily choices can impact your heart health. You can incorporate these 5 natural methods to support the heart into your lifestyle and give your heart some tender-loving-care.
Being properly hydrated improves all body functions. Water consumption is especially important in blood formation and cardiovascular action. Being dehydrated leads to decreased blood volume and causes blood to become thick and sticky, which is harder to pump and puts more strain on the heart.
One way to monitor your hydration is to look at your urine. If you're consuming enough water, your urine should be mostly clear with a tinge of yellow.
So, how much water do you need to stay hydrated? It depends on your body size, activity level, and metabolism. One recommendation is to drink half your weight in ounces per day, so a 150-pound person should consume 75 ounces of water throughout the day. You should build-up to this level gradually and adjust as needed until you find the amount that results in urine that is mostly clear.
Sleep deprivation takes its toll on the brain first, then the heart. The brain registers lack of sleep as a stressor which results in the fight-or-flight response being activated. Cue irritability, anxiety, moodiness, and many other symptoms.
Adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. If you struggle to fall asleep, be sure to turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. Bright lights from televisions, computers, phones, or other electronics can prohibit the natural release of melatonin.
You could consider taking melatonin supplements to bring on sleepiness, but limiting light exposure and practicing relaxation techniques should be tried first. Some great ways to relax before bed include prayer, meditation, or reading. If you find yourself still tossing and turning, allow yourself to get up and try a calming activity such as listening to relaxing music or knitting.
In the event that you don't get enough sleep, it's important to practice self-compassion which helps to improve our physiology by releasing oxytocin, the "love hormone". You can also ask for support with daily to-dos, meditate throughout the day for 5 to 20 minutes, practice deep breathing, and drink plenty of water.
Avoid drinking loads of coffee or other caffeinated beverages to compensate for a poor night of sleep. If you do consume caffeinated beverages, keep it to a minimum of 1-2 cups per day and don’t consume it after 2:00 pm so the caffeine can leave your system before it's time to wind down.
3. Bach Flowers
Emotions, mental stress, and physical stress impact the heart due to the resulting adrenaline rush during the fight-or-flight response. Stress is a completely normal, even healthy response, which can catapult us into action, bring us closer to others, and strengthen our connections to those around us. However, ongoing mental stress without support can take its toll on your body and your life.
For ongoing conditions, you may adapt to function with higher than normal stress levels. Although you may learn to handle the stress, it still takes a toll on your heart, mind, and spirit. Prolonged stress responses can result in anxiety, depression, and heart problems that can be challenging to overcome.
To support your body and your emotions, try taking Bach Flower remedies. There are 38 Bach Flowers that each help to balance different emotions and can be used during difficult life circumstances. For example, the Star of Bethlehem Bach Flower remedy helps to ease extreme emotions such as shock, trauma, and grief.
In order to know the best combination and method for taking Bach Flowers, you should speak with a Bach Flower Specialist. Bach Flower remedies may be taken internally, applied topically, or even sprayed in the air. For example, the Bach Flower just mentioned, Star of Bethlehem, can be applied topically to the sternum where the Vagus nerve passes as it travels from the brain to the rest of the body. To help improve your results, speak with a Certified Bach Flower Specialist or enroll in a program to learn how to use flower essences effectively.
4. Eat More Fiber
As a society, we've lost sight of the true meaning of "whole foods." Intuitively, we know what a whole food is and yet many Americans are made to believe that highly-processed foods are still a healthy choice. Whole foods include the whole plant source, seed and all of the vital nutrients. Whole foods are also a natural source of fiber.
So, what does eating whole foods have to do with heart health? A diet rich in fibrous foods has been shown to reduce the risk of metabolic disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Conditions like diabetes, for example, can greatly narrow our capillaries causing blockages which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Fiber is a carbohydrate that our bodies are incapable of breaking down. It helps our bodies to remove toxins and to feel fuller. It also aids in lowering our blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. Since our bodies cannot digest fiber, it can be subtracted from the total carbohydrate count on a food label.
There are two types of fiber and both are extremely beneficial to our health. Soluble fiber absorbs water and helps to bind with toxins and waste in our bodies. Insoluble fiber doesn't absorb water. Its job is to move waste along so it can be removed from the body.
To learn more about eating to support your heart and whole body, consider enrolling in a nutrition education program or a holistic health program. Programs like these teach you the best food choices to support the body, and you can use this knowledge to guide others in improving their health as well.
5. Supportive Supplements
Even though our food choices should be the main source of our vitamins and minerals, sometimes we need a little extra support. Supplements can provide us with these much-needed nutrients in times of need. They can also provide our bodies with certain substances we wouldn't normally eat in large quantities.
So, which supplements help support the heart? Hawthorn is one of the most widely used herbal supplements, which is known to benefit cardiovascular function. Garlic and hibiscus also help the heart to maintain healthy blood pressure.
Before taking garlic or other supplements, it's vital to assess any medications you're currently taking to avoid adverse reactions. Garlic, for example, prohibits blood platelet aggregation, which slows blood clotting. If someone is taking Warfarin, a prescribed blood thinner, garlic supplements will potentiate the blood thinner leading to increased risk of bleeding.
Cayenne can also support the heart. Cayenne is a circulatory support herb, which has been used for centuries for temperature regulation in the extremities due to its ability to improve blood flow throughout the body. Another supplement to consider is Ubiquinol (CoQ10). CoQ10 is recognized both by the naturopathic and medical communities to support the heart muscle, particularly when statins are in use.
Essential Fatty Acids, which are found in plant oils, nuts, seeds, and certain fish, also help to support the heart. Essential Fatty Acid supplements can be used in cases where we aren't able to consistently get enough of these healthy fats. Since our bodies don't naturally produce these fatty acids, we need to consume them through our food choices or supplementation.
Lastly, enzymes are protein-based catalysts which are found naturally in the body. These can be taken as supplements with meals to improve digestion or systemically (not during meals) to help repair, maintain, and build tissues. Serrapeptase and nattokinase are two enzymes that are known to help support the heart and can improve blood pressure.
Support Your Heart Health Naturally
Most of us prefer to support heart health naturally. We want to feel in control of our lives and enjoy the benefits of optimal health. In order to fully achieve this, we must tune in to the needs of our body, mind, and spirit. You can begin by following these simple suggestions to support your heart health.
To learn more ways to naturally support the body, consider enrolling in our Certified Natural Health Professional (CNHP) program or our Certified Holistic Health Practitioner program.