By Coach Paige
In Canada, February is Heart and Stroke Awareness Month. During this month you will come across lots of information on recognizing the signs of heart disease and heart attack but prevention is the best medicine. So how do we enhance the health and longevity of our hearts?
Get Your Heart Pumping!
Exercise daily. If you are a beginner you can start with as little as 10 minutes a day. Choose a variety of exercises such as walking, swimming, biking or running to strengthen your heart and circulatory system. When your circulatory system becomes stronger it becomes more efficient at delivering oxygen and nutrients, which means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard. This extends to your daily life as well.
When your cardiovascular fitness improves, and you find you are no longer huffing and puffing after climbing a flight of stairs, it’s because your heart is not needed to work as hard to get you up the stairs because it is now stronger. Your heart is more energy efficient!
Strong Body – Strong Heart
Include some weight training in your exercise regime. Research shows that regular weight training can improve triglyceride counts, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, glucose metabolism and reduce body fat. In a study of 44,000 men, researchers at Harvard found that those who lifted weights for 30 minutes or more a week reduced their risk of heart disease by 23 percent. When your muscles are strong it makes it easier for you to lift grocery bags or carry your kids, which reduces the stress upon the heart as well – and don’t worry ladies, muscles will not make you look bulky or manly.
When you feed your body nutrient dense foods, you become stronger and healthier. Likewise, if you eat lots of high sugar, trans-fat laden treats, your body and your energy suffers. Fatty fish provide beneficial omega 3 which can help stabilize heart rhythms to prevent irregular heartbeats, lower cholesterol and triglycerides; and reduce inflammation in the arteries.
Choose a variety of colours when eating fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are high quality sources of fiber, which lowers cholesterol and helps reduce low-grade inflammation in our bodies. They also contain antioxidants, which counteract damage done by free radicals to arteries and help prevent plaque buildup in our arteries.
Oatmeal, oat bran, legumes, beans, and peas are foods which are rich in soluble fiber, the kind that reduces cholesterol by soaking it up so it’s flushed it out of the body as waste. Studies show that diets low in fat and rich in soluble fiber can reduce total cholesterol levels by 10 to 15 percent.
Embrace Your Stress
Some stress is actually healthy in life, especially if it involves things which bring deeper meaning to our life. Your perception of stress actually can be the defining factor in whether stress is helpful to your heart or harmful as explained in Kelly McGongial’s video; How to Make Stress Your Friend.
In addition take time for self care – for Me time. Take time to relax or pamper yourself, this could be rising earlier than the kids to enjoy your coffee in silence or making time for your own workouts. It could be taking time to call your dear friend who you haven’t had the time to speak with lately, or reading your favorite book. These are also effective ways to help us cope with stress as opposed to turning to poor habits such as smoking, binge eating or intoxicants when we feel stress is a little too high or too much. Another method of self care and stress coping is prayer.
Connect With Allah
There have been numerous studies identifying that spirituality and spiritual practices can positively influence immune, cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels), hormonal, and nervous systems. In studying meditation, science has proven that regular practice can help reduce stress, blood pressure and improve various other health markers.
Our daily prayers five times a day are a form of meditation in which we create a stronger bond with Allah SWT and through Dhikr (remembrance) we also meditate on the beautiful aspects of Allah SWT. These acts can bring deeper peace and health to our being. In the Quran we are reminded that being in remembrance of Allah SWT softens the heart…perhaps there is more meaning in this as there often is. Aside from helping create great empathy, and love, a softened heart is a peaceful heart, and a peaceful heart is a healthy heart.
About the Author:
Coach Paige has been in the fitness industry for a decade, specializing in helping women achieve their health and fitness goals. She offers 1-on-1 training in her private studio, small group boot camps, and online training and nutrition coaching. Her Lifestyle Studio is in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia. You can also reach her on her Facebook page here.