• Karen C Uthus

Send a Valentine to your Heart

Updated: Apr 24

Did you know that February is Heart Health month? Your heart works day and night for you pumping about 2000 gallons of blood daily. This year you can celebrate Valentine's Day and recognize the hard work your heart does by returning the favor and showing your heart a little love.

Below are four tips on how to show your heart some love.

Tip #1: Stay hydrated. Since your blood is predominately water, staying hydrated ensures that you have proper blood volume and viscosity (thickness), thus supporting optimal circulation. The job of the heart is to pump your blood and when you are hydrated this job is made easier allowing your heart to function better by being more efficient. A simple standard around optimal water consumption is to drink 1/2 your weight in ounces of pure water daily.

(e.g., 200lb person aims to drink 100ozs. of water.)

Tip #2: Exercise. Your heart is a muscle and like any muscle needs to exercise to stay strong and efficient. The Surgeon General recommends adults exercise at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week at a moderate-intensity, like brisk walking, biking or dancing, paired with strength-training 2 days weekly. This regimen contributes positively to weight management, lower blood pressure and improved blood sugar levels. All of these factors contribute to better heart health and overall wellness. Start slow and consult your doctor before assuming an exercise regimen.

Tip #3: Know your family history. Family members can clue you in to family health history so that you can properly care for your heart. This is a great time to reach out to family to learn about health risk factors. If your blood relatives have a history of heart problems, like heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, congenital heart defects and other conditions it could mean that you are also at risk of the same.1 Knowing the signs and symptoms of heart disease as well as your genetic predisposition will help you manage your risk and catch problems early on, which will ensure a better outcome.

Tip #4: Eat more heart-healthy whole plant foods. Strive to increase whole plant foods, fruits and vegetables of all colors. Plant foods offer benefits like increased satiety, increased fiber, improved gut health, increased vitamins, minerals and substances that protect against disease. Avoid inflammatory foods. Foods containing trans-fats, a high glycemic index, or a high sugar content, all promote inflammation within the circulatory system. Be aware of serving sizes and stay within your energy needs. Explore leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale, collards, beet greens, watercress, and chard). Experiment with different healthy prep methods (e.g. raw, sautéed, steamed). Pick a rainbow color and try a new vegetable in that color each week. For most people a good goal is to add an additional vegetable to each meal daily.

According to the Havard School of Public Health, "A meta-analysis of cohort studies following 469,551 participants found that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, with an average reduction in risk of 4% for each additional serving per day of fruit and vegetables."2 Adding a variety of whole plant foods to each meal will increase your lifespan and improve your quality of life.

In the month that we celebrate Valentine's Day, the best way you can show your love to your family and friends is by caring for your heart so you may share a longer higher quality life with them.

1. Kathiresan, S., & Srivastava, D. (2012). Genetics of human cardiovascular disease. Cell, 148(6), 1242–1257. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2012.03.001

2. Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, Zhu M, Zhao G, Bao W, Hu FB. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 2014 Jul 29;349:g4490.

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