The month of February is typically associated with heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, red roses and sappy cards filled with poetry. It’s a time to remind your significant other how they have touched your heart.
But it’s also a good time to take care of your own heart. In honor of American Heart Month, I urge you to evaluate your daily habits: are they helping or hurting your heart?
There are many different aspects of heart health, including blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, circulatory function and even levels of certain substances within the blood. Your diet, lifestyle and activity level can all play a part in supporting (or sabotaging) these key factors.
Are you guilty of any of the bad heart-health habits listed below? Find out how to break them.
Sitting at your desk (or on your couch) for hours at a time may cause damage to your body, by affecting circulation, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
How to break this habit: Get up at least once an hour to get your blood flowing. In addition to moving throughout the day, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity per day, either consecutively or broken into smaller sessions. Don’t be afraid to start small — even a brisk walk around the block is helpful.
Stress is inevitable — whether from work, family, traffic and the daily frustrations of our fast-paced lives. But stress can do a number on your body, affecting your mood, sleeping habits and even causing physical aches and pains.
How to break this habit: Engage in stress-relieving activities, such as yoga, meditation or aromatherapy. Popular stress-soothing scents include lavender, chamomile and frankincense.
Deep-fried food isn’t good for any part of your body. But there are many other “bad” foods lurking out there — including sodium-packed frozen food, fattening snacks and overly sugary drinks.
Lack of nutrients
Even if you eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and other healthy fare, you may be missing out on many essential nutrients for heart health.
How to break this habit: Take advantage of supplements, which can help fill in nutritional gaps and provide nutrients not found in common foods. My top picks for heart-healthy supplements include:
- CoQ10: This vitamin-like compound is actually a powerful antioxidant that may support normal heart function and cellular energy production. CoQ10 also has the potential to support healthy blood pressure levels already within normal range.* Your body manufactures its own CoQ10, but levels can decline due to aging and use of widely-used cholesterol-lowing statin drugs.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Fish oil is a popular source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, well-known for their cardio-protective properties.* Mega EFA offers optimal levels of both EPA and DHA, two important types of omega-3 EFAs.
- Niacin: Also known as vitamin B3, niacin may support healthy HDL cholesterol levels already within normal range, along with normal lipid metabolism.* Although niacin is found in many different foods from eggs to green veggies, your body’s stores must be constantly replenished.
- Garlic extract: Garlic contains alliin, a compound that may be responsible for this aromatic herb’s ability to support cardiovascular function and healthy platelet function, as well as healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels already within normal range. If you prefer not to repel your friends and family by chewing raw garlic, an odorless garlic supplement is an excellent choice.
- Hawthorn extract: Derived from the berry of a flowering shrub, hawthorn extract is a lesser-known supplement, but it is said to support normal muscle contraction within the heart, as well as healthy blood flow and blood pressure already within normal range.*
- Vitacost Targeted Wellness Cholesterol Support: There are several different nutrients that may support normal cholesterol levels already within normal range — so rather than remembering to take multiple supplements, why not get them all in one convenient formula? Targeted Wellness Cholesterol Support contains five different clinically studied ingredients, including chromium GTF, red yeast rice, L-arginine, patented Sytrinol ® (tocotrienols) and Pantesin ® (vitamin B5).*
Your heart works hard to pump oxygenated blood throughout your body, 24 hours a day. Isn’t it time you showed this vital organ how much you care?
Happy Heart Month!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.