Is Valentine’s Day a big deal for you? The bouquet of roses, the chocolates, heart signs everywhere…you love everything about the day. Perhaps you have a delightful surprise planned for your loved one – a fun night out or a quiet romantic dinner. Maybe for you, there are more important things in life, and you could care less about Valentine’s Day. Whether you celebrate the day or not, everyone can benefit from having a healthy heart.
The human body is an amazingly complex machine, and your heart is the engine that drives it. Like a car engine, it needs the right fuel, regular tune-ups, and its parts will rust if you don’t use it regularly.
Your heart needs healthy food for fuel, not junk food. Lots of soluble fiber is what your arteries need to keep from clogging. Leafy green vegetables, other vegetables and fresh fruit with a variety of colors will provide the right amount of fiber. Whole grains and root vegetables like sweet potato are also an excellent source of fiber and nutrients. For nutritious sources of protein go for fish, lean meats, and beans. Avoid using too much palm oil, but olive oil and coconut oil are good for cooking. Take a low salt, low sugar approach to everything you eat and drink. Drink lots of water, about 2 liters daily and keep alcohol to a minimum.
You’ve heard this a million times, probably because it’s a fact based on scientific evidence. Regular exercise – at least 30 minutes a day for five days or more per week – keeps your heart healthy. When combined with a healthy diet, it provides stamina, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol, improves your mood, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Exercising regularly can prevent high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. It even improves already established diabetes or high blood pressure and reduces obesity. You don’t need a gym or expensive equipment to exercise. A brisk daily walk or jogging will do the trick. The main thing is to avoid being inactive especially if your job is sedentary
Sleep is the most underestimated function of your body. It’s part of the daily tune-up your heart needs. Sleep is restorative, having the power to:
- Reboot your brain
- Repair your tissues
- Strengthen your immune system
- Balance out your stress hormones.
Every adult should aim for 7 – 8 hours of sleep daily. The timing is also critical. Sleeping from 10 pm to 6 am provides better quality sleep than sleeping from 1 am – 9 am. Research shows that getting enough sleep reduces calcium deposits in the coronary arteries, protecting against a heart attack. People, who sleep early, before midnight, also have healthier arteries than those who sleep after midnight.
Stress, regardless of the trigger, causes a rise in the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol increases blood sugar, stiffens arteries and increases your blood pressure and abdominal fat. Stress is bad news for your heart. Know what triggers your stress and apply the Four ‘A’s of stress management to each situation – Avoid, Alter, Adapt, or Accept. Make time to relax and connect in a meaningful way with others.
Learn to forgive and move on
William Shakespeare in his book, The Merchant of Venice, wrote:
“The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
In essence, forgiveness is good not only for the one who receives forgiveness but also for the person who forgives. Bitterness, resentment, and being unforgiving stress the human spirit, resulting in the build up of the stress hormone, cortisol. We know cortisol is harmful to the heart. Learn to forgive fully and move on with life.