With one in six Australians affected by cardiovascular health issues, heart health problems remain at the forefront of the national agenda. Within the Australian health sector, almost 14% of Australia’s total burden of disease stems from heart disease.
February is Heart Research Month, a date in the calendar to raise awareness on the impact heart health issues has on families, friends and communities, and the importance of research to find new ways of supporting cardiovascular health.
Heart Research Australia supports a centre of excellence that attracts world-class and emerging researchers to conduct ground-breaking research into cardiovascular health strategies. National Wear Red Day is celebrated on the 14 February to honour those close to your heart and to raise money for research, raise awareness for heart health and help keep families together for longer.
Leading Australian Integrative Cardiologist, Dr Ross Walker shares his top five tips for keeping your heart in tip-top shape naturally:
1# Quit All Addictions – especially smoking
If you smoke, quitting is the single most important step you can take to protect the health of your heart. If you want to quit, seek advice from your health professional to help support your journey towards a healthier heart and lifestyle.
Two to three cups of good quality coffee per day (caffeinated or decaffeinated), the world’s most common addiction, has been shown to help protect cardiovascular cells from damage and also help them to repair. However, regularly ingesting more than four cups of coffee per day has been shown to have no health benefits and can certainly cause marked cardiac irregularities.
2# Cultivate a good sleeping habit
Sleep is essential for a healthy heart. People who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk of cardiovascular issues —regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits. Over time, poor sleeping habits can lead to higher blood pressure during the day and a greater chance of cardiovascular problems.
Aim to go to bed at the same time every night, following the same pattern, whether it’s a bath and sometimes reading, or listening to relaxing music. Remove all digital devices from your bedroom as these can disrupt your ability to turn off.
Top Tip: If you keep your bedroom cooler and regulate the temperature throughout the night, you’ll find that your overall sleep quality improves. Similar to the mood-enhancing effects of colder temperatures in the bedroom, you’ll also find that getting a higher quality of sleep reduces your stress levels which may affect your heart health.
3# Nutrition – Load up on omegas and healthy fats
Omega 3 fatty acids that are commonly found in fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout and sardines are important for our heart health, with the added benefit of reducing inflammation in the body particularly around the joints. If you don’t like seafood then walnuts, flaxseed and hemp are also great sources of omega fatty acids.
The Mediterranean diet, which includes extra virgin olive oil, peanuts, tree nuts, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables, has also been shown to improve heart health by reducing the build-up of plaque in arteries and provide many other positive metabolic effects.
4# Consider Supplementation
Supplements can be useful when dietary intake is inadequate or when life’s business prevents us from eating an ideal heart-healthy diet. As we age, our heart health becomes even more important. During the ageing process, our body begins to lose some of its natural ability to sustain the processes crucial to maintaining a healthy body. When your body is unable to sustain these functions, free radicals can attack your cells, which in turn can threaten a healthy heart, strong immune system and normal energy levels.
You’ve probably heard about Coenzyme Q10 (or CoQ10), a naturally occurring antioxidant in your body, but you may not have heard of Ubiquinol, the active (more easily absorbed) form of CoQ10, responsible for providing your cells with energy and maintaining a healthy heart. Ubiquinol works naturally in your system to minimize free radical damage and help restore CoQ10, generating energy throughout your body, especially in your heart. Ubiquinol has also been shown to assist in maintaining healthy levels of LDL cholesterol.
If you’re over the age of 30, it may be worth considering speaking to your healthcare practitioner about including Ubiquinol in your daily health regime. As your body doesn’t convert CoQ10 into Ubiquinol as easily as you age, this is an option for those who are facing symptoms of fatigue and want added support when it comes to heart health.
Other heart-friendly supplements such as magnesium orotate, Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract, bergamot citrus extract and Vitamin K2 can also assist with maintaining a healthy heart.
5# Exercise daily
A lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for developing heart problems. Exercise has incredible benefits not only for your weight and mental health but specifically for your heart.
Cardio exercises, in particular, can lower blood pressure and strengthen your heart, as you slowly increase your cardiovascular endurance. Find an exercise you enjoy, whether it be power-walking, swimming or even dancing, and aim to move and increase your heart rate for at least 30 minutes, every day.
Being happy promotes a range of lifestyle habits that are important for overall health and your heart. Research has also shown that people who maintain healthy friendship networks throughout life actually have a lower risk of heart disease. Reduced stress and anxiety as a result of these relationships play a significant role in these findings, not to mention the vital happiness chemicals, serotonin, dopamine & oxytocin, released as a consequence of love & bonding.
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The Carousel would like to thank Australia’s Leading Integrative Cardiologist, Dr Ross Walker for his article.