Self-Care for Heart Health
Nurture your wellness with self-care strategies that keep spirits bright – and support heart health!
There has never been more information available on healthy living. Social media, high profile health trends and advancements in nutritional and health sciences have provided us with more insight into how to care for ourselves than ever before. But despite these leaps in information and awareness, we are still vulnerable to certain risks and illness, including cardiovascular disease, which is the second leading cause of death for Canadians
Cardiovascular disease can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, but there are some risk factors that can be diminished with certain lifestyle choices – many of which are rooted in the concept of “self-care”.
Self-care is more than just a trending hashtag – or taking a bubble bath. It’s about taking accountability and action for our own personal health and wellness. Intentional self-care practices can influence our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and support heart health.
We take our state of mind to heart – literally! We all experience stress and feel it in our body: our muscles tense and our heart rate quickens. But other effects include elevated blood pressure and accumulation of inflammation in the circulatory system. Chronic or repeated episodes of acute stress can have significant negative effects on our cardiovascular functions.
Stress is often linked to unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking and excessive alcohol intake, a risky combination for your heart.
While avoiding stress isn’t always possible, taking conscious steps to manage it can help. Tactics that help reduce stress in the workplace can offer relief, and certain supplements can be helpful to the body for managing the effects of psychological stress. Ashwagandha, for example, is an adaptogen that has been used in herbal medicine to help increase energy and resistance to stress.
Meditation is a great tool for managing stress levels, as is the practice of cultivating happiness. Not only will you feel better in your day-to-day life, but your relationships and your heart health will also reap the benefits.
Cultivate Healthy Habits
MOVE! A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Weaving exercise into your everyday routine, whether it be walking, swimming, running or yoga is a great defense for your cardiovascular health. Even small efforts, like opting for the stairs is beneficial.
Show your body love by eating whole, fresh foods when filling your heart-friendly grocery cart. Reducing sugar intake and processed foods, mindful salt consumption and avoiding unhealthy fats are good guidelines for a heart-smart diet.
Build a meal plan around foods with plenty of fibre, fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains, quality protein sources, and plenty of healthy fats that nourishes a healthy body, heart and cardiovascular system. And shake it up! Adding a little variety is always fun and introduces a greater spectrum of nutrients into your diet.
Supplements for Heart Health
Self-care through supplementation can make big differences in protecting your health. Plant sterols, a family of molecules found in the cell membranes of plants, have been found to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Studies have found them effective in lowering total and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels – risk factors in heart disease. Plant sterols are widely available in supplement form and can even be found in certain enriched food products, such as margarine, salad dressings, yogurt, fruit juices and mayonnaise.
Another effective supplement for the maintenance and support of cardiovascular health is Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a substance generated by the body that is found in every cell, and in higher concentrations in the heart. CoQ10 produces energy your body needs for cell growth and maintenance and provides antioxidant protection against free radicals. Studies have indicated that supplementation with CoQ10 may support heart muscle function and may have positive effects among those with high blood pressure.
To cultivate a heart-healthy natural diet and supplement routine, simply visit your local CHFA Member health food store for guidance and the best selection of quality, effective supplements and nourishing foods.
Try a Little TLC
The “winter blues” can bring down even the cheeriest of us – but kindness can offer a lift! Intentional acts of kindness like volunteering can nourish the soul and have even been found to support heart health through the generation of feel-good hormones that counteract symptoms of stress and tension.
Also, back to that bubble bath: along with a foundation of healthy habits comes some indulgence in decadent acts of self-care too. This includes spa days, sleeping in, the occasional Netflix binge and glass of (organic) red wine or dark chocolate.
Investing in some self-care habits can fortify your wellness, lift the spirits and play a part in changing the statistics of heart disease all year round.
Agarwal, Shashi K. (2012). Cardiovascular benefits of exercise. Int J Gen Med. 2012; 5: 541–545. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3396114/
Harvard Health Publishing. (2017). Uncovering the link between emotional stress and heart disease. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-disease-overview/uncovering-the-link-between-emotional-stress-and-heart-disease
Heart disease in Canada. Retrieved from: https://health-infobase.canada.ca/datalab/heart-disease-blog.html
Health Canada. (2019) Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Natural Health Products Ingredients Database. Retrieved from: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=ashwagandha&lang=eng
Health Canada. (2019) Coenzyme Q10.Natural Health Products Ingredients Database. Retrieved from: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=coenzyme.q10&lang=eng
Health Canada. (2019) Free Plant Sterols.Natural Health Products Ingredients Database. Retrieved from: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=206&lang=eng
Health Canada. (2010). Plant Sterols and Blood Cholesterol Lowering. Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-labelling/health-claims/assessments/plant-sterols-blood-cholesterol-lowering-nutrition-health-claims-food-labelling.html
Langsjoen PH. Introduction to coenzyme Q10. Online in: A Physician’s Update on Coenzyme Q10 in U.S. Medicine. University of Washington faculty webpage of John T.A. Ely, Ph.D. Tyler (TX); 1994. [Accessed 2018 June 1]. Retrieved from: https://www.grc.com/sr6dev/misc/coq10/coenzyme%20q10.pdf
Piferi RL1, Lawler KA. (2006). Social support and ambulatory blood pressure: an examination of both receiving and giving. Int J Psychophysiol. 2006 Nov;62(2):328-36. Epub 2006 Aug 14. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16905215
Pratte, Morgan A. (2014). An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of Human Trial Results Reported for the Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Vol. 20, No. 12. Retrieved from: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acm.2014.0177
Rosenfeldt FL, Haas SJ, Krum H, Hadj A, Ng K, Leong JY, Watts GF. Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of hypertension: a meta-analysis of the clinical trials. Journal of Human Hypertension 2007;21(4):297-306.Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17287847