It is the month of romance and heart emojis… but this year let us look at a how we can nurture our hearts emotionally and physically! Cardiovascular disease can be under the radar for many of us but unfortunately it still remains the most common cause of death in Ireland. This includes coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and other circulatory diseases. Minding our hearts involves looking at our lifestyle, diet, movement and being a healthy weight.
Fill your diet will colour!
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will provide plenty of heart healthy vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins are antioxidants, which are substances that are known to help protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Make sure every meal contains some colourful vegetable, salad or fruit and try steaming vegetables where possible to maintain maximum nutrition. It is a good idea to include some green vegetables in the diet daily which provide the heart healthy vitamin folate. This vitamin converts into folic acid after it is eaten and is known to protect the heart. One study looked at 326 middle aged adults with no pre-existing heart disease found that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables over 8 weeks lowered markers of heart disease! Aim for 7/day!
Adopt a Mediterranean approach to your diet.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered health healthy fats. These fats in small quantities can actually help reduce our cholesterol. Heart healthy fats include olive oils, rapeseed oil, fish oils and the natural oils present in nuts and seeds. Try replacing your butter with an olive based spread and use minimal amounts of fat in cooking. Research also indicates that eating oily fish in the diet at least twice a week can reduce the risk of heart disease. Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and fresh tuna. Plant sources of omega-3 include walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed and nut oils.
Don’t forget fibre!
Fibre is an essential component in a heart healthy diet. Good sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, potatoes, beans and oats. Base your meals around fibre rich foods like oats, wholegrain, potatoes with skin, fruits and vegetables.
Keeping your heart active…Physical activity has many health benefits including decreasing stress, lowering blood cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, helping maintain a healthy weight and protecting your heart. We should aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily. Get out in the fresh air, walk, get cleaning/tidying/gardening, dance, swim, so what you enjoy and what will make you and your heart happy!
In such a busy world take time to enjoy your loved ones and yourself!
Mindfulness, meditation, a nature walk or even an hour with a good book. Get the balance between work and lifestyle and be kind to you and your heart.