February is the month of love—fittingly, it’s also American Heart Month. Heart-health awareness is crucial, as this vital organ is essential for important cardiovascular functions.
The heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body via a network of blood vessels, which include the arteries, capillaries, and veins. It also supplies the tissues with oxygen and nutrients, and sends carbon dioxide and waste to the lungs to be released through the breath.
This happens through a continuous and fascinating process known as circulation. It’s a complex process, but here’s a basic overview of how it works:
Every cell requires oxygen to stay alive, so efficient circulation is essential for all bodily functions. If you experience a heart or circulatory issue, symptoms can include:
Many factors can lead to a weakening of the heart, but primary causes of heart issues and more serious heart diseases include smoking, chronic inflammation, high blood pressure, increased LDL (or bad cholesterol), obesity, and insulin resistance.
Fortunately, there are many ways to substantially boost your heart health. Well Within Beauty shares four ways to stay young at heart.
Studies show that plant-based diets rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and omega-3 fats keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation in check. In turn, this reduces your risk of illness and heart disease. These types of foods also prevent weight gain, diabetes, and obesity, which all put a strain on your heart and other organs.
Focus on cruciferous vegetables, spices like turmeric and ginger, fresh fruit (especially berries), and seeds such as flax, hemp, and chia. Click here to learn more about the best foods for heart health.
Did you know that excessive sitting is as dangerous to your health as smoking? In fact, recent studies show a correlation between a sedentary lifestyle and an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Find ways to be active that fit into your lifestyle. If you work in an office, stand and stretch for a few minutes every hour, invest in a stand-up desk, and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
In addition to standing more often, regular exercise can strengthen your heart muscles, increase circulation, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Every little bit helps, but it’s best to aim for 30 minutes of exercise five days per week. Try activities like walking, swimming, hiking, cycling, yoga, and interval training.
We all experience varying degrees of stress. But if you don’t have coping mechanisms to help you deal with the daily fluctuations of life, stress can become chronic and pose a serious health problem. Stress leads to inflammation, sugar cravings, insomnia, irritability, and high blood pressure.
If your life consists of running from one responsibility to another, you may need to increase your "me-time." Spend some time each day doing activities you enjoy such as chatting on the phone with a friend, journal writing, meditating, or listening to soft music. Click here to learn more about how to optimize your health with these important stress management strategies.
Exposure to toxins can increase your risk of heart disease. These toxins include processed foods, refined sugar, and hydrogenated oils, alcohol, environmental pollution, and cigarette smoke.
While toxins are all around us, there are plenty of things you can do to limit your exposure. Adopt a heart-healthy diet (see Tip #1) and shop for organic produce. Opt for non-toxic bath and beauty products, household cleaners, and laundry detergents. Purchase an air filter or diffuse essential oils like tea tree and eucalyptus to freshen your home, purify the air, and neutralize odors. If you’re a smoker, find a professional to help you quit.
In recognition of American Heart Month, incorporate these recommendations for heart health—and be sure to share them with someone you love!
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Stay Ever Well,
Lynne + Renee