Food for thought – It’s time to take care of yourself this Heart Research Month
February is not only the month of love, but it is also the time that Australians raise awareness for heart disease and raise funds for life-saving research during Heart Research Month.
Cardiovascular health is one of our nation’s most prevalent health concerns, affecting one in six Australians and costing the country $5 billion each year[i]. This Heart Research Month, Aussies are encouraged to adopt some preventative strategies to help support their heart health.
Kick-start your heart-healthy month with these top tips:
Prioritise whole foods for heart health
A heart-friendly diet is rich in whole foods and limited in highly processed meals.
But with so many options in the supermarket, grocery shopping can get stressful at times. Next time you’re faced with a shopping trolley dilemma, think about the human interference factor, or HI Factor. This means, choosing foods that have been changed as little as possible and prioritising whole foods.
For example, try opting for fresh fruit instead of packaged juice cartons, or baking your own sweet potato snack instead of reaching for a chip packet.
Be sure to include a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and beans, and healthy fats (such as olive oil and avocados), which are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, every single day.
Protect your cells with antioxidants
Antioxidants are the super-troopers that protect the health of our cells. They fight off free radicals, or rogue molecules, that can attack our cells.
Antioxidants come in many different forms, some can be consumed through food and others occur naturally within our bodies.
Ubiquinol, which is the active and reduced form of CoenzymeQ10, is a natural antioxidant that has been linked to heart health. This powerful antioxidant is a natural anti-inflammatory and supports the reduction of oxidative stress which may affect the functioning of the cardiovascular system.
Unfortunately, ubiquinol levels may start to naturally decline from around the age of 30. Nutritional deficiencies and oxidative stress can also cause an imbalance in the body.
Sometimes, supplementation may be needed if dietary habits are not enough. Nutrient deficiencies may include folic acid, B-group vitamins, Ubiquinol, the active form of CoEnzyme Q10 and Magnesium orotate.
Make time for movement and build up from there
Regular exercise helps us maintain good cardiovascular health, by lowering our blood pressure and regulating our cholesterol and sugar levels. Research[ii] has found that even a single exercise session may support the heart through a process known as ischemic preconditioning. Ischemic preconditioning (IPC) refers to the phenomenon in which tissue is rendered resistant to the harmful effects of prolonged ischemic (where some parts of the body does not get a sufficient supply of blood) due to previous exposure to brief periods where there is closing or blockage of blood vessels or a hollow organ.
According to the Heart Foundation[iii], we should aim for at least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day, and muscle-strengthening activities a couple times a week. This is shown to potentially reduce a person’s risk of heart disease by up to 35%.
The good news is that there is no right or wrong way to stay fit. So, choose the most enjoyable way for you to move and incorporate regular exercises in your daily routine for better physical and mental health.
Fight Stress The Natural Way
A response to stress[iv] causes a release of cortisol or adrenaline, which in turn causes physiological changes within the tissue of the body. These chemicals affect the nervous system by increasing heart rate, respiration, and alertness. This is what is referred to as ‘fight or flight response’.
Therefore, it is important to find natural ways to deal with stress. These include making time for mindfulness and meditation, journaling, spending time with friends and family, playing sports and pouring your energy into your favourite hobby.
[i] Heartfoundation.org.au. 2021. Key Statistics: Cardiovascular Disease | The Heart Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/activities-finding-or-opinion/key-stats-cardiovascular-disease> [Accessed 2 December 2021].