Heart disease is the number one killer in America; this term actually encompasses all conditions that affect the heart, such as congenital abnormalities. But, for the purposes of this article, I will be discussing the type that is most associated with this term, which is actually the most common form—coronary artery disease, which causes a narrowing or complete blockage of the arteries that serve the heart. The good news about this condition is that it is heavily influenced by lifestyle –which is not thrust upon us by something from the outside, but a result of the choices we make; this means we have a great deal of personal power in contributing to the health of this precious organ. If you are interested in natural ways to promote a health heart, here are a few relatively simple strategies that pack a big punch.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and is a highly valued tool for spiritual growth as well as physical and mental health in many Eastern practices and with good reason. It helps create a healthy mind, which is vital for a healthy body; it seems to actually produce physical changes that can prevent or treat certain health conditions. Interest is growing in the West and this technique has been, and continues to be, the focus of many well-designed studies. When it comes to heart health, it appears to offer benefits on numerous fronts. Its ability to reduce stress translates to lower blood pressure and other benefits, such as a reduction in the release of chemicals that may damage the heart and related tissue.
Many studies have linked meditation with better health outcomes for people who have heart disease or have suffered heart attacks but it was difficult to pinpoint meditation as the definitive factor. A more rigorously designed study that was published in November 2012 seemed to provide that proof; after controlling for a variety of factors and ensuring participants took part in other strategies in equal measure, they found that the group who meditated was 48 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke or die of any cause.
Raise Your ‘’Good’’ Cholesterol
When it comes to heart health, there is a lot of discussion about cholesterol; it is understandable since it is a major component of the gunk that builds up in your arteries and leads to heart disease. Naturally, there is a lot of focus on reducing this ‘’bad’’ cholesterol, but it seems that making efforts to raise the ‘’good’’ cholesterol (HDL) should be given more attention. It is important for heart health because it helps remove its less desirable counterpart from the walls of your arteries and back to the liver where it can be discarded. In fact, low HDL levels may be the most important risk factor for developing heart disease.
Drinking moderately has been shown to raise HDL, but if you do not already drink, most doctors would not recommend you start for this reason. Keeping insulin levels stable by eating foods with low glycemic index may also help—this means eating more fiber-rich complex carbohydrates and less white bread and sugar essentially. A British study found that drinking orange juice may help; increasing soy intake may help as well. You also want to get plenty of exercise as this is one of the most significant ways to increase HDL—it will also help you lose weight, another important factor.
Enjoy Life More
This last suggestion may seem a bit strange, but it is probably one of the best things you can do for your heart and your overall health. Remember what was mentioned earlier—stress and other negative emotions flood your body with chemicals that do all sorts of damage to your heart from raising blood pressure to increasing plaque build-up in your arteries. A recent study by the University of Maryland Medical Center found that laughter and a sense of humor may reduce the risk of heart disease; they found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to healthy people of the same age.
Our health is a precious gift, and while we may not be able to control every aspect of it, the major killers in our society are all highly preventable because they primarily result from bad lifestyle choices on our part. If you have recently had a heart-related procedure, it is important to talk to your cardiac surgeons or other health care providers before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle or experimenting with natural supplements of any kind, including vitamins and minerals. Take control of your health today!