5 Lifestyle Hacks to Dampen Inflammation and Protect Your Heart!
Heart disease is a top killer worldwide. Research shows that atherosclerosis (the progressive inflammation and clogging of the arteries) contributing to heart disease is a complex process involving many factors. Fortunately, there are some powerful lifestyle steps you can take to prevent and, in some cases, even reverse, this heart disease process.
February is American Heart Month and the perfect time to commit to make small changes that lead to a lifetime of heart health!
An emerging risk factor in heart disease and many other chronic diseases appears to be inflammation. When something like high blood pressure, toxins, chronically elevated blood sugar or another insult injures the endothelium (the delicate lining of the arteries) our body works to repair the injury. To do so, LDL cholesterol may build up at the site of insult. Over time, it can become oxidized by free radicals. The immune system targets this injury and sends in cells and mediators to help with repair, which further creates inflammation. As the process continues, the body covers the wound with a tough, fibrous cap to create an arterial plaque. This can act like a bandage or cap over the area of injury.
If the inflammation subsides and the plaque is stable, we may remain unaware of this process. But if the plaque becomes too large and inflammation continues, the artery can narrow, restricting blood flow. Alternatively, an unstable plaque can rupture and break off pieces that cause blood clots which can block narrowed arteries and cause a lack of oxygen flowing to the heart muscle.
When this occurs, we can experience symptoms of heart disease such as a heart attack or myocardial infarction:
- Chest discomfort or pain in the center or left side of the chest that may persist or go away and return. This may feel like a pressure, squeezing, pain or fullness.
- Pain in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath or difficultly breathing.
- Sense of dread
Often, a heart attack may cause subtle, hard to pinpoint symptoms, so it is important take action to get help early.
5 Lifestyle Hacks to Dampen Inflammation and Protect Your Heart: Reducing Your Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Like many chronic conditions, the development of heart disease is often influenced by lifestyle choices. As I teach in the Simple Pure Whole Solution, there are some powerful steps you can take to optimize your lifestyle habits and build abundant health that will last you a lifetime! Consider some of these strategies below and using habits from the Simple Pure Whole Wellness Method for reducing your risk factors for heart disease using Simple Pure Whole steps:
Balance your blood sugar and insulin levels
Metabolic syndrome, elevated blood glucose and type 2 diabetes all increase inflammation in the body and increase the risk of heart disease. Elevated insulin levels create a biochemical environment in the body that contributes to inflamed arteries as well as the accumulation of belly fat which has its own hormonal actions.
Eat Real Foods
- To keep blood sugar levels stable and lower insulin levels, it is important to eat real foods without a lot of added, refined sugars and to keep inflammation levels in check.
Avoid a Toxic Environment
- Many environmental chemicals are known to influence insulin and other hormones (obesogens) and can contribute to the development of diabetes and metabolic dysfunction.
Reduce your stress levels
A beating heart is propelled by an electrical energy and is closely connected with and influenced by the nervous system. As such, chronic stress wreaks havoc on our bodies in many ways and contribute to heart disease.
Chronic stress impacts the cardiovascular system as it floods the body with stress hormones. Under stress, our adrenal glands work overtime, releasing a constant stream of the stress hormone cortisol which activates our sympathetic nervous system reactions and contributes to elevated blood sugars.These chemical messengers can raise the heart rate, cause heart palpitations, increase the blood pressure and dysregulate lipid levels in the blood which can contribute to atherosclerosis as fatty plaques accumulate on blood vessel walls, restricting blood flow to the heart and increasing the risk of heart disease and heart attack.
Those that respond to stress with anger and hostility are also at risk for negative cardiovascular impacts.Unhealthy coping strategies such as smoking, alcohol use and overeating can also damage the cardiovascular system and increase heart health risks.
- As I prescribe with the exercises in The Whole Cure, cultivating awareness, presence and an ability to pause instead of jumping to automatic reactions helps us control our minds, relax our nervous systems and increase the resiliency of our hearts and bodies.
Take Time to Pause
- Take Time to Pause Regularly: find breaks in your day to pause, connect with yourself and find the calm in the present moment. Focus on your breath and allow yourself to let go of stress and worry. Ayurveda teaches us that our breathing patterns are impacted by our thoughts and emotions. As such, an Ayurvedic approach to heart health emphasizes the importance of the strength and tone of the heart as well as emotional and mental balance. Whether you enjoy meditation, prayer, yoga or spending time in nature, take the time to allow your nervous system to rebalance.
Take Care of You
- Nurture Yourself: Taking time to take care of yourself and savor life, helps you find calm and joy while minimizing the impacts of stress. Ayurveda encourages a balance of proper diet, lifestyle, movement and meditation to calm the mind and strengthen the heart. Treat yourself to a massage, savor a healthy and delicious meal or take a nap!