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Are we collectively experiencing a broken heart?When it comes to cardiovascular health, the answer may be yes. Today’s lifestyles increasingly challenge our ability to achieve heart health. These challenges impact both men and women of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. This means it’s more important than ever to be intentional in our efforts to protect our hearts.1We can certainly take proactive steps to protect our heart health daily. These steps not only help your cardiovascular system but improve your overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Key Factors to Supporting Heart Health

Inflammatory pain
Maintaining a healthy inflammatory response in the body is essential for our overall health, including our cardiovascular systems. Inflammation could be caused by several factors, such as poor diet, lack of adequate sleep, stress, food allergies, toxin exposure, infections, and more. Whatever the cause, a healthy inflammatory response in the body is important to maintaining a healthy heart. Let’s take a look at ways to help support a healthy inflammatory response in the body.

Eat a heart-healthy diet

The food that you eat affects EVERYTHING related to your health. We know that 92% of Americans (basically ALL) have at least one nutrient deficiency. The flip side of that is an overabundant intake of industrial seed oils, sugar, and ultra-processed foods.

Foods that support your heart health are those that are rich in nutrients and do not contribute to inflammation. A few examples include berries, which are full of anti-inflammatory properties that help support cellular health.2 Grass-fed meat, pasture raised poultry and eggs, wild caught fish. Meat, fish and poultry that are sourced from farms with regenerative farming practices are more nutrient dense. Studies show that factory farmed meats contain higher levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6

fatty acids.3 Vegetables, all varieties and particularly leafy greens, contribute to heart health. Garlic, when it is chopped or crushed, creates a compound called allicin, which has been shown to support cardiovascular health. 4If you are a frequent reader, and/or a patient of mine, you know that I am a staunch supporter of a whole foods diet- eating foods that do not have a label. And a whole foods Mediterranean diet provides a good guideline to follow for optimum heart health. Numerous studies have demonstrated that Mediterranean-style diets rich in vegetables, fruits, seafood, and healthy fats like olive oil and nuts can protect cardiovascular health.5

Support Gut Health

The health of our gut and its balance of good and bad bacteria impacts our wellbeing in a number of ways. And scientists are finding that imbalances in your gut microbiome—the group of microbes in your GI tract— may also affect your heart.6Here are some ways you can support your gut health so that it doesn’t end up impacting your heart:
  • Proceed with caution with antibiotics. While needed at times, antibiotics that can also kill off healthy bacteria in our guts. Use only when necessary and as directed.7
  • Fiber is your friend. It plays a major role in digestive health and will help keep your gut microbiome happy. Plant sources are especially important, and many Americans are deficient. The greater the quantity and variety of plant foods you can eat, the more you are providing nutrition and food to your good gut bugs. Try eating more fruits, vegetables, and legumes—like the Mediterranean diet.
  • Eat Probiotics. While probiotic supplements are awesome and highly recommended, you should include fermented foods into your diet every day. Fermented foods like yogurt (see my very own yogurt recipe here), miso, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut KimChi and certain pickles (like Bubbies brand) contain healthy bacteria that your microbiome needs.

Get Moving

Resistance training
Regular physical activity helps keep your heart muscle strong and your weight under control. There are three major types of exercise that will help benefit your heart health. While it is a good idea to incorporate all three in some fashion, finding forms of exercise that you enjoy and will actually stick with is most important.
  • Aerobic exercise helps to improve circulation, which in turn lowers blood pressure and heart rate. Think running, brisk walking, cycling, dancing, or playing tennis.
  • Resistance training can help reduce fat and build muscle mass—a major key in supporting cardiovascular health. Combined with aerobic exercise, resistance training also helps lower cholesterol. Lift free weights or use resistance machines in the gym. You can also do bodyweight training, such as push-ups & sit ups, from home.8
  • Stretching, flexibility, and balance exercises help improve your musculoskeletal health, which supports healthy joints and muscles. In order to do aerobic and resistance training, good mobility is crucial. Tai chi and yoga classes are great ways to improve these skills, and there are also an amazing variety of videos online you can try from home.

Get Good Sleep

The quality of our sleep can be a powerful indicator of our overall health. For instance, adults who consistently sleep for more than 7 hours are healthier and have healthier hearts.11 To help ensure quality rest, we recommend:

  • Create a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake around the same time every day. Expose yourself to natural light in the morning and again in the afternoon. This will help you feel more alert upon waking, and sleepier when it gets dark.12
  • Avoid eating and drinking before bed, especially alcohol or highly-processed foods which can disturb your quality of sleep. It is excellent for your cardiovascular health to fast for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast the next day, and even better if you can not eat for 3 hours before bed.
  • Sleep in an environment that is dark, cool, and quiet.

If you are concerned about your heart health, it is important to work with a practitioner who can help determine your own risk factors and perform comprehensive lab testing. You deserve dedicated care to help support your cardiovascular health for years to come.

Give me a call today. Let’s get to work!

1. American College of Cardiology, “Latest Statistics Say Nearly Half of Americans Have Some Form of Heart Disease” https://www.cardiosmart.org/news/2019/2/latest-statistics-say-nearly-half-of-americans-have-some-form-of-heart-disease 2. Najjar RS, Turner CG, Wong BJ, Feresin RG. Berry-Derived Polyphenols in Cardiovascular Pathologies: Mechanisms of Disease and the Role of Diet and Sex. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 27;13(2):387. doi: 10.3390/nu13020387. PMID: 33513742; PMCID: PMC7911141.
3. Daley CA, Abbott A, Doyle PS, Nader GA, Larson S. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain fed beef. Nutr J. 2010 Mar 10;9:10. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-10. PMID: 20219103; PMCID: PMC2846864. 4. Banerjee SK, Maulik SK. Effect of garlic on cardiovascular disorders: a review. Nutr J. 2002 Nov 19;1:4. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891- 1-4. PMID: 12537594; PMCID: PMC139960.
5. Martínez-González MA, Gea A, Ruiz-Canela M. The Mediterranean Diet and Cardiovascular Health. Circ Res. 2019 Mar;124(5):779-798. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.313348. PMID: 30817261.
6. Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Can Your Gut Health Affect Your Heart? https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and prevention/can-your-gut-health-affect-your-heart
7. Ramirez J, Guarner F, Bustos Fernandez L, Maruy A, Sdepanian VL, Cohen H. Antibiotics as Major Disruptors of Gut Microbiota. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2020 Nov 24;10:572912. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2020.572912. PMID: 33330122; PMCID: PMC7732679. 8. Ho SS, Dhaliwal SS, Hills AP, Pal S. The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC Public Health. 2012 Aug 28;12:704. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-704. PMID: 23006411; PMCID: PMC3487794.
9. Dupre ME, George LK, Liu G, Peterson ED. Association between divorce and risks for acute myocardial infarction. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2015 May;8(3):244-51. doi: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.114.001291. Epub 2015 Apr 14. PMID: 25872508; PMCID: PMC4439317.
10. Mayo Clinic, “Healthy LIfestyle: Stress Management: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in depth/stress-relievers/art-20047257
11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “How Does Sleep Affect Your Health?,”
12. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,”Effects of Light on Circadian Rhythms”

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