Much emphasis has been place by Doctors, Specialists and Researchers on the importance of maintaining a healthy blood pressure range in order to stave off the possible long term development of diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, risk of stroke and kidney damage. There is a high risk of developing one, or more, of these if your blood pressure readings are consistently high.
And this does make sense since uncontrolled hypertension has indeed been shown by many studies to have an eventual negative consequence for the body’s vital organs and circulatory system.
However, when you think about it, the converse could also be given some consideration when it comes to the most important organ in the body for the sustenance of life itself. The cardiac muscle a.k.a. THE HEART!
Couldn’t a strong and healthy heart also have a contributory role towards the maintenance of healthy blood pressure levels?
Of course, the body is composed of a marvellously designed and complex set of systems which are interdependent on each other for optimal functioning. However I think it is fair to say that a strong healthy heart can indeed have a beneficial effect on blood pressure and thus it is important to look after it. After all, unlike the British sci-fi icon Dr Who and his two hearts, we only have one heart to work with so we’d better take good care of it!!
Keep your heart healthy - strong!
Given then that a healthy heart is important for blood pressure management, now we need to take the next step and look closer at how we can nurture the health of this vital organ. Some of the suggestions that I will cover below will probably come as no surprise…
On my list I have the following:
Number 1 is: Changes to one’s dietary plan.
Number 2 is - (yes, you guessed it!) - Exercise
Number 3 is a Healthy Body Weight
Number 3 is Emotional Wellness and Stress Control
Let’s see how these come into play …
CHANGES TO DIETARY PLAN
Here we want to look at heart healthy nutrients to provide the heart with the right type of fuel. So the groups of foods which fuel the heart for optimal functioning include:
- Omega 3 fatty acids. These are widely accepted to be important to maintain a strong heart and can be found in such food types as fish, especially wild salmon, trout, mackerel, and certain nuts, especially walnuts and butternuts. Other sources of food rich in Omega 3 fatty acids include flax seed and oil, seafood such as oysters and in the green vegetable domaine, cooked spinach, winter squash and Brussel sprouts.
- Fibre-rich foods. Eating a good selection of fibre-rich foods will help heart-health by improving blood lipid profiles such as Cholesterol and Triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, managing insulin sensitivity, cutting down on inflammation and helping to maintain a healthy body weight. Fibre rich foods include whole grains, fresh fruits, berries and vegetables, legumes such as beans, lentils and peas
- Mono Unsaturated Fats - Or MUFAs for short - are great for reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) and boosting good cholesterol (HDL). Nuts and seeds, such as peanuts (if tolerated), walnuts and avocados are rich in MUFAs. These ingredients also contain other nutrients which help protect the heart as well.
- Antioxidants. Are very beneficial for heart health and can be found in fruits rich in Vitamin C, such as lemons, oranges, and dark-skinned berries such as blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. Try also sipping on beverages such as green tea - again full of anti-oxidants and anti-blood clotting factors to keep the blood flowing smoothly through the heart and in the arteries.
- Cut back on Salt and Sugar. Definitely one ingredient to be watched, especially the refined table salt and sugar found in so many processed and fast foods. These can cause spikes in both blood sugar levels and blood pressure which can eventually result in heart issues. However, I would add that using a whole salt such as Himalayan Pink Salt in sparing quantities in home prepared food is actually a good thing, as it contains the other essential trace minerals which the body needs.
One dietary plan which I recommend and which is not only heart healthy, but also helps with blood pressure control is the DIETARY APPROACHES TO STOP HYPERTENSION or DASH DIET.
If you want to check out my three part review of the DASH Diet please click on the following link:
30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week is typically considered by medical professionals to be essential for overall good health, and certainly a great way to strengthen heart function. The best type of cardiac exercise involves activities, such as interval training where short bursts of high intensity exercise are interspersed with longer intervals of active recovery.
For example, if you are out walking you could do 3 minutes of normal walking speed alternating with 1 minute of fast walking speed. This type of training improves vascular functioning.
Other recommended heart-strengthening activities can include non-impact sports which involve many of the muscles in the body, like swimming, rowing, cross-country skiing or walking with poles. All these demand that the heart work harder to supply more oxygen to the activated muscles, and in the process the heart becomes stronger and more efficient.
Nowadays studies are finding that it is more important to engage in regular periods of activity throughout the day than to do a 90 minute workout and then sit in front of a computer, or tv screen the rest of the day! So activities such as vacuuming, gardening, running errands, using stairs instead of the elevator can easily be worked into daily routines to benefit your heart!
HEALTHY BODY WEIGHT
Being able to lose weight, even a small amount, most definitely helps your heart.
According to the American Heart Association, being overweight:
“puts extra strain on your heart, increasing the risk for developing high blood pressure and
damage to your blood vessels that can lead to serious health threats.”
So it pays to be mindful of your weight and bring it down to a healthy weight for your age, body size and body mass. Dietary changes and increased activity level will definitely help achieve this goal.
The one thing I have learned is that it is so much easier to prevent weight gain in the first place, than it is to lose the weight later on. As we naturally seem to put on weight in later life due to hormonal and metabolic changes, it is worth the effort to focus on weight control earlier in life, rather than later. And not only your heart, but the overall body will experience the health benefits of this approach.
EMOTIONAL WELLNESS AND STRESS CONTROL
The final aspect of good heart care looks at overall emotional health and how well we can control the stresses of modern day life. There is a growing body of evidence that chronic and unmanaged stress can be very detrimental to heart health. Stress can, if it is allowed to go unchecked, over time have an impact on the heart and blood pressure due to the excessive production of cortisol and adrenaline in the body.
Fortunately, there are many options for helping to control ongoing stress, and these can range from practicing deep breathing techniques to taking up yoga or meditation, to simply going for a long walk in nature. Building these types of pressure releases from the ongoing stressors of life into your daily routines will definitely nurture your heart health…
IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS
Keeping your heart in tip-top condition through healthy diet, lots of regular exercise and activity, watching your weight and managing your emotional wellness will definitely benefit your overall health.
In addition to this, your cardiac and circulatory system are essential for optimal flow of blood and oxygen to every cell in your body. By looking after your heart and arteries you can control processes which can be detrimental to health such as high blood pressure.