The best Valentine’s Day gift is a healthy heart

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Valentine’s Day is a fun time to tell those special people in your life – important people, children, grandchildren, even close friends – how much you love them by giving them flowers, candy or any number of heart-shaped gifts, the symbol of loving.

Aptly, February is known as “American Heart Month.” Observing it therefore reminds us that cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death among Americans – but it doesn’t have to be. With smart lifestyle changes and regular checkups, many people can significantly reduce their risk of developing heart disease.

This should be kept in mind given that there is a serious link between heart health and COVID-19. As the pandemic rages on, it’s important to note that studies, like the one done by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, have shown that a diagnosis of COVID-19 can lead to heart problems, including inflammation of the heart muscle and abnormality. heartbeat.

People living with heart disease – including high blood pressure and heart defects – should be aware of an increased risk of developing serious complications if infected with COVID. The stronger your heart is now, the better it will be in the short and long term.

There are several ways to get a head start on improving your heart health, such as:

Quit smoking and limit your alcohol consumption. Smoking is particularly bad for the heart, so much so that even 20 minutes after quitting, heart rate drops, allowing the heart to pump more efficiently and keeping heart muscle healthier, and after 12 hours, monoxide levels of carbon in the blood returns to normal. . Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to heart disease, cardiomyopathy and weight gain.

Exercise more often. Regular exercise, even just walking daily or taking the stairs at work, is essential for maintaining overall health and reducing excess body fat, which has long contributed to diabetes and high blood pressure. But according to research from John Hopkins Medicine, obesity itself can contribute to heart failure.

Make dietary changes. As stated earlier, a poor diet can lead to weight gain, contribute to stress, and have a direct physical impact on the heart and our arteries. A heart-healthy diet follows proper portions and includes colorful vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, nuts, fish, and healthy oils from avocados and olives. Try to eat organic foods with as few chemicals as possible. It is equally important to reduce the consumption of added sugars, sodium and trans fats, which increase the levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol”. And it’s best to avoid processed foods like deli meats, fast food, convenience foods like boxed or microwave dinners, and salty snacks like potato ships and snack pies. To help lower cholesterol with supplements, fish oil – rich in omega-3 fatty acids – can help.

Incorporate antioxidants through diet or supplementation. Antioxidants rule over free radicals – which damage billions of cells in our body – including those vital to the heart. While eating antioxidant-rich foods like berries, nuts, and colored produce is ideal, supplements are an option. Coenzyme Q10, vitamins D3 and K2 and zinc are powerful antioxidants.

Try to relax and get a good night’s sleep. Stress leads to bad habits – overeating, drinking and smoking – which are, as noted, major contributors to heart disease. But even chronic stress in which your body is constantly in “fight or flight” mode can lead to high blood pressure. COVID-19 has forced us to live in a state of high danger for the past two years, which has greatly increased stress and weakened health.

To reduce stress, try eating healthy, exercising, spending time with friends and family, and doing things you enjoy. Following the CDC’s recommendation of at least seven hours of sleep for adults will also help. To help you sleep better, avoid artificial light as well as food and alcohol before bed, but be sure to get some sun earlier in the day. Supplementation can also reduce stress – look for natural products containing ingredients like l-theanine, honokiol, ashwagandha, CBD and rhodiola.

All of these lifestyle changes can have an outsized positive impact on health, not just for the heart, but for our overall well-being. Following them should help you enjoy many more Valentine’s Day celebrations for years to come.

Gary Kracoff is a naturopathic medicine graduate and licensed pharmacist and John Walczyk is a compounding pharmacist at Johnson Compounding & Wellness in Waltham, Mass. For more information, visit www.naturalcompounder.com. Readers with questions about natural or homeopathic medicine, compound medicines, or general health can email gary@naturalcompounder.com or call 781-893-3870.

This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: A healthy heart is the best gift for Valentine’s Day

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