Both in its physical blood-pumping form and it’s reference to heart-centered connection and love, the heart is one of the most vital and profound parts of our being. Yet, how often are we living in our minds and forget this humble servant, quietly and ceaselessly pumping beneath our chest, emitting frequencies beyond our comprehension, and keeping us tethered to life. Yeah, it’s pretty profound when we think about it!
This month of February, as Heart Health Awareness Month, and Valentine’s Day brings our awareness to the rhythm holder within each of us. Whether we’re soaring solo or in a romantic relationship, this month is not just about the health of our poetic hearts, but our physical hearts as well.
Here is the hard truth; Cardiovascular Disease is still currently the leading global cause of death. And common factors that many of us are all too familiar with, like high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, diabetes and prediabetes, are warning signs to lovingly get our attention and make some changes.
A little lesser known fact, yet profoundly powerful, is that countless studies and experience in Epigenetics and Nutrigenomics conclude that heart disease is a lifestyle disease and is preventable and even reversible! Genes may predispose us to certain conditions, but it is our lifestyle factors (ie our food, environment, and behaviors) that influence our genetic expression to switch towards or against health or disease. As tempting as it may be for us to just take a little pill and go on unconsciously harming ourselves, heart health doesn’t happen in the doctor’s office or at the pharmacy, it happens in our homes, and it starts in our kitchens.
Put simply, improving our resiliency is paramount to our self-care and love capacity, to feeling vibrant and truly present in life, by tending to ourselves so that we can better tend to those we love.
So here are some powerful guidelines to steer our course. Each one of these can be it’s own separate article, which I promise to break down even further coming soon, so please don’t feel intimidated. We’re simply setting the intention to begin laying a hearty foundation in our lives with these 7 essential lifestyle practices for a healthier, happier, hardier heart:
Eat a Real food diet. Indulge in healthy, whole foods from nature; ie fresh fibrous vegetables, deeply colorful fruit, pasture-raised eggs, raw or sprouted nuts and seeds, wild seafood, ancient whole grains, grass-fed or pasture-raised meat. Note: when you fill up your fridge and belly with real food and your body is finally getting what it needs and has been truly craving, eventually you’ll be so nourished you no longer desire packaged processed ‘foods’ anymore. Tip: If it has an ingredient list, or lives in a box, bag, or can, let’s avoid that shall we, and focus on those whole fresh foods.
The good fat. Replace hydrogenated fats in your diet (found in many baked and processed goods) with coconut oil, extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil, sesame oil, avocado and cold-pressed nut oils. These healthy fats can actually improve your overall cholesterol profile, reduce inflammation, improve your metabolism and fat burning, benefit your brain and hormone balance, and converts the small dangerous LDL particles to the light fluffy safe LDL particles for cardiovascular health. Tip: drizzle olive oil on your savory meals, and keep hearty snacks like avocado, olives, raw nuts and seeds by your side.
Cut the sweets. I know you’re going to want to resist me on this one but reduce your sugar, refined carb, and alcohol intake. These destabilize your energy, contribute to blood sugar imbalance, fatty liver disease, weight gain, inflammation, and fuel disease and body dysfunction in general. Research shows that liquid sugar calories are the biggest contributor to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (4). Tip: drinking more water with a squeeze of fruit, and eating more healthy fats, help make this shift a breeze. I have many more amazing tips for this one too, coming in a later article, so don’t forget to check back!
Pump that heart. Dance, sprint, play with your kids or dogs outdoors, hike, make love, exercise, play your favorite sport as a kid, get your breath expanding and blood pumping in some fun fashion every day. We’re not here to just work, we’re here to play too, to move our bodies and lighten our spirit, and it feels oh so good once we do. Tip: make it about fun, silly movement, play, moving your energy so that you feel more alive and full.
Manage your stress. Stress increases inflammation, blood pressure, blood sugar, risk of cardiac crisis, cancer, etc. and not to mention lowers our overall wellbeing and quality of life. We’ve all noticed that stress also increases our desire for sweets to give us some ‘quick comfort’, which then only feeds the vicious loop. It’s so easy for us to become overwhelmed and in a constant state of stress in our world today, and thus it is now vitally more important to manage this stress and improve how we respond to the world. Tip: begin becoming aware of when you feel stress or that tightness in your chest, and take some deep compassionate breaths in and out of your heart. This will absolutely rewire your brain and change your stress response and peace over time!
Heart chuckles. This one goes along with the last two, and perhaps you can tackle all three in tandem. Connect with your inner child and laugh at least a little bit every day, even if you have to force out some laughter until it becomes real. Tip: put on a few minutes of your favorite comedian, dance like a goofball to start or shake off the day, laugh at the craziness of life, just take yourself and life a little less seriously and let your heart have a chuckle. Laughter is great medicine, and free.
Connect with love. No matter who you are or where you are in this world, I believe that you are loved or have love for someone or something. Don’t forget to connect to that, give it sunshine so that it can grow. Tip: at least one time every day, for 5-15 minutes, perhaps upon waking or brushing your teeth, place your hand on your heart and connect with how much love you have in your life, how much you love your partner, your children, your pet, your family or friends, sunshine or good food, and don’t forget yourself! Live in this place really feeling all that love, not just thinking it, and let it warm your heart, expand through your whole body.
This list might perhaps seem a little intimidating, so depending where you are on your health journey, feel free to break it down into bite sized pieces. Perhaps, focus on just one principle per week or per month, ask me questions, and let me know how it’s going. I mean it, I want to hear from you! What practices are working or challenging for you?
The long term effects of making these changes in your diet and lifestyle can be truly profound, and I want that for everyone. So let’s do this, you deserve it, and I’m here to help anyway I can. Let’s keep the conversation flowing, enter your comments below, like, and share. And thankyou, I honor you so much for reading and for taking interest and care in yourself and loved ones.
Disclaimer: I am a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach, but I am not a medical doctor, dietician, or nutritionist. As always, listen to your body, and speak with a Functional Medicine Doctor about your unique conditions and needs. If you’d like to dive deeper into nourishing your heart and overall health, this month I’m running a sweet special: book your session and you’ll receive a FREE mini session to share with a friend, lover, family member, anyone anywhere to spread the love. So BOOK YOUR SESSION NOW, before the month's over! Thanks for reading and caring for your heart.