As we celebrate HEART MONTH, the heart becomes a ubiquitous symbol seen everywhere from retail shelves to our children’s classrooms. Our heart chakra and spiritual center is located in our chest near our physical heart. For this reason, the heart represents a worldwide symbol of love. However, in reality, our physical heart represents VIDA… life, your life.

As you go through your day, that constant rhythmic vibration resonating from your chest is pumping blood to all the tissues in your body by the use of an intrinsic roadway of blood vessels. The right side pumps blood through the lungs and picks up oxygen. The left side receives the oxygenated blood and pumps it through the rest of your body. Healthy blood provides your body with nutrients and oxygen and is essential to your well-being. Keeping your heart healthy is imperative.

By becoming aware of the risk factors of heart disease and making a few modifications to your lifestyle, you can make a huge difference in your heart health.

Take note of these nine risk factors and the positive actions you can take to create a happy and healthy heart.

Medical Condition Risks

1. Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes – Diabetes is becoming more prevalent with about 6% of Americans having diabetes and more than 25% having pre-diabetes. Statistics show that about 65% of those diagnosed with diabetes will develop heart disease. If you are not sure, get checked, especially if you have a family history or are overweight. If you are pre-diabetic, take this very seriously. This is when you can affect the course of your long-term health the most significantly. If you are diabetic, visit your doctor regularly and keep your blood glucose under control. Blood sugar is affected positively by increasing the fiber in your diet, eating more protein and good fats, and less of the simple carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, bread, and white potatoes. Keep your Hb A1C under 7.

2. High Cholesterol – New research indicates that LDL cholesterol traditionally labeled as bad is a much more complicated molecule. Too much LDL can build up in your arteries and put you at risk for heart attack or stroke. It is a necessary part of the wall of every cell but when it gets oxidized it becomes a risk for your heart health. It is still prudent to avoid too high LDL cholesterol by limiting processed foods and choosing grass-fed beef over corn-fed beef. In addition, eat a diet high in soluble fiber (fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) and with enough good fats such as avocado, olive oils, coconut oils, nuts, and seeds.

3. Gingivitis – It is now understood that the inflammation in your gums travels throughout your body, causing inflammation in all of your blood vessels and making you at higher risk for heart attacks. Floss daily and see your dentist for regular dental care. Ask your primary care doctor to check blood tests called cardiac CRP and homocysteine to check your level of inflammation.

4. High Blood Pressure – Otherwise known as hypertension, high blood pressure makes your heart work harder to pump blood, and this can eventually lead to heart failure. Regular exercise and reduction of sodium in your diet are two simple modifications that may regulate your blood pressure.

Lifestyle Risks

5. Smoking – The chemicals in tobacco smoke can deprive your body of oxygen and cause mutations in your DNA leading to cancer, emphysema, and wrinkled skin to mention only a few. Figure out a way to stop smoking and make the commitment to do it today.

6. Being Overweight – Obesity makes you more likely to develop high blood pressure and high cholesterol and is a strain on your heart. Exercise is a great way to manage your weight and feel more energetic. Something as simple as a 30-minute walk daily can work wonders. Eating a healthy diet and simple adjustments such as putting your fork down between bites and making a commitment to not eat in front of the TV can make a huge difference.

7. S.A.D – The Standard American Diet is high in saturated processed fats and simple carbohydrates. Try to avoid these in your diet. Increase vegetable and fruit servings in your diet to more than 6 a day and choose olive oil over margarine. If you eat animal proteins, eat fish 2-3 times a week and try to choose grass-fed beef rather than corn-fed and antibiotic/growth hormone treated beef.

8. Lack of Physical Activity – Get moving. Your heart is a muscle and it needs exercise to remain strong. Do what you enjoy and do it with someone. Studies show that when you do this you will be more likely to be consistent and reap the best benefits.

9. Stress – Everyone has stressors, but how you deal with them makes a great deal of difference to your health. It is critical that you develop several different ways of managing stressful situations in your world. Find something that makes you feel centered and do it regularly. You may find that painting, journaling, yoga, meditation, or even skydiving works for you. However, on a daily basis, you may find stress relief from the practice of this simple breath meditation:

  • Breathe in – and count to six.
  • Hold the breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale the breath for a count of eight.
  • Repeat this sequence 3 times and you will feel your heart will calm and anxiety will lessen.

Today is the day that you can begin to resist the risk of heart disease.
Make every day a HEALTHY HEART DAY!