A healthy diet is based off consuming a wide range of natural foods. This includes fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, dairy, nuts, and legumes. A good way to tell what nutrients are in certain foods is by looking at their colour, this is why you’ll often hear the advice to “eat the rainbow”. Making sure that you have multiple colours for each meal is a great way to ensure you’re getting the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. As well as this, it’s important not to shy away from fats. It’s not that fats are particularly ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as with anything the devil is the dose. No one food is bad for you, it’s the amount of which you eat it. Some healthy fat sources are avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds, eggs, and oily fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are of particular importance in western culture due to our intake of omega-6 fatty acids. In an ideal world, we would have a 1:1 ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s. Yet, due to our high intake of red meats and vegetable oils western populations frequently have a 1:20 ratio and even higher. Omega-3s can be found in typical Mediterranean foods such as fatty fish.
Exercise: After food, your activity level will be the next biggest contributing factor towards a healthy heart. Research straight out of Harvard medical school found that as little as 15 minutes a day can make a significant difference for reducing your risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and many other cardiovascular diseases. An article published in The American Journal of Medicine reviewed various research surrounding the length of time exercising and the resulting health effects. The researchers found that even just one hour of walking or gardening per week was linked to lower rates of death from all causes. More exercise will only improve these effects, but it just goes to show that even a little bit goes a long way. The key to easy exercise is finding something you enjoy. Whether that be hitting the gym to lift weights, going out for brisk walks, joining a football team or getting a sweat on through aerobic classes, finding something you actually like doing that also gets your heart beat up will make sure you stay consistent and frequent with exercise.
Stress: Stress is an often overlooked area of heart health that plagues modern society. Work, family, relationships, friends, and all manors of other things can make us feel anxious and worn out. In turn we can develop high blood pressure and cholesterol. Not to mention indulging in other activities that are non-conducive to heart health such as smoking and drinking. All of this is only worsened by our poor sleep schedules and caffeine addiction. Caffeine in itself is not inherently bad. In fact, there’s research to suggest that it can improve our longevity by boosting our mood and making us increase our activity levels. However, the issue is that we consume far too much caffeine on a regular basis. Drinking too many caffeinated beverages such as coffee, energy drinks, and coke can lead our hearts to develop an abnormal rhythm, putting us at risk of various ill health effects. If you feel like you depend on caffeine, then take a look at the underlying problems. Most likely the issues start with our sleep cycle. It’s not just the time you spend with your eyes closed that counts, it’s the quality of that sleep. Taking time to de-stress as well as creating a positive sleep environment is vital to feeling better in all areas. When trying to improve your health, don’t just look at it from a physical standpoint. Our mind and body are linked in more ways than science can prove at the minute, but we do know that when the mind is unhealthy, the body tends to be, too. De-stressing can be extremely useful for feeling better both mentally and physically.