7 Steps to a Healthy Heart

02/07/2014 Mind-Body Health Health and Wellness

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but it is preventable and controllable.  Many lifestyle-related factors are known to have a direct impact on cardiovascular health.   To celebrate American Heart Month this February, take the following steps which are an important foundation to an integrative approach to heart health.

1)      Eat a diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean sources of protein, and healthy fats such as from nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.  Avoid processed and pre-packaged foods and minimize dining out.  Keep your blood sugar levels stable by avoiding added sugars in your foods and beverages.

2)      Meditate regularly.  Meditation has been shown to reduce blood pressure and alleviate the physical effects of the stress response.  More recent meditation studies have shown alterations in gene regulation towards a healthier state.  Learn more about meditation here.

3)      Be physically active.  Even if you do not have time to do a complete exercise routine, find ways in your daily life to be more active by walking more, driving less, taking the stairs, etc.  Even small bursts of exercise can be beneficial.

4)      Deal with your emotions.  Emotional distress can cause a stress response in the body leading to increases in blood pressure and inflammation.  Certain tendencies such as anger and hostility have been related to elevated risks of heart disease.  Find support from a counselor, friend, or even a group. If you are having difficulty letting go of stored emotional pain, consider attending the Chopra Center’s Healing the Heart workshop.

5)      Disconnect to connect.  The constant pull of smartphones, computers, and media can keep stress levels rising.  Make sure to have some free time and consider connecting to nature.  Look at the night sky, take a walk among a greenbelt or body of water, feel the warmth of the sun on your body, gaze into the eyes of a friend or loved one.

6)      Get a good night’s rest.  Lack of sleep may be related to elevations in blood pressure, stress hormones, and overweight.  Set up a relaxing routine to help set the stage for sleep and aim to be in bed by 10:30. Click here for more sleeping tips.

7)      If you smoke, take the steps needed to quit for good.  If you don’t smoke, don’t start.

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About the Author

Valencia Porter, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.N.

Chopra Center certified Perfect Health instructor
Dr. Valencia Porter is a leader in Integrative, Preventive, and Environmental Medicine, combining ancient wisdom traditions such as Ayurvedic Medicine with modern science. Double-Board Certified in General Preventive Medicine and Integrative Medicine, she has been a part of the Chopra Center medical team for the past decade, providing integrative medical consultations and teaching health professionals and the community how to achieve total mind, body, spirit health. She passionately advocates for real solutions to the global problems of climate change and pollution, knowing that personal and planetary health are intricately linked. Dr. Porter shares her extensive knowledge about the environment and...Read more