• Ana M. Toriello, DOM, LAc

Better Heart Health this Valentine's Day


February is Heart Health Month and we all know Valentine's Day is all about the heart. So, what better way to show your loved ones how much you care than by keeping yourself healthy and helping them do so as well.

Cardiovascular disease is on the rise all over the world and it remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. So how can you keep yourself from falling into one of these statistics? Prevention is the #1 key and that only happens with constant lifestyle changes, which can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 80%. Relying on medications is not enough and can come with a wide range of side effects.

Follow these guidelines to keep your ticker running strong and healthy for years to come:

Be More Active The Heart is a muscle and just like any other of your muscles, it needs to be exercised. You can do this by getting it to pump harder than it does at rest. The best way is to get some cardiovascular exercise in such as walking, jogging, cycling, elliptical training, and swimming. You should aim for at least 30 minutes a day for 4 to 5 days a week. Remember to start off lite and check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Increase Plant Based Foods Besides being more active, the other major change you should accomplish is increase your plant-based foods. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. Vegetables should fill half your plate and whole grains 1/4 of your meal. Besides being filled with lots of vitamins and minerals, the fiber helps with your gut health.

Reduce Sugar and Processed Foods Refined sugars can cause a lot of inflammation throughout your body, including your blood vessels, causing your heart to struggle to pump blood. Processed foods can be loaded with sugar and sodium, plus a bunch of other additives the body does not need. Both types of foods can increase your chances of diabetes as well.

Moderate Amount of Meat and Other Animal Products This is a great way to reduce saturated and trans fats, which can clog up your arteries. Meat should take up the other 1/4 portion of your plate and be limited to 3 to 4 ounces at a time. It is also important to consume good quality, organic meats, which are fed an all-natural diet and not put on a bunch of hormones and antibiotics (these can transfer over to your body when you consume those products).

Aim for At Least 7 Hours of Sleep You should be aiming for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Studies show those who get at least 7 hours of sleep a night have healthier arteries. Good sleep also helps maintain hormonal balance, good mental health and allows the body to repair itself.

Lower Your Blood Pressure, Cholesterol and Excess Weight High blood pressure is called the silent killer for a reason, most of the time there are no symptoms associated with it, so it is important to regularly get these checked. How your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight range is doing can indicate you are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. These can be lowered with proper diet and exercise, and the other lifestyle changes mentioned in this article.

Good parameters for blood pressure are between 90 and 120 for the top number and 60 and 80 for the bottom number. Total cholesterol should be below 200, with HDL (good cholesterol) above 40, LDL (bad cholesterol) below 160 and triglyceride numbers under 150.

You can check on your weight by following the link below to a BMI calculator which lets your know if you are within health parameters: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm

Manage Stress and Anger Stress can be the cause for a lot of medical issues, including heart disease. Finding ways to manage your stress is important. Acupuncture and cupping are great ways to naturally increase your happy hormones and reduce stress. Exercise and eating healthy are a big part of your mental health as well. Find what makes you happy and relaxes you, such as yoga, meditation, coloring books, cooking, a pet and time spent with friends and family. Follow my Pinterest Page for more ideas!

Ana Toriello, D.O.M., is a National Board certified Diplomate of Oriental Medicine operating a private practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which includes an herbal pharmacy. She specializes in women's health, dermatology and cosmetic acupuncture. Please visit www.fortlauderdale-acupuncture.com for more information.


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