5 Top Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

by Dr. Melissa Carr, Dr. TCM

Feb 18, 2016

There’s no question that the health of your heart is key to your good health. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) calls the heart the “king” organ. When the “king” is not well, the body is weakened. So it’s no surprise that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

February is Heart and Stroke Awareness month, bringing with it a heart health wake-up call to millions of Canadians. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or you are overweight, drink excessively, or smoke, this is the perfect time of year to evaluate your cardiovascular health. A heart-healthy lifestyle will keep your heart and blood vessels in shape, and lower the risk of a heart attack and stroke. For you and the ones you care about, here are some helpful tips to keep your heart healthy and strong.

1. Eat a Nutritious Diet

One of the best ways to prevent heart disease is eating a nutritious diet. Try eating more fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins, and limit your intake of foods that are high in salt, sugar, and artificial ingredients. Creating healthy eating habits will not only help decrease your risk of a heart attack, but also set a positive example for your entire family.

2. Get Active

Getting—and staying—active is vital when it comes to keeping your heart healthy. Making an effort to move everyday will have a positive impact on your heart and blood vessels, as well as prevent many health problems. Plus, it’s great for boosting your mood and relieving stress. Doing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week will help regulate your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, percentage body fat, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

3. Quit Smoking

Do you know that quitting smoking isn’t just good for your lungs? It can also significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Saying goodbye to bad habits like smoking is not easy, but it is a must if you want to avoid an elevated risk of heart attack, stroke, and a host of other serious health problems. Quitting smoking can be hard. But remember, you don’t have to go it alone. With some help and support from family, friends, or your health-care provider, you can kick that nasty habit for good.

4. Take Time to Relax

For optimal heart heath, it is vital for to take time to relax. When you allow stress or anxiety to affect you, your adrenaline levels amp up, potentially overloading your heart. Set aside time every day—even just ten minutes, to start—to practice some de-stressing techniques. Activities like yoga, meditation, or simply sitting quietly and reading a good book will help you cope with stress and maintain a healthy heart.

5. The King of Herbs for the King Organ System

Japanese red reishi is known as the “king of herbs” by many practitioners of Chinese medicine. Part of the reason for that is its wide range of medicinal effects. It has been used for centuries as an effective adaptogen, immune modulator, and a general tonic.

There are a couple of fun hints that red reishi is also good for the heart. The first is its appearance. Look at the reishi mushroom from above and you’ll see that it is shaped and coloured similar to a heart. Another is its nickname of “king of herbs,” supporting the “king” organ, the heart.

Red reishi has been shown to increase blood circulation and improve the flow of blood to the heart. The many biological compounds in reishi mushrooms may also lower blood pressure (a traditional use of the mushroom) and reduce cholesterol.

When it comes to your health, taking good care of your heart is key to any wellness plan.

Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a B.Sc. in Kinesiology. In practice since 2001, Dr. Carr has a passion for sharing health information. She has been a nutrition instructor and a health consultant, lecturer, and writer for 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, Fraser Health Authority, UBC, and the David Suzuki Foundation, amongst others. www.activetcm.com

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