February is American Heart Month, so I thought I would offer my Fresh Five tips to optimize your heart health!
Lower your cholesterol with fiber:
I have this conversation on a daily basis with my patients, because it is what I consider to be a foundational step in cholesterol management, but it's also a great way to maximize bowel movement regularity and to help promote elimination of all those unwanted toxins to which we are exposed!
Flax seeds: Flax is high in the Omega 3 essential fatty acid (EFA), alpha linoleic acid, and has been shown to be protective against heart disease in dose of 2g per day. Also, some people may need to start with a lower amount, like 0.5g, and work their way up, as GI upset can occur. One way to give yourself the best chance at success: Make sure you are drinking AT LEAST 1/2 your body weight in oz of water daily. Flax seed is a bulking agent and will absorb fluids, so you'll want to make sure you have plenty of water on board to keep things moving.*
Chia seeds: Similar in mechanism as flax seed, chia seeds have been suggested to have increased EFA content compared to Flax seed, and can be dosed in the same way. Keep in mind, the same holds true about offsetting the chia seeds with water consumption.*
Other source of insoluble fiber: 1 handful of steamed kale/greens (not 1 handful of greens from the store, but a handful of cooked greens…you know the ones you remove from the pan after you have been super deflated by putting an entire container of greens in the pan and it cooks down to one handful). If you know you know.
*Note: I always recommend purchasing organic, whole seeds, and grinding them as you need them. That way, you minimize the chance that they will go rancid. Here are a couple of options for purchasing good quality seeds:
Manage those Family ties:
Some folks are genetically predisposed to elevated cholesterol. There are many potential reasons for this, and one of them could be how you are processing B-vitamins. One of the B-vitamins (Folate) can help recycle cholesterol and activate other B-vitamins to assist in the biochemical pathways to help process cholesterol, so getting sufficient amounts of these vitamins can help with cholesterol levels.
Dietarily, these vitamins come from leafy greens, like kale, spinach, chard, etc, as well as animal proteins, however, not every person has the genetics to process dietary intake appropriately. So, you can consider a well sourced supplement to help with this, including a form with “MTHF” for folate or “methylcobalamin” for B12. Of, course, this isn’t the whole story, so stay tuned for my upcoming article about b vitamins, but this is a good place to start.
You’ve got rhythm.
We have all probably experienced a sensation of a racing heart or a skipped beat, particularly after watching a particularly scary movie, but there are different degrees of arrhythmia (i.e. abnormal rhythm of the heart). So, how do you know if it’s an issue?
Well, if your symptoms are frequent or bothersome, you should talk to your Primary Care Provider, have them do an in office cardio exam, which entails them listening to your heart, and maybe doing so while you are in different positions or while you are holding your breath. Based on these findings, they may recommend an electrocardiogram (EKG; or stress EKG), where they put adhesive pads on your chest and collect info that breaks down how your heart is acting in each beat, echocardiogram (to check how your blood flows through the different chambers of your heart). You may also be able to utilize commercially available heart rate monitors or smart watch EKGs to help identify if the rhythm changes are actually happening or may be just a sensation you are experiencing.
Chinese Medicine is very good at describing how emotional balance can benefit physiological function. This is particularly true with heart health. In my system of pulse diagnosis, this also includes what we call “heart shocks,” or traumas (which includes big “T” and little “t” traumas). This is a larger discussion then I can offer here, however, the take home, is we all need a little emotional support now and again. So, consider the following:
Breath work (blood pressure)
Contrast Hot/Cold Hydrotherapy: Not only are you promoting vasodilation and vasocontraction, but you are also working to balance the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. Stay tuned for my article discussing the benefits of contrast hot and cold therapy, but here are a couple of options:
End your showers in cold
I'm currently building out a section on www.freshwatermi.com to highlight specific herbs, but here are some overviews of a coupl Cardiac Herbal Heros:
Hawthorn: Also known as Crataegus, hawthorn has been suggested to improve the performance of a damaged heart muscle, which may lead to improvement in cardiac output, through modulating blood pressure and improving atherosclerosis and high cholesterol.
Motherwort: Motherwort (or Leonorus cardiaca) has been used traditionally for many cardiac symptoms, including racing/fast heart rate and arrhythmias, and I like to use it to manage those symptoms in the context of stress/anxiety. In other words, when someone has cardiac symptoms triggered when they are in fight or flight mode, or when they are feeling anxious, I will include this in my formulations. Caution should be used in individuals with hypothyroidism, however, as Motherwort can decrease thyroid function.
Hibiscus: Great for modulating blood sugar, which can contribute to overall cardiovascular risk, mainly through vascular effects of sustained elevations in blood sugar. More on this in future posts, but for now, just know that blood sugar/metabolic disease is intimately connected to cardiovascular risk, and should never be left our of any heart health discussions!
Purchasing options for bulk herbs and teas:
And if you would rather take a supplement, check out our Cardiac Refresh Recommendations at our Freshwater Virtual Apothecary through FullScript.
For more information on our Fresh Approach to Heart Health, book an appointment online or call/text 231-492-0046.
*please note: Freshwater Wellness may make a commission of purchases made through the links in this article.