Our hearts work hard for us, even if we don’t always work for them. The human heart continues to regenerate itself throughout a person’s lifespan, even later in life, but only if that heart is properly cared for and provided with challenge.
When making the transition to a heart-healthy lifestyle, remember that small, consistent changes are the most effective and the easiest to maintain. Make a commitment to a once daily change, even one as simple as an extra glass of water in the morning. Build on that with one weekly and one monthly change.
And we’re not talking about anything onerous. Choose from any of the following fun changes:
1. Have more sex: Sex is the best exercise in the world, according to Dr. Mehmet Oz. Not only is it fun, but numerous studies have shown that having sex more than twice a week decreases your risk of heart attack. It also lowers blood pressure, increases immunity, reduces stress and promotes longevity. Getting your heart rate going improves blood circulation, which makes the task of pumping blood easier on your heart. Sex increases testosterone levels in men, keeping the heart healthy and lowering cholesterol. Sex also increases estrogen in women, a big contributor to heart health. As if that weren’t enough, sex also helps you sleep, something absolutely vital for heart health.
2. Start each day with water and lemon: A glass of water first thing in the morning is one of the most direct paths to a healthier you. It stimulates the glands in the stomach and tells your body it’s time to get up and at ’em. The juice helps to alkalize the body and acts as an antiseptic for the blood. The vitamin C this drink contains is a natural anti-inflammatory, making it easier for the heart to pump blood. Lemon juice also contains folate, used in the treatment of many cardiovascular diseases.
Tip: Give yourself a head start by preparing your lemon juice ahead of time. With a good citrus juicer you can easily produce a week’s worth of lemon juice in a few minutes. Take your morning dose at room temperature, since ice cold water is anathema to good digestion.
3. Eat more fish or take a fish oil supplement: Switching from red meat to fish is an incredible first step on the road to a healthy heart. The problem is, many people are finicky about fish, and eating it twice a week is a stretch. A high-quality fish oil is a good alternative and contains all those essential DHA fats. For vegetarians or vegans, hemp seeds, flax seeds and nuts are all great sources of heart-healthy fats. Take things a little further by regularly eating healthy fats like avocado, chia seeds, coconut oil or shea butter.
4. Scan labels for saturated fat and sodium content: Processed foods are notorious for their salt and fat content. Saturated fat higher than 5 percent of daily value should be a red flag. Making the switch to sea salt is more revolutionary than it sounds, since you’ll have to be wary of all restaurant and processed foods. It also means avoiding canned foods, which contain high amounts of the sort of salt that’s not good for you. Consider that a typical meal in a fast-food restaurant can equal or even surpass the daily recommended sodium intake. Dressings and sauces are some of the biggest culprits, so begin by reducing those.
Health-wise, the best choice is always to cook in your own home, where you can monitor how much and what types of salt and fat go into your food.
5. Practice Qi Gong: Many experts agree that 30 minutes a day of exercise is the most important thing you can do to improve the health of your heart. Eastern medicine dictates that anyone suffering from cardiovascular disease should do exercise that’s slow, gentle and repetitive. A gentle yet stimulating exercise, Qi Gong meets all these criteria.
Though relatively new to the Western world, Qi Gong is a 4,000-year-old technique and cousin of Tai Chi, but considerably more active. Even a single class can help lower blood pressure, if only temporarily. A long-term Qi Gong practice has been shown by several studies to reduce hypertension and oxygen demand, lower pulse rate and balance life energy, or qi.
6. Tap out your bad habits: Tapping, or EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), is a revolutionary way to lower stress hormones, release anxiety and improve circulation, all of which contribute to heart health. By tapping on your body’s meridian points, the body is able to calm itself and work through everything from a simple body ache to long-term childhood trauma. (For more info, visit eftuniverse.com or watch related videos at YouTube.com.)