"Heart disease affects approximately 2.4 million Canadian adults, and is the second leading cause of death in Canada." - Government of Canada
I am not trying to scare you with this statistic. Knowledge is power. Fortunately, cardiovascular health is easily supported by lifestyle changes and changes in dietary habits.
1. Prevention through nutritional means is vital.
A diet high in fiber and natural, wholesome foods, avoidance of food preservatives, toxic chemicals, refined and concentrated sugars is recommended. With all the conflicting nutrition information out there, it is hard to know what to do. My number one tip is to keep it simple, eat things as close to their natural state as possible. Overall, most of us do not consume enough fruits and vegetables. Try having a fruit smoothie for breakfast or a salad before dinner. This will have you increasing your intake in no time!
2. When choosing fats, keep saturated fat (heavy cream, fatty beef, etc) to a minimum.
Instead choose polyunsaturated fats that are found in certain fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Choose lean protein sources such as lean meats (chicken, turkey), eggs, fish, and legumes. Also, stay away from "white" foods, think white flour, white, refined sugar, etc. Instead choose whole grains such as quinoa, millet, couscous, etc. When choosing a sweetener, opt for maple syrup or honey, but again, keep intake to a minimum. You can have too much of a good thing. By planning ahead, you will make better choices. Be sure to always have healthy snacks on hand for when hunger strikes. Just remember... everything in moderation. If you don't deprive yourself completely, you will be less likely to binge.
3. Exercise is key.
Stress is the major cause of heart disease, along with malnutrition. In this day and age, stress is unavoidable, so it is important that you have the tools necessary to help you positively offset stress. Lifestyle changes are imperative: exercise, quitting smoking, relaxation, yoga, and meditation all contribute to stress relief. It is essential that you incorporate some stress reducing techniques into your daily routine.
After all, sitting is the new smoking. Your glorious body was designed to move. Get up off that sexy butt and shake what your momma gave you. You don't have to go out and run a marathon. Simply walking briskly for 20 minutes each day will help tremendously. Remember, any exercise is better than no exercise. If you don't enjoy walking, try Zumba, circuit training, yoga, dance, swimming. It is important to find an activity you enjoy and stick with it. While you're at it, grab a friend. You are more likely to stay motivated if you are accountable to someone other than yourself.
I believe our health is a connection of mind-body-spirit. After all, the heart is the very core of our being. It represents balance, as we have three chakras above the heart chakra and three chakras below. Since blood is linked to joy, any issues relating to blood circulation indicates a lack of joy in relation to love. To bring back the smooth and harmonious rhythm of the heart, one must open up to love, be less critical of self and others, and practice forgiveness.
I am a Kundalini yoga teacher. There are many beautiful practices to help you open the heart.
I ask that you take a brief moment to sit quietly in a cross-legged position. Place your left hand a couple inches from your heart center and your right hand is straight, wrist resting against the knee in Gyan Mudra (thumb and index finger touching). Close your eyes and breathe deeply into the heart. Begin to chant the mantra "Ong Sohung”.
Ong - The Creative Consciousness of the Universe
Sohung - I am that!
The element of the heart chakra is air and the breath is a symbol of life. However, it is so universal and voluntary that it is easy to take for granted. Breathe into that which connects you with your soul, your higher self, and to others. Continue to do this for at least five minutes. When finished, rest your arms in your lap and breathe for another minute. Take this time to feel your body and all that is happening within.
"Your task is not to seek for love, but to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against love." - Rumi
Amanda is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Yoga & Spin Instructor. As you can see, she is passionate about health and fitness. It is her mission to empower others to take control of their own health and fitness! You can find her at Soul Sports Nutrition, on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.