Valentine’s Day brings into focus all our loved ones. However, whilst Valentine’s Day tends to be about our romantic hearts, it’s also a great time to look after the physical wellbeing of our heart too.
Our hearts work very hard, beating around 100,000 times every day, so making sure you are doing what you can to keep yours in great shape should be top of the list when it comes to health.
Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top ways of looking after your heart physically and emotionally.
Load up on vitamin C
One of our hardest working vitamins, this nutrient has a great affinity for the heart. Why? Because it’s one of our key antioxidant vitamins and therefore helps protect the heart from free radical damage, which is responsible for the ageing process and our degenerative diseases. Vitamin C also helps protect the artery walls to enable blood to keep flowing freely through them.
Vitamin C is readily available in most fruits and vegetables but purple sprouting broccoli and oranges from Spain are in season now and are both rich in this amazing nutrient. However, try to get as much colour on your plates as possible and you’ll also be getting plenty of vitamin C.
Keep the heart well oiled
That means eating foods containing the essential omega-3 fats which are also essential for a healthy heart. Omega-3s primarily help regulate blood pressure, protect the arteries from damaging inflammation and also help to keep blood flowing smoothly.
Omega-3s are mainly found in oily fish such as sardines, pilchards (tinned are fine), salmon (wild, not farmed is best) and mackerel. The best vegan sources are flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. But if none of these are your bag then give your heart some love by taking a daily supplement of fish oil or a vegan DHA, omega-3 product.
Cut down on sugar
That means sugar in all its forms. Ideally, we should cut out all refined sugar in the diet, much as that may sound harsh! However, sugar appears in many different guises; the issue is that it can cause inflammation throughout the body, attack the delicate artery walls, and help pile on the kilos, making your heart work even harder.
Try to check food packaging and remember that whilst sweeteners are low in calories, they ‘feed’ your sweet tooth and are chemicals that the body doesn’t understand, and which can cause other health issues. I know that it is very hard to cut all forms of refined sugar out totally but try to be more aware of how much you’re eating from various food sources.
Show your heart some gratitude
Your heart works very hard for you, so it’s a great time to acknowledge this and gently offer praise and thankfulness. Gratitude is also a great daily practice to help mental wellbeing.
If you’re finding life a struggle, then try to think of three things each day for which you are thankful for, however small. It’s sometimes good to write these down so you can refer back to them. When you start doing this, you’ll be amazed at how much is in your life which is good or for which you are grateful; even if it’s simple things in nature such as seeing flowers grow over time or hearing the birds tweeting, anything that makes you happy increases your levels of gratitude.
By offering gratitude daily, it can help re-frame any negative thought processes for the better.
Breathe some fresh air every day
It’s amazing how much being outside in the fresh air can help mental wellbeing. With so many people working from home and/or working long hours, the days can fly by without us realising that we’ve not seen the light of day.
This is not good for the mind or body (especially the heart). Breathing air and regulating your breathing whilst doing this is great for reducing stress. Additionally, if you can fit a brisk walk into your daily schedule, then the exercise is certainly going to benefit the heart and mind too.
When you’re busy, you might want to actually write this into your diary as an event, so it’s not forgotten. It’s all part of your self-care routine, which is important, not just during the month of love, but every day of the year!
Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and love your heart more than ever this month!
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