Eat, Drink, and Be Merry for Your Cardiac Health
For this Valentine's Day edition, it seems appropriate to focus on heart-friendly activities, consumables, and attitudes. These may or may not be consistent with how we actually live or were brought up, but we have it on good authority that they are great for one's quality and longevity of life. In most cases, they are also fun, rewarding, or tasty, and otherwise not particularly odious.
In no special order, then, here goes:
- Each day, find an opportunity to add a pinch or a few sprinkles of ground cinnamon. A small daily supplement of cinnamon, it turns out, helps with the body's processing of sugar, which can aid in avoiding diabetes or its complications. Diabetes can be quite destructive of cardiac health and function. So lessening the disease's likelihood or effects is a pretty good gift to one's heart. For myself, I enjoy a light dusting of cinnamon on toast, cereal, or slices of fresh apple.
- Be merry, happy, joyful, and otherwise troubled little by stress. Such attitudes are great boons to one's overall health, which of course includes the cardiovascular system.
- Take a walk, play with a dog, pet and chase a cat, or engage in equivalent other aerobic exercise for about a half-hour or more a day. This does wonders in many ways, but especially so for the heart. If one can walk briskly, so much the better. Research has shown that, everything else being equal, the faster one normally walks, the greater one's life expectancy.
- Eat an apple or more a day. The Chinese, we are told, believe so in the health efficacy of apples that they try to eat three a day. Presumably they are not the giant ones sometimes sees in stores now that can each weigh a pound or more. In the West, we are doing well to at least consume one standard-sized apple and so, as the proverb goes, keep the doctor away.
- Take a daily "baby" aspirin (81 mg). I think the idea here is that it thins the blood just enough to cut down on the build-up of harmful plaque in capillaries and heart vessels, yet is not of sufficient quantity that it also does harm to the digestive system.
- Drink a moderate amount of coffee or of green, black, or oolong tea. Such beverages reduce bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, and lower triglyceride levels in the blood. They can also decrease the risk of hypertension.
- Enjoy a relaxing pastime or meditation session daily. Such activities lower stress and increase a sense of well-being. Feeling good is not just a nice thing for one's heart, but it can't hurt cardiac function either.
- Enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate from time to time. This substance increases blood flow to heart and brain alike and tends to lower blood pressure. It may also limit the risks of clots and hence certain kinds of myocardial infarctions as well as strokes.
- Reduce to or maintain a healthy weight and body mass index or BMI (normal weight = a BMI range of about 18-25). Extra weight can raise the chances of cardiac failure, severe hypertension, and diabetes.
- Consume nuts, olive oil, seeds, blueberries, garlic, avocados, and other fresh fruits and veggies, while avoiding smoking or excessive alcohol and cutting back on sugars and on oils high in trans fats.
- Get plenty of Vitamin D, ideally from a few minutes a day of sun exposure.
- Allow yourself plenty of daily rest, a super restorative generally and particularly good for the cardiovascular system. We evolved under conditions of natural light, sleeping, or at least being inactive, most of the time between sunset and sunrise. People still tend to sleep about an hour more a day when without artificial lighting. If under more natural conditions we would rest more, why deprive oneself of that boon simply because by electrical and other means we can provide ourselves with further stimulation? Certainly one can overdo even the idea of getting plenty of rest, as in the hazards of being a "couch potato." Nonetheless, if one is exercising regularly and controlling extra caloric intake, the danger is more likely to be from too little than too much slumber or relaxation. Side effects of insufficient rest include increased risk of: heart attack, heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, strokes, memory difficulties, mood disorders, accidental injuries, weight gain, cognitive dysfunction, accelerated aging, and reduced libido.