The number one killer in the USA is the heart disease. However, it is largely preventable disease and small changes in our lifestyles can make big differences to our heart health. We will not focus here on quitting smoking or adding at least 30 min of physical activity a day because you should already know that. It is also a myth that men die more often of heart disease. It kills women and men alike. Women have a tendency to develop symptoms of heart disease after menopause. Nevertheless, they are more likely to die from a heart attack than men are.
The most common heart problem is coronary artery disease (or coronary heart disease). The coronary arteries encircle the heart, delivering the oxygen and nutrients and carrying away wastes. Like other arteries in the body, the coronary arteries can become unhealthy. The usual culprit is atherosclerosis: a condition in which arterial walls starts depositing fatty material.
This process weakens the circulation to the heart and other tissues in the body and increases blood pressure. The heart now has to pump blood through narrowed, inflexible arteries. It is hard work. Like any other overused muscle, the heart hypertrophies, or thickens. Eventually, it starts to give out, leading to congestive heart failure.
The sooner you take steps to protect your heart the better. Mother Nature will provide a few remedies to keep your heart in peak condition.
Constant and prolonged stress raises the inflammatory chemicals in the bod. This leads to higher blood pressure and makes platelets stickier—factors that stimulate heart attack. Extreme stress can cause heart attack, irregular heart rhythm, and abrupt cardiac death.
Slow, deep breathing and positive emotions, such as gratitude, diminish stress and improve heart health.
How to practice:
Find a comfortable and relaxing seated position. Close your eyes. Focus your minds on something you feel thankful or happy about. Be aware of your positive feelings. Imagine those feelings pounding out from your heart so others can feel them.
Why does it work?
Healthy hearts show noteworthy heart rate variability, meaning the pulse typically varies subtly with respiration—slower with inhalation and faster with exhalation. Loss of this heart rate variability, as in the case with chronic stress, is a risk factor for heart disease. Laughter and slow, deep breathing like in meditation improve heart rate variability. Similarly, positive emotions such as gratitude also improve heart rate variability.
Feel the pulse
This is a similar calming technique which you can practice whenever feeling stressed or having trouble relaxing into sleep. The goal is to ground yourself by becoming aware of your heartbeat.
How to practice:
Sit comfortably in a chair. Find your pulse: Good locations are on the thumb side of your inner wrist and in the neck just below the angle of the jaw.
Start counting the number of heartbeats for 15 seconds. Multiplying the number by four will give you the beats per minute. Now, close your eyes. Straighten your spine so that the back of your head, shoulders, and sacrum line up. Rest your palms on your thighs. Inhale slowly for a count of four, pause, and then exhale slowly for a count of six. Be aware of your collarbones and ribs rise and your abdomen moves outward with a deep inhalation, then fall with exhalation. Repeat ten times. Check your pulse again.
Why does it work?
The complete relaxation slows your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure. This helps in lowering the stress on the heart. Continuing stress raises blood pressure, which strains the heart and sets the stage for atherosclerosis. At the end, the normal heart-rate variability is lost. This kind of self –aware relaxation tends to restore the normal heart-rate variability. Unless you were already very relaxed, this exercise will probably slow your heart rate.
Resveratrol-Rich Mulled Wine
Indulge yourself throughout the holidays. The scent of the mulled wine is as soothing and welcoming as the taste.
- 1½ liters red wine (you can also use any leftovers of red wine)
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons ground cloves
- ½ teaspoons ground anise
- 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
- 1½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
- Grated zest of 1 organic lemon
- Grated zest of 1 organic orange (Slice and reserve the orange.)
- Place a large pot over low heat.
- Pour in the wine.
- Combine the spices and citrus zest in a tea bag or wrap them in a cheesecloth and place in the pan.
- Keep the pot over low heat for 30 minutes.
- Stir in honey to taste.
- Pour the wine through a strainer into a decanter.
- Serve into mugs and top with a sprinkling of cinnamon and a slice of orange.
Why does it work?
Red grapes and red wine contain resveratrol and other flavonoids that lessen the tendency of blood to form clots in the arteries that supply the heart muscle. Recent studies have linked moderate wine consumption with cardiovascular benefits. Mulled wine is a good option since a considerable amount of alcohol will evaporate during the heating process. However, be moderate: high amounts of alcohol damage the heart.