What motto gets you through a tough workout? For Emily, it's "don't quit now." For me, "heart health, heart health, heart health," keeps me pushing through an intense workout. If heart disease runs in your family, consider the benefits of your sweat-inducing workout the next time you feel like giving up.
Episode 89 is all about your heart. Starting with two things we always talk about affecting your overall health other than diet and exercise, sleep and stress. Sleep deprivation can hurt the heart. It's not completely clear why less sleep is harmful to heart health, but researchers understand that sleeping too little causes disruptions in conditions and like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation. People with sleep apnea (which causes them to wake frequently throughout the night) often have compromised heart health.
The other “S”, stress, can affect you depending on the amount and how you react to it. Stress has been known to contribute to conditions like high blood pressure, ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. The big kicker with stress is how it can change behaviors, for example, after a stressful day at work, we go to the bar instead of to the gym. Or stop by Taco Bell instead of cooking dinner because “it was a hard day and I’ve earned it.” These behaviors repeated over and over are the kind that can lead to heart problems.
If stress is a concern, start by figuring out how stress pushes your buttons. When you’re under stress, do you:
Eat to calm down?
Speak and eat very fast?
Rush around but do not get much done?
Work too much?
Sleep a lot or too little?
If some of these sound familiar, focus on stress management skills. There are even classes on Skillshare like Stress Management 101 to help.
One stress management techniques is analyzing your outlook. Researchers believe optimistic people may have greater buffers against stress. For example, they may have stronger social support and a larger network of friends to draw from during difficult times. To increase your optimism, try making a list of what you’re grateful for or listing out your strengths.
We know lifestyle choices have a huge impact on your heart. While genetics matter too, here’s an alarming fact about the heart. It has been estimated that eighty percent of cardiovascular disease deaths can be prevented by not smoking and controlling things like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, along with regular exercise and healthy eating. 80%!! And just 5% weight loss can reduce blood pressure 8 points. That’s 10 pounds for someone who weighs 200 lbs.
The go-to diet for preventing and treating heart disease is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, fish (preferably oily fish-at least twice per week), nuts, beans and seeds and try eating some meals without meat. Select lower fat dairy products and poultry. This is basically a Mediterranean style diet. But what about those doing a ketogenic diet or low carb diets? Here’s the deal. If on a keto or low carb diet, you lose significant weight, say 10%, that stays off, you’ve likely lowered your risk of heart disease. Keep an eye on your labs including lipids, liver enzymes and kidney function and blood pressure. If those improve or stay normal, great! If you do keto or low carb long term (six months or more) supplement with a greens product, b-vitamins, possibly a fiber supplement.
Saturated fat has come under controversy. A handful of recent reports have muddied the link between saturated fat and heart disease. One meta-analysis of 21 studies said that there was not enough evidence to conclude that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease, but that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat may indeed reduce risk of heart disease.
If you want to try the Mediterranean style of eating, here are three ways to get started.
Eat a non-starchy vegetable, like broccoli, spinach, bell peppers or carrots, with lunch and dinner daily.
Eat fish 1 to 3 times a week.
Change out a snack for one serving of nuts or add them to a meal, 4 to 5 times a week.
And because it’s part of all healthy lifestyle plans, exercise is key to having a healthy heart. The heart is a muscle after all and needs help to stay strong.
At your doctor’s office, your blood pressure checks and cholesterol numbers generally check your risk for heart disease. In addition, the Cardio IQ test is the more in-depth version of the standard lipid panel. It also tells you the type of LDL in your blood and inflammation factors.
Take this heart risk test from Mayo Clinic online by answering a few questions.