From the months of October through April, it feels like we skip from one holiday or celebration to the next- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, St. Patty’s Day, and finally Easter. Naturally, with festivities come food, usually followed by guilt and despair. Wouldn’t it be nice to dedicate the days surrounding these holidays to health promotion, education, and changes in food and fitness lifestyle?
I certainly think so, which is why I’m happy that February is not only host to Valentine’s Day, but also proudly promotes itself as America’s Heart Month.
It’s a tradition that started in 1964 by the American Heart Association as a way to raise awareness of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure- chronic and acute conditions that continue to take the lives of 1 out of every 3 people. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death among women, which is simply astounding considering there are so many forms of prevention.
Heart health is a topic I cover daily with my patients, as many of them deal with high blood pressure related to diet and lifestyle, have already suffered a cardiovascular event such as a stroke, or have diabetes, which means their risk of developing heart-related conditions is higher. While this post takes a more serious tone, I want to stress that a person’s heart health can be improved by simple behavior changes, and it can be fun and delicious along the way!
Today I’m sharing my top tips of heart health, and also a delicious smoothie recipe that helps me recover after a training run. It is for my patients, and myself, that I am spreading the word about eating and moving for a healthy heart, and also running the Heart Mini Half Marathon in my hometown of Cincinnati this March.
3 Tips for a Healthy Heart
- Balanced nutrition– while you may be aware that a low-sodium way of eating is recommended for blood pressure control, you may not know that a good balance of sodium and potassium can help even more! Potassium is a mineral found in potatoes, avocadoes, mangoes, tomatoes, spinach, and asparagus (among other colorful foods) that helps to regulate the body’s mechanisms of blood pressure control. When cooking, I encourage you to use these heart helpers, alongside salt-free seasonings such as your favorite herbs and spices.
- Less stress– bringing your blood to the point of boiling over due to stressful events or emotions plays a role in high blood pressure. The hormones produced cause your vessels to constrict and your heart to pump harder, all of which brings on damage that can have long-lasting effects. Find ways to minimize periodic and chronic stress, such as meditating, yoga, writing in a journal, or listening to music. Find your zen, women and men!
- Favorite fats– managaing your cholesterol is just as important as blood pressure control, and so I recommend making your favorite fats the healthier ones, like olive oil, walnuts, salmon, and flax seed. The year’s top diets for health benefits include the Mediterranean and DASH diets, which both encourage you to fill up on these mono and polyunsaturated fats that lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and raise your HDL or “good” cholesterol.
Now, onto a berry red smoothie, with the added nutritional boost from beets! Don’t ask me why, but I slurped down this drink after a long run in low 20s temperatures…brrrrr. The frozen raspberries provide vitamin C and other anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits; beets and their juices help to bring more oxygen to the heart and your recovering muscles; maca powder is suggested to help reduce stress hormoes and contains numerous minerals like potassium, zinc, and magnesium, which help in muscle recovery and bood flow; and finally another star ingredient in this smoothie is ginger powder, which is an anti-inflammatory component and simply tastes delicious!
- 1/3 cup frozen raspberries
- 1/2 medium banana
- 1 medium size pre-cooked beet- I like Beetology and Love Beets
- 1 large handful of spinach
- 1/4 cup plain soymilk or your favorite dairy-free beverage
- 1/2 cup water and 1 ice cube
- 1 scoop Amazing Grass vanilla protein powder
- 1 tsp maca powder
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- juice of 1/2 lemon
Blend all ingredients together in a blender or Nutribullet. Serve in a glass topped with unsweetened shredded coconut and your favorite seed blend, such as Trader Joe’s Ancient Super Seed and Ancient Grain Blend.