While candy hearts take most of the glory, this month also encourages us all to think about this hardworking, muscular organ that beats around 35 million times in a year!
The heart is part of your cardiovascular system, which also consists of blood vessels. The heart has two big duties that every cell in the body continually depends on:
- Carrying oxygen and nutrients throughout the body
- Removing carbon dioxide and other waste out of the body
With such a complex system, plenty of things could go wrong. Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term to describe problems with the cardiac muscle as well as the vascular system that nourishes the heart and other organs. While the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, all heart diseases are cardiovascular diseases. but not all cardiovascular diseases are heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, claiming more lives each year than cancer and chronic lung disease combined. Globally, cardiovascular diseases have increased. In fact, over a 10-year period, the number has increased 14.5 percent.
What Causes Heart Disease?
Blood vessels called arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood from the heart throughout the body. When pockets of fatty deposits called plaque build up in the arteries, they limit blood flow. Atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries is a disease where plaque builds up inside the arteries.  When a plaque breaks, a heart attack or stroke can occur. In developed countries, atherosclerosis is also the leading cause of cardiovascular death. Atherosclerosis can result from damage or injury to the inner layer of an artery.
Many factors contribute to this damage, including:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Smoking and other sources of tobacco
- Insulin resistance
- Inflammation Over time
This damage can block the blood flow to the heart, leading to a heart attack. The more of the above risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing heart disease.
Heart Health Starts with Your Diet
Your family history and age can both increase your risk factors for heart disease. Even so, plenty of these risk factors are within your control.To maintain stellar heart health, you need to remove what interferes with a healthy heart, and provide the body with nutrients it needs to thrive. Sugary, processed foods, not getting enough healthy foods like fruit and vegetables, and too much alcohol can all interfere with heart health. To create a healthy heart, remove those offenders and increase the foods that support heart health.
5 More Ways to Love Your Heart
Studies show that along with a healthy diet, regular physical activity, not smoking, and other healthy lifestyle factors can reduce heart disease by close to 80 percent.
- Exercise regularly. The heart is a muscle. Bursts of high-intensity exercise keep muscles including the heart strong and functioning well. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a fast, efficient exercise plan for both general health and preventing heart-related problems.
- Manage stress. Chronic stressors – things like job stress, marital unhappiness, and the burden of caregiving – can interfere with heart health. Studies show that learning to become more resilient to the inevitable stress that life doles out can dampen these effects.
- Create better sleep. One study looked at 60,586 adults aged 40 years or older. Researchers found that both not getting enough sleep – about six hours or less – and poor sleep quality increased the risk of coronary heart disease, which can contribute to heart attacks, stroke, and more. Aim for eight hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep every night.
- Visit your chiropractor. Chiropractors can help manage risk factors for heart health, including high blood pressure. One study found that a chiropractic adjustment could significantly lower high blood pressure.
- Get the right nutrient support. A healthy heart depends on the right nutrients. Most people don’t eat large amounts of cruciferous vegetables to get sufficient sulforaphane, which is especially high in broccoli. Likewise, most people don’t eat the amount of garlic to get its highly bioactive compounds.