Is Your Heart Healthy?

February 3, 2015 at 8:58 am


February is Heart Health Month, a good time to remember to take care of one of the most precious parts of your body. Some call the heart the ‘second mind’ since there are so many interconnected nerves with the brain and also since the heart strongly responds to emotions, just like our minds. In many cases, a healthy heart relates to better overall health: better brain function, sexual health, longevity and improved quality of life.

An estimated 90% of adults have at least one major risk factor for heart disease (smoking, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, obesity, alcohol, high cholesterol, diabetes). Increasingly, this is also true for our children, given the current childhood obesity epidemic. In order to turn this disturbing trend around I’ve compiled some newer perspectives and tips for promoting heart health.

Food Frenzy

We know that the linings of the heart are sensitive to damage. More specifically, ‘free radicals’ (compounds primarily made by our own body as a result of processing our food intake, but also from chemical exposures in general) damage artery linings that can start the process of arterial plaque build-up. What we know is that the more you eat, the more free radicals are produced, the more chance of free radical damage to your heart. In our society, we tend to over eat meals and sometimes our snacks have more calories than our meals. Some tips are to eat until you are 75% full, choose vegetables with each meal (vegetables contain antioxidants that neutralize free radicals), and include foods that are higher in protective antioxidants such as prunes, berries, red beans and spices (eg: cloves, thyme, garlic, etc.).

Dental Care

Ask your dentist/hygienist at your next checkup/cleaning if you have evidence of periodontal disease and if you have deep ‘pockets’ between your gums and teeth. It doesn’t refer to how rich you are, but rather how easy it is for microorganisms and their byproducts to enter your circulation, another risk factor for heart issues. Many studies have correlated the microorganisms living in your dental pockets and those present in the coronary artery plaques, so dental health is very important for heart health. Make sure to follow your recommended number of dental checkups and hygiene visits and ensure you brush and floss your teeth and gums daily.

The Two S’s

I’m talking about sleep and stress. If you have insufficient or poor quality sleep, or excess stress…or both, this is a recipe for higher rates of cardiovascular illness. Both of these situations raise your body’s main stress hormone, “cortisol,” which has an impact on not only your heart health, but also your blood pressure, insulin levels and susceptibility to diabetes and obesity and difficulty losing weight. Make sure to give yourself the time to sleep, it’s the cheapest supplement and leads to better daytime energy as well. In terms of stress, the top sources include work-related stress and home/personal relationship-related stress. Work on resolving what is underlying these stresses, improving communication is often an important key. Consider seeing a counselor or psychologist for extra help.

Strengthen Your Blood Vessels

According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, if you have a TIA (transient ischemic attack), often described as a ‘mini stroke,’ your chances of developing an actual stroke increase by 5X over the next two years. Take this as a sign to take immediate action. One approach I have found useful for my patients is to improve the blood vessels. A variety of nutritional compounds called ‘flavonoids’ help improve the integrity and function of blood vessels. A study published in the December 2014 issue of the nutritional medicine journal Nutrients tested the impact of tea flavonoids from both green and black tea on healthy adults aged 45-75. The researchers used a method called “EndoPAT” to measure changes in the small blood vessels of the finger; they found that both green and black tea flavonoid extracts significantly improved the microvascular circulation in the people tested after being supplemented with flavonoids. Flavonoids are found at moderate levels in hawthorne berries, grape seeds, onions and tea.

About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or