With the winter months in full swing, this is a popular time of year to think about heart health and foods that may be helpful to consume to keep your heart healthy and pumping strong.
The heart is truly the power house of the body as it serves the role of literally pumping your blood throughout your blood stream. With that in mind, it helps to know a little about how the heart works to serve this purpose. The heart is basically a muscle that is about the size of your clenched fist. It is surrounded by blood vessels that are contained within the heart muscles as well as on the surface of the muscle. The blood vessels help to route oxygen rich blood deeply into the heart muscle itself allowing it to continue to work to pump blood throughout its four chambers. In addition to the blood vessels contained within the heart, there are nerves bundles that help the heart to know how often to beat and when. The combination of nerves, chambers and blood vessels are what the heart needs to work in synchrony in order for its to do its job of helping to circulate blood throughout your body.
Now that we understand what the heart does, it makes sense to think that foods that are good for nerves and blood vessels are good for your heart. The components that are needed from foods are things such as iron which is what makes your blood rich in oxygen. Food that contain iron are red meats such as beef, eggs and certain fruits like raisins and apricots. The trick here is that some of the foods that contain iron, such as beef and organ meats, also are high in cholesterol.
Foods that are high in cholesterol can be a problem because cholesterol is one of the substances that can rise in your bloodstream and result in blood vessel narrowing plaque formation. The process of cholesterol deposition in your blood vessels is a complex process. The bottom line is that if cholesterol gets deposited into your blood vessels and causes narrowing of arteries, a process known as atherosclerosis, the result is that blood can’t flow to the places that it needs to go including your heart arteries. So ,in essence, things that are good for your blood vessels are good for your heart.
Fresh vegetables and fruits contain things such as vitamin C, which helps your collagen and soft tissues of your blood vessels and B complex vitamins which are essential for healthy red blood cells. Fruits and vegetable also contain water and fiber which helps to keep your blood flowing smoothly. In addition, foods like fresh fish, especially fish like salmon, contains special oils called omega 3 fatty acids, which helps to keep your blood vessels pliable and flexible and help to prevent the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, which can result in narrowing of blood vessels. Other heart healthy foods include nuts and seeds since those food items contain Omega 6 oils which also are helpful for maintaining pliable blood vessels. The nerve bundles of the heart are best kept healthy by having plenty of vitamin B12 and B6 available both of which can be found in certain grains as well as eggs and red meat.
The bottom line is that a heart healthy diet is one that is well balanced and contains plenty of whole foods, fruits, vegetable, fish and healthy lean proteins such as chicken and legumes. In addition to a healthy diet, your heart loves lots of good cardiovascular exercise, which includes exercises that elevate your heart rate and help to keep your cardiovascular system well-tuned. And, of course, don’t forget plenty of plain fresh water. Your body is made of almost 70 percent water, so an ample amount of this essential element is paramount to a healthy heart, blood stream and body.
Hope that helps you to remember the things your heart needs for maximum health…your body and your loved ones will thank you for taking good care of this central part of YOU.