By: Jennifer November, ND

February is national heart health awareness month… which means in addition to loving your Valentine’s heart, it is time to give your heart some extra love as well.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women.  Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, killing 321,000 men in 2013—that’s 1 in every 4 male deaths.

That is the scary news.  Now, for the good news:  80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action.  Small, manageable changes are key.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers the following effective first steps, with some key naturopathic elements added:

  • Schedule a visit with your doctor to discuss heart health.  This includes discussing your risk for cardiovascular disease, including smoking, diet, exercise, stress and family history of heart disease.  Get an updated blood pressure read as well as a full physical, and have your cholesterol checked. Speak openly with your doctor about your concerns and work with him/her on how to set realistic goals for improving diet, increasing exercise, and reducing stress.
  • Add exercise to your daily routine. The CDC recommends starting off the month by walking 15 minutes, 3 times each week. By mid-month, increase your time to 30 minutes, 3 times each week. Make an uplifting music mix to motivate you or recruit the help of a friend. And,if walking is not of interest, consider what physical activity is enjoyable to you: dancing, tennis, yoga, swimming.  Find an activity that you look forward to and that can easily be worked into your schedule.
  • Increase healthy eating.  The CDC recommends cooking a heart-healthy meal at home at least three times per week.  What does this look like? integrating lots of organic fruits and vegetables, and lean protein options (such as chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef, fish, beans, nuts, and eggs).  Select organic, free range, and grass-fed meats when possible, which contain higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids, proven to be beneficial for cardiovascular health and reduced inflammation.  Focus on “good” fats (i.e. monounsaturated) contained in avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds, which are anti-inflammatory and provide the antioxidant Vitamin E.   Reduce the use of salt, by adding herbs and spices instead.
  • Make efforts to quit smoking.  Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss options for counseling, medications, herbs, and homeopathy that can be of assistance.
  • Take medication as prescribed.  If you are taking medication for your blood pressure or cholesterol (or other), and are having a difficult time, talk to your doctor about ways to make this more manageable. This goes for herbs and supplements as well!
  • Reduce the stress and increase the love.  (This one is straight from your naturopathic doctor.)  We live in a culture that encourages us to go, go, go.  A reminder that your heart does not appreciate this, nor the rest of your body.  Make sure you are taking time for yourself, and to spend time with those who bring good to your soul.

The American Heart Association has come out with a program “Healthy for Good,”  offering ways to eat smart, add color, move more, and be well.  This series of small steps is designed to provide simple steps towards longterm health.  This doc has signed up, as we can all use a little help!  Join me in the heart health revolution:

Dr. Jennifer November is a naturopathic doctor currently practicing at Naturopathic Family Medicine in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.  She believes in health empowerment and her patients playing an active role in their wellness. Dr. November enjoys working with patients of all ages, with particular focus on women’s health and preventative medicine. Treatment recommendations integrate diet and lifestyle modifications, botanicals, homeopathy, hydrotherapy and energetics.