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Build a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle: 4 Steps to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle is crucial for overall well-being, regardless of age, and with functional medicine you can focus on prevention of chronic disease and addressing the root causes of health issues.  

Heart disease is a leading cause of mortality worldwide, but the good news is that there are simple steps you can take to prevent it. When it comes to preventing heart disease, functional medicine emphasizes a holistic approach that incorporates lifestyle changes.  

Four functional medicine lifestyle recommendations to promote heart health:

1. Focus on Balanced Nutrition for Lasting Heart Health

Building a well-balanced and nutrient-dense diet is the first line of defense against heart disease. Consuming a variety of whole foods that provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber should be a priority for each meal and include colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains.  

  • Protein is an essential component of a balanced diet, but not all proteins are created equal. To protect your heart, choose lean sources of protein over high-fat options. Instead of indulging in fatty red meats or chicken wings, opt for lean poultry, fish, and beef. Additionally, consider replacing a portion of your whole egg intake with egg whites or suitable substitutes to reduce cholesterol intake.
  • Colorful fruits and vegetables are powerhouses of essential nutrients and antioxidants that play a crucial role in preventing cardiovascular disease. Aim to include a vibrant array of colors in your diet by consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables. These plant substances help lower the risk of heart issues.
  • Prioritize whole, fresh options. Steer clear of fried or breaded vegetables, as well as fruits canned with heavy syrups. Opting for fresh, whole fruits and vegetables ensures that you get the maximum nutritional benefits without unnecessary additives or preservatives.
  • Switch to whole grains over refined grains is a smart move for heart health that are rich in fiber, which aids in regulating blood pressure and maintaining overall cardiovascular well-being. Swap white bread for whole-wheat or other whole-grain alternatives. Similarly, opt for brown rice and whole-grain pastas instead of their white and refined counterparts.
  • Reduce sodium intake, excessive salt consumption is linked to high blood pressure, a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to fewer than 2,300 milligrams per day for healthy adults. Minimize the use of salt products to flavor your food and experiment with alternative seasoning options like herbs, spices, and citrus juices to add flavor without compromising your heart health.  

 

Remember, small changes in your daily habits can lead to significant improvements in the long run. 

In addition, our functional medicine practitioners recommend personalized nutrition plans based on factors such as genetics, food sensitivities, and individual metabolic needs. This personalized approach aims to address specific imbalances in the body that may contribute to heart disease.

2. Prioritize Mindfulness and Stress Management

Chronic stress is recognized as a significant contributor to heart disease. It adversely affects heart health by triggering the prolonged release of stress hormones, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure. This physiological response, coupled with inflammation and potential dysregulation of blood sugar levels, contributes to the development of conditions like atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome.  

Unhealthy coping behaviors, lifestyle habits, and psychological factors further compound the risk, emphasizing the importance of stress management for overall cardiovascular well-being. 

Functional medicine encourages stress management techniques to promote overall well-being. This may include mindfulness practices such as:  

  • Meditation 
  • Yoga 
  • Deep breathing exercises 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation 

 

Our providers consider the impact of stress on the body’s hormonal balance and immune function. Addressing stress through lifestyle modifications and relaxation techniques can play a crucial role in preventing heart-related issues.

3. Make Time for Regular Physical Activity

Exercise is a cornerstone of functional medicine for heart health. It’s not just about burning calories but promoting overall cardiovascular fitness. Our providers recommend a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises to support heart health. 

Individualized exercise plans may be developed based on your fitness level, health status, and specific goals. The focus is on creating a sustainable and enjoyable exercise routine that aligns with your preferences and lifestyle. 

4. Don’t Skip Out on Sleep

Quality sleep is vital in maintaining overall health, including heart health. Sleep plays a crucial role in the body’s repair and recovery processes, with chronic sleep deprivation being linked to an increased risk of heart disease. 

Recommendations for optimizing sleep in functional medicine include:  

  • Creating a consistent sleep schedule will help your body recognize the time you start winding down and making falling asleep each night easier. 
  • Set the mood with a conducive sleep environment that eliminates screens and harsh lights, a well-ventilated slightly cooler sleep space and comfortable, natural-fiber clothing. 
  • Address factors such as sleep apnea or insomnia with your provider. 
  • Consider discussing factors like circadian rhythm and hormonal balance with your provider.  

Functional medicine takes a comprehensive approach to prevent heart disease by addressing lifestyle factors that contribute to overall health and well-being. These recommendations go beyond conventional treatments and aim to identify and address the underlying causes of imbalances that may lead to cardiovascular issues.  

For more personalized guidance based on individual health needs, schedule an appointment with your Forum Health Medical Weight Loss practitioner. 

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