Improving Heart Health After A Heart Attack

If you are one of the millions of Canadians who have had a heart attack, you might be feeling overwhelmed trying to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again.

Perhaps you’ve already made some life changes, but let’s cover the basics first because it’s important you are armed with some heart-health knowledge for lifestyle changes.

Stop smoking

If you’re a smoker, you’ve likely been told time and again to quit. While smoking is most often associated with cancer, it is also a serious risk factor for heart disease and strokes. “Light” or “mild” cigarettes are not better than regular ones because smokers then often take more longer, more frequent, or deeper puffs. Even occasional smoking can significantly up your risk factors for heart disease.

Yes, quitting can be very difficult, but in addition to medications, nicotine gum or skin patches, and pure willpower, there are several healthy alternative techniques to helping people kick the habit, including hypnosis, acupuncture, and meditation. If the first (or first few times) you don’t succeed in quitting, try and try again.

Don’t blame your genes

Heart disease can run in the family. But there is no need to panic (or throw in the towel). Cardiac illness is largely preventable, regardless of your family history.

The key to a healthy heart is managing the risk factors. Curbing your stress, regularly exercising, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, and eating a healthy diet are just some of the many things you can do to nip hereditary hazards in the bud.

Cut down stress

Stress can increase your risk of heart disease. Chronic high levels of cortisol and adrenaline can constrict your arteries and increase blood pressure, potentially leading to angina (chest pain) or even a heart attack.

Practicing some regular de-stressing activities, such as yoga, meditation, or visualization techniques can help you better cope with stress. Prioritizing, asking for help, getting enough sleep, breath work, exercise, therapeutic treatments, and counselling are just some of the other stress-management supports you could employ.

Watch your weight

Being overweight can increase your chances of cardiovascular disease in a variety of ways. Those extra pounds can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes. What’s more, overweight people are more prone to lower levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, which is widely accepted as a major risk factor.

Cutting back on processed foods, eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising for at least 30 minutes three times a week will help you lose weight, as well as have a positive impact on your heart. If the usual healthy eating and exercising isn’t working, it may be worth talking to a health professional about potential underlying health conditions that may be impeding weight loss.

Move your body

There’s no question, exercise is a health basic. The heart is a muscle, and just like any other muscle, the key to keeping it in shape is to use it well. Exercise can benefit the heart by helping to elevate HDL, lower blood pressure, boost mood, strengthen heart muscle, improve circulation, and even lower stress.

Note that if you’ve recently had a heart attack, it’s particularly important to get appropriate guidance to the type and intensity of exercise you do.

Add reishi to your routine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the heart organ is considered “king”—the most important organ in the body. Because heart disease is still one of the leading causes of death, with a life taken by heart disease every seven minutes in Canada, it’s clear that we need to take care of this king.

There are a few ways that Japanese red reishi can contribute to better heart health. First of all, reishi is an adaptogenic, meaning it can help the body adapt to stressors. In TCM, though this herb has many functions, ling zhi (reishi) is categorized as an herb to calm the mind. By helping to manage stress and support the body’s ability to adapt to changes in external and internal environment, reishi can support bringing the body back to homeostatic balance.

Reishi mushrooms also contain a number of beneficial compounds that are continually being researched. Its sterols and triterpenes (two groupings of its compounds) may have blood pressure-lowering effects. A small study also showed that it can increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind) in those with borderline high cholesterol (the bad kind).

Further studies are being evaluated, as some animal studies have shown reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) to have cardioprotective effects by reducing the expression of genes associated with heart failure and by protecting mitochondria (the power organelles of your cells—how you get energy to do anything) of damaged heart cells.

If you’re taking medication, it’s important to discuss the addition of supplements with your health care providers, and while supplements cannot and should not replace basic healthy living, red reishi has a long history of use for improved wellness, including supporting healthy hearts.

5 Top Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

There’s no question that the health of your heart is key to your good health. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) calls the heart the “king” organ. When the “king” is not well, the body is weakened. So it’s no surprise that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

February is Heart and Stroke Awareness month, bringing with it a heart health wake-up call to millions of Canadians. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or you are overweight, drink excessively, or smoke, this is the perfect time of year to evaluate your cardiovascular health. A heart-healthy lifestyle will keep your heart and blood vessels in shape, and lower the risk of a heart attack and stroke. For you and the ones you care about, here are some helpful tips to keep your heart healthy and strong.

1. Eat a Nutritious Diet

One of the best ways to prevent heart disease is eating a nutritious diet. Try eating more fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins, and limit your intake of foods that are high in salt, sugar, and artificial ingredients. Creating healthy eating habits will not only help decrease your risk of a heart attack, but also set a positive example for your entire family.

2. Get Active

Getting—and staying—active is vital when it comes to keeping your heart healthy. Making an effort to move everyday will have a positive impact on your heart and blood vessels, as well as prevent many health problems. Plus, it’s great for boosting your mood and relieving stress. Doing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week will help regulate your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, percentage body fat, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

3. Quit Smoking

Do you know that quitting smoking isn’t just good for your lungs? It can also significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Saying goodbye to bad habits like smoking is not easy, but it is a must if you want to avoid an elevated risk of heart attack, stroke, and a host of other serious health problems. Quitting smoking can be hard. But remember, you don’t have to go it alone. With some help and support from family, friends, or your health-care provider, you can kick that nasty habit for good.

4. Take Time to Relax

For optimal heart heath, it is vital for to take time to relax. When you allow stress or anxiety to affect you, your adrenaline levels amp up, potentially overloading your heart. Set aside time every day—even just ten minutes, to start—to practice some de-stressing techniques. Activities like yoga, meditation, or simply sitting quietly and reading a good book will help you cope with stress and maintain a healthy heart.

5. The King of Herbs for the King Organ System

Japanese red reishi is known as the “king of herbs” by many practitioners of Chinese medicine. Part of the reason for that is its wide range of medicinal effects. It has been used for centuries as an effective adaptogen, immune modulator, and a general tonic.

There are a couple of fun hints that red reishi is also good for the heart. The first is its appearance. Look at the reishi mushroom from above and you’ll see that it is shaped and coloured similar to a heart. Another is its nickname of “king of herbs,” supporting the “king” organ, the heart.

Red reishi has been shown to increase blood circulation and improve the flow of blood to the heart. The many biological compounds in reishi mushrooms may also lower blood pressure (a traditional use of the mushroom) and reduce cholesterol.

When it comes to your health, taking good care of your heart is key to any wellness plan.