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Fit for Life

Fit for life - the heart of things

Keeping yourself fit for everyday life can affect the way you look and feel, and of course, how long you live, so I want to get to the heart of things. Looking after your heart and the cardiovascular system that supports it is essential for anyone who wants to live a long and healthy life. Taking regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, reducing stress and taking heart-boosting supplements will make a significant impact on your overall health and well-being.

Your cardiovascular system works hard to transport food, hormones, metabolic waste, oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from every cell in your body. As well as pumping blood from the heart, the body uses your lymphatic system (a moving fluid), vessels, lymph nodes and organs such as the liver and spleen to remove waste products and supply fresh nutrients vital to each cell.

Cardiovascular conditions such as angina, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke and heart attacks are preventable and treatable by making simple lifestyle changes. Nature has many of the answers we need to ensure our hearts are fighting fit and able to cope with the daily pressures of life.

Your heart is a muscle, and like all muscles, it needs regular exercise to remain strong, fit and healthy. When you look after it properly with aerobic exercise, for example, it will be more efficient at doing its job – moving oxygenated blood around your body, and providing nourishment to your cells and vital organs.

RED ALERT: Heart disease kills one in 3 people in the UK, and risk factors include being male, a family history of a heart disease, smoking, being overweight, stress, poor diet and ageing.

Taking supplements

  • Co-enzyme Q10 – CoQ10 has been shown to strengthen the heart muscle, relieve angina and regulate blood pressure. Stress, ageing and prescribed drugs can deplete stores of CoQ10. Cholesterol lowering drugs such as statins can reduce the levels of CoQ10 in our bodies, making our need greater. Although a supplement can help to restore the lost stores, it can also be found in fish, meat, eggs, spinach, broccoli, peanuts, wheatgerm, and whole grains, and our bodies can make some of the CoQ10 we need from these foods.

  • Policosanol – Lowering our bad cholesterol levels (LDL) is a good way of preventing cardiovascular disease. Statins are often prescribed by Doctors to lower cholesterol, but they come with serious side effects, including increasing your risk of Parkinson’s disease. Policosanol is an all-natural supplement that is new to the market, Recent studies have shown that taking this natural supplement can significantly lower cholesterol levels, as well as acting as a powerful anti-oxidant.

  • Hawthorn – this herb affects all areas of the heart. Clinical trials have shown the safety and effectiveness of hawthorn extract in the recovery from heart attacks as well as early heart failure, angina and high blood pressure. Hawthorn may be taken as an infusion, tincture or capsules, but please check with your Doctor if you are already taking prescribed medication.

ANTIOXIDANTS – all antioxidants have a positive effect on the health of your cardiovascular system and protect it from the effects of ageing. You’ll find these key nutrients in all brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, and anyone over the age of 40 should consider supplementing daily as a preventative measure.

  • Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol) – Pine Bark Extract is a natural blood thinner and can reduce high blood pressure. Dr Watson from the University of Arizona considers it a safe and natural option, especially for those who cannot take aspirin, and adds it may have enormous health benefits for an ageing population.

  • Vitamin E – this vitamin can help to prevent the build-up of bad cholesterol, excessive clotting and damage to the arteries. Research has discovered that the use of vitamin E supplements can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 40%, and cut the risk of heart attacks by up to 75%. Vitamin E can be found in foods such as nuts, seeds, avocado, kale and spinach.

  • Golden Flaxseed oil – This oil is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids which are natural blood thinners and may prevent dangerous blood clots which increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Eating plenty of flaxseeds (add them to muesli, smoothies or baked goods), or using flaxseed oil as a salad dressing is a good way to boost your intake.

CAUTION: if you have high blood pressure, there are some herbs that you should avoid, these include: liquorice, ephedra and Asian Ginseng. Check with your GP before taking them.

Holistic Therapy

Massage with relaxing essentials oils is a good way to reduce the impact of stress on your heart. Try using oils with ylang ylang, roman chamomile, lavender, marjoram, peppermint and rose which have a strengthening effect on the actual muscle of the heart. If you book a massage with Waterlily Therapies, choose the relaxing massage oil which contains lavender and marjoram, as well as balancing geranium.

Reflexology - A three-year study by researchers at the University of Stirling has found that reflexology to the upper half of the left foot (the heart reflex point) had an effect on the hearts of healthy volunteers. The study found that in healthy volunteer’s reflexology massage to the heart reflex point had a small effect on heart function.

Reflexology is also beneficial for hypertension or high blood pressure, which can be a health threat for the heart. Hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, and heart and kidney failure according to the Heart & Stroke Foundation. A reflexologist can concentrate on the circulatory system’s reflexes for a client with high blood pressure by stimulating reflex points such as;

  • Heart Reflex – Connected to the heart organ which pumps the blood throughout the body.

  • Kidney Reflexes – Kidneys filter the blood and are part of the vital organs of the body.

  • Diaphragm and Chest Reflexes – Encourage relaxation to promote deeper breathing.

  • Spinal Reflexes – Promotes communication through the nervous system.

Regular reflexology sessions can be an important part of any heart-healthy plan, keeping your heart fit for life and increasing your overall health and well-being.

‘With a healthy heart … the beat goes on’ – The Fresh Quotes

(With thanks to Susan Curtis – Looking good and feeling younger)

Sharon Cole

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