You probably don’t think about your heart all that often, but you should – it’s truly amazing. It’s thought to beat 100,000 times a day, steadily pumping blood to every organ in your body.
Every beat matters, and the secret to a long and healthy life starts with your heart. We all know the basics, such as stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol. But, there are some other ways to help improve your heart health.
Move your body
Raising your heart rate for just 30 minutes a day, three times a week has the potential to change your life. Exercise is such an easy, fun and enjoyable way to reduce your risk of heart disease. It also has the added benefit of helping to control your weight, reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol and improve your mental health. Before you know it, you’ll be looking and feeling great.
Top tip: Everyday activities count – choose the stairs instead of the lift, walk to the local shops instead of using your car, or do some gentle stretches while you watch the TV.
Eat the good stuff
Don’t worry – you don’t have to overhaul your entire diet in a day. Eating healthily can be as simple as adding in an extra portion of fruit or veg each day, which adds fibre to your diet. Once you’re eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, start switching simple carbohydrates like white rice and white bread, for complex carbohydrates like brown bread and wild rice. Then, for every healthy food you’re adding, try cutting down on something like sugar, sugary snacks and processed foods.
Top tip: Think of the rainbow when choosing fruit and veg – bold, vibrant colours are indicators of high nutritional value.
Make relaxation part of your daily routine
In today’s society, living stressful lives can seem like something we just have to accept. But, stress can be really harmful to heart health, so dealing with it is essential. Building in time to relax and unwind every day can help. ‘Me time’ can be as simple and making time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life instead of working through your endless to-do list. Practicing mindfulness is another great way to actively work at releasing stress from your life.
Top Tip: Let your worries melt away with a luxurious bath. Light a candle, dim the lights and sink into a moment of pure calm – just for you.
Embrace Essential Oils
Aromatherapy uses essential oils derived from plants to promote physical and psychological wellbeing and harmony. All essential oils have a therapeutic benefit and can easily be incorporated into everyday life. Essential oils that can help with stress and anxiety, and therefore impact on heart health, include Roman chamomile, Lavender, Clary Sage, Neroli and Ylang Ylang, all of which work to calm the nervous system. Massage is a fantastic way to stimulate your circulation, so choosing an aromatherapy massage using invigorating oils such as black pepper, ginger and rosemary will have added benefit.
Top Tip: Use a few drops of your chosen essential oil in a diffuser to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy in your home or office. Roman chamomile, lavender and rose absolute makes a heavenly smelling, calming blend, which is great for stress relieving. Blend 2 drops roman chamomile, 4 drops lavender and 4 drops of rose in 20ml of a base oil (I like almond oil) and massage into the skin for an evening massage before bed. Alternatively, add one drop of each essential oil to a diffuser to create a relaxing environment before bedtime.
Discover Herbs to keep your heart happy
Using herbs can be a gentle and effective method of maintaining good heart health throughout a lifetime. There are a wide range of herbs, tinctures and herbal supplements that can help to strengthen and condition, including, Lemon Balm, Motherwort, Hawthorn, Ginkgo and Lime Flowers. These herbs are particularly beneficial as they help to reduce anxiety and tension.
Top Tip: Herbs can be easily incorporated into your daily life; just add to smoothies, use in cooking, create syrups to add to your morning porridge, or simply enjoy a relaxing herbal infusion.
Never underestimate the importance of sleep
Sleep is key to maintaining good health and wellbeing. There really is nothing like it to restore our mind, body and soul. Ideally, you should be aiming for around 8 hours a night. If that sounds impossible, a nighttime routine could help. Start by keeping your bedroom cool, as hot nights rarely equal deep, restorative sleep. Light and noise are also disruptive, so you may find it helpful to use a sleep mask and earplugs. When you slip into bed try meditating for a few minutes, focusing on taking slow, deep breaths from your stomach. Picture letting go of the day’s stresses and strains with every out breath. As you drift off, imagine every muscle in your body becoming heavy and sinking into your mattress.
Top Tip: staying well hydrated throughout the day, and cutting the amount of alcohol you drink can help you have a more restful night.
Cautions: If you have a heart condition, or are worried about your heart health, please consult an experienced practitioner. Herbs should not be taken during pregnancy or if you are on any medication without the advice of a qualified practitioner.
Fran Johnson, Cosmetic Scientist and Aromatherapist
A passionate Cosmetic Scientist and Aromatherapist, Fran is the Natural Health Development Manager at Neal’s Yard Remedies. Her particular interests lie in working with essential oils, creating natural fragrances, with a therapeutic benefit and enjoying the challenge and limitations that using only essential oils can bring. Fran has written and teaches on a number of courses at Neal’s Yard Remedies, combining her love of formulating and aromatherapy and is the co-author of two books, the Beauty Book and Essential Oils. Her hobbies include gardening and scuba diving.