Self-Care Guide: Heart Health
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Seven Common Sense Ayurvedic Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy
The statistics are frightening:
- Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.
- Every 20 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.
- One in four Americans has some form of heart disease.
- Every 34 seconds someone in the United States dies of heart disease.
- Heart disease takes more lives than the next seven leading causes of death combined.
Yet, both modern medicine and ayurveda concur that there are things you can do every day to keep your heart healthy. Here we offer some suggestions to get you started. Pick one or two and start with those if you like, then add a couple more every few weeks until you are naturally living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Bonus: Not just your heart, but your entire physiology will thank you.
Soothe away stress
According to ayurveda, a holistic approach to heart health requires you to nourish the emotional heart as well as the physical heart. The heart is not just a pump — it's the fountainhead of all emotions, whether it's joy and exhilaration or sadness and frustration. Mental and emotional stress can disrupt the emotional heart. Practicing the Transcendental Meditation® technique twice daily has been shown in research studies to help in lowering blood pressure, reversing arterial blockage and enhancing resistance to all types of stress. Maharishi Ayurveda herbal supplements Worry Free and Blissful Joy nourish the mind and emotions and contain herbs like Ashwagandha and Arjuna, renowned for their positive influence on the mind and emotional heart.
Cultivate the positive
While warding off excess stress is essential to prevent the emotional heart from wasting away, actively seeking mental and emotional well-being can help the emotional heart flourish. Ayurveda talks about ojas, the substance that maintains life. The finest by-product of digestion and the master coordinator of all activities of mind and body, ojas leads to bliss, contentment, vitality and longevity. Inner strength and poise and the cultivation of positive attitudes and emotions increase ojas. Spend time every day on those activities that give you this contentment and happiness. Listen to soothing or uplifting music, enjoy serene natural beauty, practice uplifting aromatherapy and sip relaxing herbal teas. Maintain a positive attitude and walk away from situations that distress or anger you.
Arguably the most critical step you can take towards heart health is to eat a heart-friendly diet. For a society used to fast food and eating on-the-go, this is also arguably the most difficult step to take and maintain. But there are small things you can do to make your diet more heart-healthy — eat more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables; start your day with stewed apples or pears; include soaked blanched almonds in your diet; dress your veggies with fresh lime juice; and eat heart-friendly spices such as fresh-ground black pepper and the antioxidant power-spice turmeric. Choose fresh foods over processed foods or leftovers; light foods over rich, deep-fried ones; and warm, cooked foods over cold, heavy foods. A balanced antioxidant rasayana such as Amrit from Maharishi Ayurveda is excellent nutritional support, and published research confirms that Amrit helps reduce LDL cholesterol, which has been implicated in plaque build-up.
How you eat is as important for heart health (and overall health) as what you eat. Eat moderately — the ideal ayurvedic "portion" is what fits in your two cupped palms. Don't skip meals, because eating three meals at regular times each day "trains" your digestion to anticipate and digest your food. Stimulate a sluggish digestion with ginger, salt and lime — ginger preserve is convenient and tastes delicious. Have lassi, made by blending one part fresh yogurt with three parts cool water, with lunch. Spike it with roasted ground cumin and fresh cilantro for flavor. Don't tax your digestion by eating late at night or eating a heavy meal at dinner.
Cleanse ama from the physiology
Arterial plaque is ama — toxic matter that builds up in your blood vessels because your physiology cannot get rid of it efficiently. Ayurveda recommends a program of internal cleansing with every change of season to help your body flush out ama. The Elim-Tox or Elim-Tox-O herbal supplements are formulated to cleanse the fat tissue (meda) of ama. Other things you can do to clear out ama — drink lots of warm water through the day; go to bed by 10:00 p.m. to help the body cleanse itself during the natural purification time; eat a lighter diet high in fiber and antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Avoid drugs, alcohol and smoking.
Exercise moderately and regularly
You don't have to do a strenuous workout five times a week. The key is regularity. If you follow the ayurvedic principle of balaardh — exercising to half your capacity — you can exercise every single day without straining your muscles. Walking is excellent exercise for everyone and excellent therapy as well. The early morning is ideal for taking a 30-minute walk. It will not only help your heart; it will prepare you for the day by charging up your circulation and your metabolism.
Get your zzzs
Research studies have linked sleep deprivation to blood pressure problems, depression and other factors that increase the risk of heart disease. Ayurveda considers sleep just as important as diet in maintaining health. Practice good bedtime habits — favor restful, calming activities as bedtime draws near to help disconnect the mind from the senses. Keep your bedroom clear of distractions — television, computers, other work-related material. Maintain a temperature that’s comfortable. Stay away from stimulants in the evening. Go to bed by 10:00 p.m. — early to bed and early to rise still work to keep you healthy and energetic through the day.
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The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.