Let's talk about the heart for a minute. Not just "the" heart, my heart. Occasionally, I get something called arrhythmia, which in simple terms, is an irregular heart beat. I certainly have some of the risk factors, high blood pressure in one, albeit controlled; diabetes, hyperthyroidism and stress being others. Also, things I manage. Now, couple these things with the fact that I naturally have some extra heart beats and you have a recipe for arrhythmia.
There are other things that can lead to arrhythmia as well. Arrhythmia can be a sign of a heart attack that's occurring right now. It could be caused by scarring of heart tissue from a prior heart attack or due to changes to your heart's structure, such as from cardiomyopathy or blocked arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease). Smoking, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, drug abuse,some medications, dietary supplements and herbal treatments can be the culprit. Even electrical shock and air pollution play a role.
Millions of people walk around with arrhythmia every day. What I have always been told to watch for in these situations is not so much the irregularity of my rate, but the speed. The average resting heart rate is around 72 BPM. Having an arrhythmia with an average rate is not all that dangerous. But, the real risk comes about with an elevated heart rate. At 72, or thereabout, BPM, you heart can do its job. Blood flows in, blood flows out. Cool. But when you start to get an elevated number of beats, the heart cannot pump the blood out as fast as it is taking it in. Sitting blood is a recipe for clots. Wave your finger at it and say "clot bad!"
On Sunday morning I woke up, or was woken up, by an arrhythmia. MY BPM was good, 70's and low 80's. The first thing I did? Panic. The second thing I did was pretty western. I took an extra metoprolol, which is used to slow the heart rate or keep it slow, and then took half a klonopin to deal with the anxiety; which clearly, would do my heart rate no good at all.
Then, I went a bit more crunchy, herbal and holistic. I am a firm believer that both east and west have their advantages and I like to benefit from both. WebMD, with the help of nutrition experts from The Cleveland Clinic and the American Dietetic Association, put together a list of the "best of the best" heart-healthy foods. So, I did a little shopping and made some healthy meals and mixes. Some might say that it does no good to hold the railing if you have already fallen down the stairs. I say, maybe I need to hold the rail to help me get back on my feet.
The foods listed here are all top-performers in protecting your heart and blood vessels. And I went shopping.
Has Omega-3 fatty acids, which the say is good for heart health.
- Flaxseed (ground)
Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens. I add it to my granola.
Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber. I add the nuts (below) to my oatmeal.
- Black or Kidney Beans
B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber. Awesome with the brown rice (listed below).
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.
- Red wine
Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids). They say a glass of red wine could improve "good" HDL cholesterol. I opted out on this one since I took my western meds.
Omega-3 fatty acids; folate; niacin.
Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium. I do love tofu, but you should research it. It is said that it is not good for thyroid function and not the best for men. Moderation please
- Brown rice
B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber.
- Soy milk
Isoflavones (a flavonoid); B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens. Soy milk can be heart healthy, but again, look it up, it has its drawbacks.
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber.
Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber.
Baby carrots are sweet for lunch. Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.
Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.
Pick spinach (not lettuce) for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches.
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber.
Chop fresh broccoli into store-bought soup. For a veggie dip, try hummus (chickpeas).
- Sweet potato
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber.
- Red bell peppers
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.
Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
- Acorn squash
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber. I thank Whole Foods for their baked curry acorn squash.
Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.
- Dark chocolate
Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids). They say a truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content. Chocolate is still high in sugar and has caffeine, so watch your intake.
Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids). Decaf.
Also, Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure. Fiber-rich foods help lower cholesterol levels.
And for stress? I am glad you asked. Lot's of scheduled diaphragmatic breathing and my music of choice? Elias Prayer Cycle.
Again, I am not a doctor. These are my own personal opinions, ideas and processes from my own research, trial and error. Take 'em, leave 'em, either way, consult a medical professional as needed.