February brings a lot of attention to the heart. Maybe you’re celebrating with your sweetheart, lending a loving hand to someone in need, or shaping up to protect your own heart.
Aside from Valentine’s Day, February is nationally recognized as Heart Health Month .
That’s important because heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in men and women. One in every four deaths each year is due to heart disease. ( 1) February is a great reminder to give our hearts more love and care.
We can give our hearts more TLC through nutrition and lifestyle changes. As you know, gut health is important to total body wellness, and that includes your heart.
Your gut microbiome helps protect against foreign invaders like unwanted bacteria and fungus. But because of stress, environmental toxins, and poor diet, your gut microbial balance can shift towards an unfortunate abundance of unwanted bugs.
This dysbiosis can contribute to cardiovascular disease (CVD). ( 2) Conversely, CVD risk factors like sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition choices, aging, and obesity can all contribute to a leaky gut due to initial intestinal inflammation.
Once the lining becomes inflamed, certain bacterial metabolites will circulate throughout the body and can increase the development of CVD.
These 5 simple but powerful strategies can help you cultivate and maintain a healthy gut and heart any month of the year.
Step 1: Eat Fiber-Rich Foods At Every Meal
Most American diets are low in fiber. That’s unfortunate because dietary fiber supports gut and heart health. Fiber specifically reduces the risk of CVD by removing risky cholesterol particles from the bloodstream and also regulates insulin levels. ( 3) Your healthy gut bugs also lover fiber.
Some easy ways to easily get more fiber:
– Add 1 cup spinach to a smoothie
– Saute 1 cup swiss chard or other leafy green with eggs
– Enjoy a beautiful salad of mixed greens at lunch with protein
– Try my delicious gut healing soup
– Roast a pan of broccoli and cauliflower as a side dish with dinner
Step 2: Eat More Beets Every Week
Beets and their greens hold incredible health benefits. More specifically, their anti-inflammatory benefits make beets ideal for heart and gut health. Studies show that just drinking beetroot juice can improve blood pressure! (4)
Step 3: Add A Spoonful of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a delicious aromatic spice that can be used in many cuisines that provides quite a heart-healthy punch.
In fact, cinnamon can help to improve blood sugar and insulin levels, along with blood pressure, triglycerides, and even type 2 diabetes. ( 5)
Adding cinnamon to your diet is a great way to eliminate the sugar that can disrupt the normal gut flora and trigger cravings for more sugar.
Some easy ways to get more cinnamon:
– Added to your morning coffee
– Mix into a smoothie
– Mix into your favorite nut butter
– Add to a savory protein dish
Step 4: Enjoy A Handful of Walnuts Daily
Nuts and seeds come packed with good fats, vitamins, and minerals along with high fiber content. Walnuts particularly are very high in omega-3 fats that support heart and gut health.
Incorporate a ¼ cup of raw walnuts daily. You can eat them by the hand or with these ideas:
– In a smoothie
– Chopped on a salad
– Mixed in a trail mix with dark chocolate
– Crushed on
Step 5: Dial Down Stress Every Morning
How often do you feel stressed, in a panic, or anxious throughout your day?
Many Americans live with near-constant worry, burnout, and stress. Your gut and heart take the brunt of these repercussions. In fact, depression and grief can increase inflammation and your risk for heart attack and stroke. ( 6)
Before you start your busy day, try to set aside reflection and self-care time. Some ideas to help manage feelings of anxiety and stress:
– Take a walk as the sun rises.
– Read affirmations
– Spend time in prayer or meditation
– Listen to music
– Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in silence
- Heart Disease Fact Sheet|Data & Statistics|DHDSP|CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm
- Battson ML, Lee DM, Weir TL, Gentile CL. The gut microbiota as a novel regulator of cardiovascular function and disease. J Nutr Biochem. 2018 Jun;56:1-15.
- Erkkilä AT, Lichtenstein AH. Fiber and cardiovascular disease risk: how strong is the evidence? J Cardiovasc Nurs . 2006 Jan-Feb;21(1):3-8.
- Eggebeen, Joel et al. “One Week of Daily Dosing With Beetroot Juice Improves Submaximal Endurance and Blood Pressure in Older Patients With Heart Failure and Preserved Ejection Fraction” JACC. Heart failure vol. 4,6 (2016): 428-37.
- Zare R, Nadjarzadeh A, Zarshenas MM, Shams M, Heydari M. Efficacy of cinnamon in patients with type II diabetes mellitus: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Clin Nutr. 2018 Mar 11. pii: S0261-5614(18)30114-6.
- Rice University. “For the brokenhearted, grief can lead to death.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2018.