5 Self-Care Steps to Promote Heart Health
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I am now over two years past my heart transplant. In these past few years, I have learned many things about life post my transplant. In addition to the benefits of a low sodium diet, there is one proactive thing that you can do to pay attention to and promote heart health; practice self-care.
In addition to being a heart transplant survivor, I am a busy husband, father, and business owner. When I first received my transplant, my goal was to heal and strengthen my body to be able to resume the majority of my daily activities.
If your heart has been weakened for a while, there is some collateral damage to other systems in your body. There are also some ongoing challenges to your body based upon the many drugs and medications that I take to protect my heart and suppress my immune system. That taxes my body and can deplete vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Self-Care can help to counter that.
For a heart patient, focus is often narrowly driven on the heart. Self-Care helps to broaden that focus to the whole person. Self-Care is not a new concept of thinking, it has been around for ages. Sometimes the most simple concepts seem to slip past us unnoticed. We just need to take the time to reacquaint ourselves with the practice. Self-Care is all about simple steps and choices you can take daily to put some of the care focus on you. Benefits of self-care help with stress levels. Stress levels, when reduced can greatly benefit heart health. Here are 5 self-care steps to promote heart health:
5 Self-Care Steps to Promote Heart Health
1) Take your Vitamins
As I stated above, many of the medications I take as a heart transplant survivor deplete my body of other key vitamins and nutrients. As a daily regimen, I take Calcium, Potassium, a Multi-Vitamin, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and CoQ10. All of these are over the counter vitamins and supplements, that I can pick up anywhere locally, even at WalMart. MAKE SURE YOU CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTORS PRIOR TO STARTING ANY VITAMIN OR SUPPLEMENT! You want to make sure they won’t have negative interactions to any of the medications you take for your transplant.
CoQ10 is a dietary supplement that is an antioxidant, and an enzyme that aids in better digestion of food for optimized use in body processes. The CoQ10 I take is Qunol Ultra CoQ10. Qunol Ultra CoQ10 has 3 times better absorption than regular* CoQ1 (*Regular CoQ10 refers to unsolubilized Ubiquinone in oil suspensions in softgels and/or powder filled capsules/tablets). It is 100% water and fat soluble. Finally, it is the #1 Cardiologist Recommended form** of CoQ1 ( **Form refers to Water and Fat soluble CoQ10. Source: AlphaImpactRx ProVoice Survey 2016). For more info, you can check out their Facebook Page.
2) Catch Up On Your Sleep
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 1 in 3 Americans gets enough sleep per night. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress. None of those are beneficial to heart health. Typical challenges, such as; no regular times to go to bed any more, heavy use of digital screens prior to bedtime, and non-typical work hour all contribute to the lack of sleep.
Making lifestyle and habit changes can greatly help to get back into normal sleep rhythms. Stop using devices or watching screens at least 60 minutes prior to attempting sleep. Try to set a regular wake up time each day. Review work items at least 2 hours prior to attempting sleep to allow for them to be dealt with and not to stick in your mind.
3) Move Your Body
Being stationary for too long has negative effects. It is a leading factor in obesity, it can cause blood clots and other blood flow issues, and reduces the optimum blood flow to your brain and major organs. Even simple movement is beneficial. A Physical Therapist once told me, “No matter how slow you are walking, you are lapping everyone on the couch.” This is again one of these moments where I must warn you to CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTORS BEFORE STARTING ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM. Since my heart transplant, I love walking and swimming and try to get in as much as possible whenever I can.
4) Hydrate for Heart Health
Hydration and drinking water is extremely important for heart health. When I had my Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), I was under Doctor’s orders to take in 2 liters of water per day. Even post transplant I am on the same instructions. Of course you need to follow your doctor’s orders. The benefits of hydration are far too many to get into here, which is why I wrote an entire post about it here. Dehydration will impact your circulation, and so much more. Coffee, Energy Drinks, Caffeinated Sodas, Teas, and Alcoholic Beverages all are drinks that dehydrate you instead of rehydrate you. Those drinks should be controlled to a minimum amount daily.
5) Eat Better
If you found this blog, I hope you are on a path to eating better to protect your heart. So many things and the course of life each day make it a challenge to eat period, much less eating healthy. One rule to self-care I put into practice is to start with a healthier breakfast. Not only do I have recipes for my low sodium zucchini frittata and Shakshuka, but I am giving you a recipe for one of my favorite smoothies here today, my Low Sodium Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie.
A protein packed way to start your day
- 1 Banana - peeled
- 1 cup Ice Cubes
- 1/2 cup Skim Milk or Half & Half
- 1/4 cup Low Sodium Greek Yogurt
- 1 TBSP Low Sodium Peanut Butter like Jif Naturals
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
In a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth, and serve immediately.