A few years ago, I was standing in line at the grocery store. It was a cold winter day, and I suddenly felt ill and faint. It was the strangest, most uncomfortable feeling I’d ever had. As a result, I felt hot and woozy, and was also having pain in my left arm. My stomach was nauseous. Because of all these symptoms combined, I thought I was about to pass out, so I reached to hold onto the edge of the end counter. A few registers over, two employees made eye contact with me. Both are friends of mine — one, an older woman, the other, a young college student.
They asked if I was okay, but I was barely able to shake my head, no. Just as my knees were giving out, a manager and the two ladies rushed to me and slid a chair underneath me, just in time. The younger woman tried to give me a drink from a water bottle, but my hands were shaking so badly, the water was splashing out. She helped me take a sip. What happened next is what has made me conscious of heart health.
The younger woman knew that one of my sons lived very near to the grocery store and asked if she would like me to call him. I nodded, yes. He was there in less than three minutes and carried me out to my vehicle but could tell something was really wrong. My son decided to call an ambulance, which is how I wound up in the hospital, having an EKG. Thankfully, the test did not show signs of a heart attack; however, it did show that I was suffering intermittent bradycardia events. An average person’s heart at rest beats approximately 72 to 100 beats per minute. My heart rate was dropping to 45 -50 for no apparent reason. This is why I had symptoms similar to a heart attack.
Marathon runners and other long-distance athletes typically have slower heart rates. I do run occasionally, but I am neither one of those things. The episode, which was likely stress-induced, ultimately resolved itself, and I was released. It scared me enough that I have been more deliberate about heart health ever since. I’ve learned about foods (and drinks) that keep a heart functioning in a healthy manner. I’m happy to say that I love ALL of these items and regularly incorporate them into my diet now. (Actually, I already ate a lot of this stuff before the bradycardia episode but am much more diligent about it now.)
Heart health improves if you eat nuts
If you or someone in your household has a nut allergy, this option will obviously not work for you. However, for those with no allergy issues, there are three types of nuts that are especially good for your heart health: almonds, cashews and walnuts. Eating a handful of any of these nuts on a regular basis is like giving your heart a dose of superpower. They are rich in antioxidants (cancer-fighting agents), omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein and fat. (There’s bad fat and good fat. Nuts have good fat.) Eating nuts helps raise your good cholesterol (HDL) but lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL). Of the three nuts listed here, walnuts are the Top Dog of the group. They even have a cancer-fighting substance that you typically get when you eat strawberries or pomegranates (two more foods that improve heart health).
Leafy greens will keep your heart healthy
It gives me great pleasure to know that I can grow foods in my garden that improve heart health. Two staple items that I grow every year now are kale and spinach. There’s so much you can do with these two foods from a culinary standpoint. You can eat them raw or can add them to cooked recipes. You can make smoothies with them, too! There’s basically no such thing as eating too many leafy greens, especially kale and spinach. Kale has the most vitamins K and C out of the two, while spinach contains more fiber, protein and vitamin A.
Together, they’re an unstoppable power duo for keeping your heart in excellent working order! A while back, I shared a post on healthy snack ideas. Check it out, here, if you want to learn how to make kale chips — oh, so yummy!
I’m about to make the chocolate lovers very happy about heart health
Let’s get straight to it: Dark chocolate is REALLY good for heart health! This yummy treat is loaded with antioxidants and can also help lower blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure level definitely helps improve heart health. Remember when I said that there’s no such thing as eating too many leafy greens? Yeah, well, there IS such a thing as eating too much chocolate; therefore, use moderation! Researchers say that incorporating a moderate amount of dark chocolate into your diet can reduce your risk of heart disease. In the mood for a snack? Place some berries, dark chocolate and almonds in a bowl and ENJOY! Most doctors recommend choosing dark chocolate that is 70% or more cocoa. What’s the right amount of chocolate to eat per serving? A couple squares at a time, once in a day, is all you need.
Additional foods that are good for your heart
The good news is that there are many foods that can help improve heart health, most of which are especially delicious and pleasurable to eat. Okay, if you’re not a fruit and veggie lover, then you might disagree. But — how many times have you taken medicine that tastes awful because a doctor said it would help you? If you’ve never developed a palate for fruits and vegetables, just EAT THEM, ANYWAY because it’s worth it! To help you get started, here’s a handy list of heart-healthy foods and drinks. (If you like, you can save this post and refer back to it when you go to the grocery store!) :
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Salmon (wild caught)
- Red apples
- Olive oil
- Coffee (Yes! It is good for you!)
- Red wine
- Hot red peppers
- Coconut oil
- Chic peas
- Red apples
Do some research, and you’ll find even more options for heart-healthy foods! It’s easy to make a salad with kale, spinach, a few berries, walnuts, avocado, tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil. You can add a little apple cider vinegar (with the mother culture in it) as well because ACV is good for your heart health, too! All in one bowl, you’ll have a powerful, healthy meal that tastes great, too! Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in the United States, closely followed by cancer. It pays to adjust your eating and drinking habits to include the foods and drinks we’ve talked about in this post because it can help you prevent both of these potentially fatal conditions!