The new year has begun, and you know what that means…new year, new you! I am not crazy about resolutions for the new year, but what better time then the present to make small changes in your lifestyle for your cardiovascular health?
Some people are able to completely change their lives, their exercise habits, and their diet at the drop of a hat, in the name of good health. I am not one of those people. I know that it’s tough to make lifestyle changes, especially when we are busy with school, work, sleep, and everything else that life throws at us. We have to remember that even the smallest of changes can amount to a big health benefit!
Blood pressure is one of those things that we all struggle with – it fluctuates all day long due to our stress levels, lack of sleep, our poor eating habits, smoking habits, lack of physical activity and even depends on things we can’t control such as a our age. The majority of people have to take blood pressure medication for these reasons. Did you know that blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer”? This is because uncontrolled high blood pressure can actually lead to serious health issues, such as a heart attack or stroke. Anything that we are able to do that helps to lower our blood pressure is a good thing for our overall health. After doing a little bit of research, I have come up with 4 “no excuses!” ways that every one can lower their blood pressure, the natural way.
Get enough sunlight.
Yes it’s winter, and yes it’s cold. But, this is one of the easiest ways to help to naturally lower your blood pressure. When our bodies receive Vitamin D directly from UV light, our blood vessels expand, which helps to pump more blood throughout our bodies, and in turn, lower our blood pressure. Since this only works with direct sunlight, you will not get this benefit from popping a Vitamin D supplement from the drug store. Research says that sunlight for 20 minutes/day will help to lower blood pressure. Take a walk at lunch time, or spend some time outdoors taking down your holiday decorations.
Spice up your life!
There are many different herbs and spices out there, and they actually don’t just make our food taste better — there are serious health benefits that come with them! Using as little as half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day has shown cardiovascular health benefits. Try it on your oatmeal in the morning or perhaps put a little in your coffee! Another herb to try is basil. Try adding a small bit to your pasta or soup! It doesn’t hurt that basil also has antioxidant properties!
Switch your snacks.
I am a real sugar junkie. And I am also really particular about what I eat. You can see how it would be kind of hard for me to find a healthy, yet satisfying way to snack. A few things that I recommend trying: dark chocolate naturally dilates blood vessels due to flavonoids, tree nuts that are full of heart-healthy fats (cashews, almonds, pistachios), and foods that are high in potassium (bananas and baked potatoes — disclaimer, do not make your baked potato devoid of all health benefits by putting too much salt and butter on it!).
With just 30 minutes of exercise a day, you can help to lower your blood pressure. And by exercise, I mean even a brisk walk will do the trick. Anything that gets your heart pumping could work. Take that brisk walk after dinner, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park a little farther away in the parking lot when you go to the store. The more you are moving around, the better!
The above list really isn’t hard to incorporate into your everyday life, if you just give it a shot! Trust me — if I can do it, so can you. When it comes to your heart, prevention is everything. Don’t let life (or laziness!) get in the way of your health.