The statistics are frightening:
- Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.
- Every 20 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.
- One in four Americans has some form of heart disease.
- Every 34 seconds someone in the United States dies of heart disease.
- Heart disease takes more lives than the next seven leading causes of death combined.
Yet, both modern medicine and Ayurveda concur that there are things you can do every day to keep your heart healthy. Here we offer some suggestions to get you started. Pick one or two and start with those if you like, then add a couple more every few weeks until you are naturally living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Bonus: not just your heart, but your entire physiology will thank you.
Soothe Away Stress
According to Ayurveda, a holistic approach to heart health requires you to nourish the emotional heart as well as the physical heart. The heart is not just a pump — it's the fountainhead of all emotions, whether it's joy and exhilaration or sadness and frustration. Mental and emotional stress can disrupt the emotional heart. Practicing the Transcendental Meditation® technique twice daily has been shown in research studies to help in lowering blood pressure, reversing arterial blockage, and enhancing resistance to all types of stress.
Maharishi Ayurveda herbal supplements Worry Free and Blissful Joy nourish the mind and emotions and contain herbs like Ashwagandha and Arjuna, renowned for their positive influence on the mind and emotional heart.
Cultivate the positive
While warding off excess stress is essential to prevent the emotional heart from wasting away, actively seeking mental and emotional well-being can help the emotional heart flourish. Ayurveda talks about ojas, the substance that maintains life.
The finest by-product of digestion and the master coordinator of all activities of mind and body, ojas leads to bliss, contentment, vitality, and longevity. Inner strength and poise and the cultivation of positive attitudes and emotions increase ojas. Spend time every day on those activities that give you this contentment and happiness. Listen to soothing or uplifting music, enjoy serene natural beauty, practice uplifting aromatherapy, and sip relaxing herbal teas. Maintain a positive attitude and walk away from situations that distress or anger you.
Arguably the most critical step you can take towards heart health is to eat a heart-friendly diet. For a society used to fast food and eating on-the-go, this is also arguably the most difficult step to take and maintain. But there are small things you can do to make your diet more heart-healthy. Eat more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables; start your day with stewed apples or pears; include soaked blanched almonds in your diet; dress your veggies with fresh lime juice; and eat heart-friendly spices such as fresh-ground black pepper and the antioxidant power-spice turmeric.
Choose fresh foods over processed foods or leftovers; light foods over rich, deep-fried ones; and warm, cooked foods over cold, heavy foods. A balanced antioxidant Rasayana such as Amrit from Maharishi Ayurveda is excellent nutritional support.
How you eat is as important for heart health (and overall health) as what you eat. Eat moderately — the ideal ayurvedic "portion" is what fits in your two cupped palms. Don't skip meals, because eating three meals at regular times each day "trains" your digestion to anticipate and digest your food.
Stimulate sluggish digestion with ginger, salt, and lime. Have lassi, made by blending one part fresh yogurt with three parts cool water, with lunch. Spike it with roasted ground cumin and fresh cilantro for flavor. Don't tax your digestion by eating late at night or eating a heavy meal at dinner.
Cleanse ama from the physiology
Arterial plaque is ama — toxic matter that builds up in your blood vessels because your physiology cannot get rid of it efficiently. Ayurveda recommends a program of internal cleansing with every change of season to help your body flush out ama.
The Elim-Tox or Elim-Tox-O herbal supplements are formulated to cleanse the fat tissue (medha) of ama. Other things you can do to clear out ama: drink lots of warm water through the day; go to bed by 10 p.m. to help the body cleanse itself during the natural purification time; eat a lighter diet high in fiber and antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts; and avoid drugs, alcohol, and smoking.
Exercise Moderately and Regularly
You don't have to do a strenuous workout five times a week. The key is regularity. If you follow the ayurvedic principle of balaardh — exercising to half your capacity — you can exercise every single day without straining your muscles. Walking is an excellent exercise for everyone and excellent therapy as well. The early morning is ideal for taking a 30-minute walk. It will not only help your heart; it will prepare you for the day by charging up your circulation and your metabolism.
Get your Zzzs
Research studies have linked sleep deprivation to blood pressure problems, depression, and other factors that increase the risk of heart disease. Ayurveda considers sleep just as important as diet in maintaining health. Practice good bedtime habits — favor restful, calming activities as bedtime draws near to help disconnect the mind from the senses. Keep your bedroom clear of distractions — television, computers, other work-related material. Maintain a temperature that's comfortable. Wear comfortable, organic cotton pajamas. Stay away from stimulants in the evening. Go to bed by 10 p.m. — early to bed and early to rise still work to keep you healthy and energetic through the day.
Balance Ayurvedic Factors
From the ayurvedic perspective, the heart is the seat of prana (life energy), which is maintained by a delicate balance of agni (the solar energy element) and soma (the lunar energy element). Excess mental and emotional stress wastes away soma in the heart. The heart, as we said earlier, is also the seat of ojas, the substance within us that maintains life and promotes bliss and longevity. To protect and nourish the physical heart and the emotional heart, it is essential to promote both soma and ojas. Heart health is governed also by three sub-doshas: Sadhaka Pitta (emotional balance), Avalambaka Kapha (stability and strength), and Vyana Vata (blood flow and beat), which, though present everywhere in the body, has its seat in the heart.
Cardio Support nutritional supplement from Maharishi Ayurveda is formulated to balance all these ayurvedic factors. The combination of Corallium rubrum (Coral), Indian Tinospora, and Sacred Lotus promotes soma. Shilajit (Mineral pitch), Zinc, Mica, and Licorice promote ojas. Arjuna, Cabbage Rose, Licorice, Mica, Indian Tinospora, and Corallium rubrum (Coral) pacify Sadhaka Pitta. Avalambaka Kapha is supported by Shilajit (Mineral pitch), Guggul, Zinc, Ostrea edulis (Oyster), Turbinella rapa (Conch), Cypraea moneta (Cowrie), and Hemidesmus indicus. Vyana Vata is balanced by Guggul, Boerhavia, Mica, and Licorice. In particular, there are two-star health herbs in this formulation — Arjuna, renowned in Ayurveda for its ability to pacify Sadhaka Pitta and to nourish both the physical and the emotional heart; and Guggul, which has been shown in research to help lower cholesterol.
More Ayurvedic Tips for Heart Health
Dial-in Your Dinacharya
In the age of iPhones and social media, it’s easy to lose touch with your circadian rhythms or internal clock. Following a healthy dinacharya (daily routine) helps you realign your mind and body with nature’s rhythms. Get back to the Ayurvedic basics, including waking up early, preferably with the sunrise; scraping your tongue; doing self-massage with warm oil; eating your largest meal of the day during Pitta time (between 12 noon and 1 p.m. is ideal—there’s a reason you’re ravenous at noon!); making time for exercise and downtime each day, and hitting the hay by 10 p.m. Here’s a helpful, more elaborate post on dinacharya.
Listen to Your Heart (Really)
The experiences you have throughout the day affect your brain chemistry, which in turn affects your heart, writes Dr. Lonsdorf: “Psychoneuroimmunology research has shown that positive, uplifting thoughts and feelings can be good for your cardiovascular system by reducing cortisol, the stress hormone, thus lowering blood pressure, and increasing serotonin, the ‘well-being’ brain chemical. On the other hand, ‘heart-hurtful’ conversations can raise cortisol and trigger the fight-or-flight response,” which can negatively affect heart health. Any day is bound to contain both positive and negative experiences, but it’s good to address anything that’s causing chronic stress—whether a relationship, an unfulfilling career, lingering debt, unresolved conflicts, setting boundaries, saying “yes” when you mean “no,” and so on.
Warm Up Your Diet
Eating heavy, cold, and extremely oily foods in excess and performing excessive mental work can impact the vessels that nourish the heart, according to the Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text. Modern research affirms that deep-fried foods like French fries are hard on your heart. To nourish that hard-working organ, try to favor warm, cooked, lightly spiced foods like hearty stews with veggies and legumes instead of cold foods like salads, or dry, greasy foods like potato chips. Choose heart-healthy fats like olive oil rather than going fat-free. Help your digestion do its job by simply pausing to eat—rather than forking mouthfuls in over a computer while you work. Our Garlic and Cardio Support supplements also help you maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure (already within a normal range) while supporting circulatory health.
Address Sadhaka Agni
You’ve heard of agni, your digestive fire, but did you know you have an agni that “digests” emotions? It’s called Sadhaka Agni, and it’s associated with Sadhaka Pitta, the sub dosha of Pitta that governs the heart and emotions. Just as people with strong digestive agni metabolize meals quickly, people with high Sadhaka Agni process emotional events quickly. If your Sadhaka Agni is low, you might have a hard time moving beyond emotional upsets. The solution? Restoring balance through your dinacharya and Ayurvedic diet. For an added boost, consider traditional Ayurvedic formulas like Stress Free Emotions, which offers natural resistance to emotional stress and fatigue, and also promotes emotional balance and positive feelings. Organic Ashwagandha is another excellent heart tonic; it helps to reduce stress hormones, boosts immunity, and promotes good sleep. It’s also important to do things that uplift you—whether that’s practicing yoga, helping a friend, or meditating. Studies show Transcendental Meditation®, for instance, helps dissolve stresses and promotes emotional wellbeing.
Our Cardio Support herbal supplement also nourishes both the physical heart and the emotional heart. It’s a good choice for anyone interested in long-term cardiovascular health and for those going through emotional times.
Get Enough Sleep—and Exercise
A 2017 Harvard study found that those with irregular or insufficient sleep have increased rates of cardiovascular issues. Good sleep is one of the pillars of Ayurveda, as it’s the time when your body repairs and heals, and your mind and emotions regain balance. New research shows that your brain actually repairs and restructures itself during sleep. If you have a hard time falling asleep, you can soothe a Vata imbalance by drinking Slumber Time Tea, massaging Youthful Skin Massage Oil onto your hands and feet, and/or taking Blissful Sleep or Worry Free tablets an hour before bed. If you fall asleep fine and wake up in the wee hours, quell that Pitta by taking Deep Rest or Stress Free Emotions tablets at night. If you sleep long and well, but wake up feeling lethargic, start your day with Organic Stimulating Kapha Tea. (Read more in-depth dosha-specific sleep recommendations here.) Getting enough exercise during the day lowers cholesterol and blood pressure elevates your mood and helps with sleep, which further helps with the heart.
In the span of your lifetime, your heart will beat about 2.5 billion times and steer you through waves of love, loss, change, and everything in between. Tending to this superhero organ matters, both emotionally and physically. Fortunately, with a few diet and lifestyle changes here and there, you can go a long way toward safeguarding your heart.
Sometimes the most nurturing thing you can do for your heart is simply to pause, take a deep breath, and listen to its quiet, steady guidance.
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