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Healthy Heart, Happy Heart

Ah, February, the month of love! This time of year there are hearts everywhere. Expressions of love and devotion, chocolates, and romantic dinners are great, but we tend to overlook our actual heart. You know, the one that keeps us alive...

I have been thinking a lot about my heart this past month. Not surprising, really, considering that just a few weeks ago I had a heart attack. A pretty big one. I'm only 49.

So, what happened? I eat healthy. I live healthy. I do healthy things. How did I end up here?

I started asking questions that I didn't even know I should be asking. The answers I found didn't make me feel any better, but they were answers that I wish I had searched for before I had a heart attack.

In hindsight, I still don't see how I could have done more to prevent it. I knew something wasn't exactly right, but nothing that I was experiencing screamed, "Hey, you're fixin' to have a big ol' heart attack!" Implementing a few simple lifestyle changes could surely wait for a more convenient time, right? I am, after all, only 49.

It didn't occur to me that I was already in the high-risk.

  • I have a family history of heart disease, although it tends to hit the men in my family, not the women.

  • I have a lot of stress in my life.

  • I am overweight.

  • I smoke.

  • I don't exercise on a regular basis.

  • I'm smack dab in the middle of menopause.

  • Coffee was my main beverage choice.

Did you know that early warning signs of a heart attack are most often very different for women than they are for men? The symptoms that women experience are less noticeable, and often there are NO signs. We don't always (or even frequently) experience chest pain or numbness/tingling in the left arm .

Instead, our warning signs often come disguised as indigestion, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, cold sweats...all things that can be attributed to symptoms of things like menopause, a busy lifestyle, ulcers, or simply standing up too fast getting a little light-headed. We write them off as nothing and go about our business. The doctor writes them off as nothing to worry about, too.

Let's be honest. How many of us actually check our blood pressure and cholesterol levels on a regular basis? I didn't. The only reason I knew my blood pressure was high was because my dentist checked it before they did some work on my teeth. From the time I found out my blood pressure was high to the moment I had a heart attack was about 3 months. That's it. Not even enough time to get in to a doctor and form a treatment plan.

Okay, we know I wouldn't have followed a doctor's treatment plan, but still...

I know the medical world says you absolutely have to take some prescriptions. Blood thinners, blood pressure meds, statins, just won't survive without them.

The truth is that you have options. Prescriptions are NOT the only answer to this problem, and I believe they contribute far more to the problem than they do to the solution.

I'm sure that right now you are thinking, "This chick is nuts. Who does she think she is? Does she really think she knows more than the doctors and specialists? She is going to kill people with this kind of talk."

Calm down and hear me out.

As a Clinical Herbalist, I frequently have people come to me looking for information on how to get off some, or all, of the meds they are taking. Heart-related meds are, by far, one of the most frequent culprits. This includes meds for cholesterol, blood pressure, circulation, etc. This is not surprising. Have you read the list of side effects on those meds? I digress, though...

The information that I always pass on to my clients, no matter the issue they are having, is this:

*Food matters. Eat healthier. Some foods like fruit, veggies, fish, nuts, and beans help raise the good cholesterol in our blood (HDL) and lower the bad cholesterol (LDL). Eat a lot of them.

Some foods like sugar, conventional dairy (this means anything made with pasteurized milk, but absolutely excludes raw milk products), white flour, highly processed foods and red meat raise the bad cholesterol in our blood. Avoid them as much as possible.

What you eat matters. Keeping our cholesterol levels in check can seriously impact our chances of a heart attack.

*Drink more water. Your body cannot function properly if you aren't drinking water. This sounds simple, but it kinda isn't. All water is not created equal. I am fortunate in that I have a well to supply my water. I don't have to concern myself with things like chlorine, fluoride or other nasty contaminants in my water. My well provides the cleanest water to be found, and this is reflected in the taste of the water. Not everyone is as lucky as I am, though, and they have to rely on things like city water or bottled water. My suggestion is to get a good water filter or check out this website for some fantastic info on bottled water and some of the best/worst choices.

*Drink more raw milk. We have all been told that raw milk is dangerous. It'll be the death of everyone who drinks it. You just need to stick to pasteurized milk and dairy products. Don't worry, they add in stuff like Vitamin D and Calcium so it's good for you! Yeah...sure it is.

The truth is, pasteurized dairy causes things like inflammation throughout the entire body, mucus and congestion build-up, immune issues and a host of other problems.

Raw milk does not. The internet is flooded with the pros and cons of both types of milk. I suggest reading up on both sides of the issue and deciding for yourself. The health benefits of raw milk are limitless, but you have to wade through all of the dairy-trade propaganda to find it sometimes.

*Move. Go for a walk, lift weights, find a yoga class. Anything that gets you up and moving, and that increases your heart rate. The increased blood flow through the arteries help keep them clear of cholesterol and provides much-needed oxygen to the heart.

*Rest. Let yourself rest. Adulting is difficult and it takes a lot out of a body. Sleep replenishes and heals some of those things.

Quit smoking. I know! As a smoker, this is the most difficult one to implement, but is probably the most important. Be gentle on me. I'm trying!

*Laugh. As corny as the saying is, laughter really IS the best medicine.

*Herbs. Again, you saw this one coming, right?

Did you know that most heart medications were originally derived from plants? It stands to reason that plants (herbs) should be considered as a form of treatment for heart-related issues, then, right? Of course, Big Pharma doesn't see it that way and they will scream from the rooftops that their way is the only way.

The truth that I have seen over and over again is that, if you are willing to make some lifestyle and diet changes then food and herbs are an extremely effective treatment and can, in most cases, get you off the prescription drug cycle.

As for myself, prescriptions were never a viable option. Too many side-effects. Too many drug recalls. To little evidence that they provided long-term solutions or extended the quality/length of life.

Then, I took a good, long look at the formula that I had already created for a client years ago, and have suggested ever since for anyone who suspected heart issues might be present. Let's look at the formula (in no particular order) .

Burdock root Ginger Licorice root Amla

Alfalfa Motherwort Bee Root Astragalus

Burdock root Ginger Licorice root psyllium Red Clover Hawthorn Oats

I know....get on with it. This is such a long post! I won't go into ALL of the reasons why these particular foods/herbs are good for the heart and blood. You can do a little diggin' on your own. Find your own answers. Draw your own conclusions.

I feel like I should add a few other things to this list, though, since I have recently started taking them and have noticed some great changes!

L-Carnatine Magnesium taurate CoQ10 Omega oil with DHA/EPA

Heavy metal detox kidney/liver cleanse poke root

Same deal. Look into these if you are trying to find some better options than what Big Pharma has to offer, or check back next week for a more in-depth look at why I feel like these supplements are a necessary part of heart health!.

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