Know Your Heart
Better Nutrition|November 2020
Know Your Heart
The heart is a complex muscle that pumps 60 or so beats per minute for 1,440 minutes per day, 365 days per year. That math gives us an astounding look at the number of oxygen-delivering contractions our hearts will perform over a lifetime. Unfortunately, cardiovascular “disease” is still the leading cause of premature death in the U.S., just above cancers and respiratory illnesses.
By Emily A. Kane, ND, LAC

One of the most common determinants of early death from heart disease is uncontrolled high blood pressure, which can result from clogged arteries, or, less likely, an adrenaline-secreting tumor.

Is Your High Blood Pressure a Sign of Stress or Heart Disease?

Blood pressure often reads high at the doctor’s office, so get a cuff for home use to get an idea of your baseline. Sit quietly for 3–5 minutes thinking pleasant thoughts before measuring. And consider measuring 3 times, with a few minutes of rest between each attempt. Then write down the lowest set of numbers.

* Upper number: Systolic, the upper blood pressure number, bounces around because it measures the vasoconstricting (blood vessel narrowing) effect of adrenaline, aka, the “fight or flight” stress hormone.

Unfortunately, the body reads stress as stress, whether it’s a life-threatening predator or a bill in the mail. Your body responds to both stimuli in much the same way, which creates a big jolt of heart-jittering anxiety.

If your upper number is variable and always higher than 120 (age up to 55–60) or 140 (age 60 or more), then you likely have adrenaline-induced blood pressure spikes, and the best remedy is stress management. Try meditation, forest bathing, hot-tubbing, chilling with friends, or spending time alone. These soothing activities need to be scheduled so you take this commitment seriously—and with joy!

* Lower number: The bottom number in a blood pressure reading, diastolic, indicates the relative ease with which your heart muscles contract to push freshly oxygenated blood from the largest heart chamber (the left ventricle) into the aorta, which delivers oxygen-rich blood to the entire body. Oxygen drives our ability to produce glucose for fuel, to burn fat for energy, and to complete the thousands of metabolic tasks our bodies perform constantly.

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November 2020