February is American Heart Month, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Virender Sodhi, an Ayurvedic medical doctor, naturopathic physician and CEO of R-U-Ved Herbs, provides some suggestions for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system based on Ayurvedic principles. Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of holistic medicine from India.
Sodhi explains that Ayurveda views the heart as the seat of one’s soul and a reflection of our state of balance, or imbalance. According to him, many people with a predisposition for hypertension may be able to steer clear of the prescribed medications by simply leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle, which can be supplemented by the appropriate herbal remedies. Stay on beat naturally with the following tips:
1. Manage stress. Certain constitutional types in Ayurveda, known as pitta and secondarily vata, are more prone to stress and high blood pressure. “Pitta types tend to focus on perfection and pushing their limits, leading to sleepless nights, the fight-or-flight response and high blood pressure,” says Sodhi. Outside factors, such as a demanding career, can also cause stress. Reduce stress by knowing your limits and setting boundaries for yourself. “Releasing judgment on yourself and others also goes a long way on reducing stress,” he added.
2. Don’t worry, be happy. Emotions, such as joy and sorrow, are held in the heart. Become lighthearted with an upbeat outlook and healthy relationships. “Participate in balanced, fun activities and focus on a positive attitude. Dwelling on past mistakes won’t change them. Change your thinking now to take charge of your future,” says Sodhi.
He also suggests spending time with family and friends, including the four-legged kind. “Studies show that pets help lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety in their owners.” Other easy ways to relax include using calming aromatherapy, such as lavender and rose, listening to light music and laughing.
3. Eat heart-healthy foods. “You are what you eat,” explains Sodhi. Focus on whole foods, preferably organic, instead of processed or canned foods, which can contribute to weight gain and toxicity. “Shop the outer aisles of your supermarket, or better yet, the farmer’s market for the freshest foods.”
According to Sodhi, many individuals with a propensity for heart-health issues have pitta constitutions, running on the fiery side. Keep cool and balanced by avoiding foods that are considered heating, such as salsa, peppers, garlic, hot spices, red meat, coffee, alcohol and refined starches. Instead, opt for green leafy veggies, fruits, beans, organic chicken and turkey and fresh fish. Fish high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna and halibut, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Also, be aware of how much you eat. Follow the Ayurvedic suggestion of eating only what you can hold in two cupped hands at your three daily meals.
4. Just breathe. Specific pranayama, or yogic breathing, techniques, along with meditation, calm the system. “Many of my patients have learned to reduce their blood pressure simply through breathing exercises,” says Sodhi. “For a simple pranayama technique, inhale for six counts and exhale for eight counts for 10 minutes, while relaxing in a cool, dark room. Follow with 10 to 15 minutes of meditation for a heart-healthy day.”
5. Get it pumping. “An inactive lifestyle can lead to heart disease, so keep your body moving with enjoyable activities, especially in the outdoors, at least five days a week,” explains Sodhi. He cites yoga, walking and cycling among many heart-healthy choices. Ayurveda also suggests exercising to only half of one’s maximum capacity. “While pitta types may adhere to the adage ‘no pain, no gain,’ over-exercising can put strain on the body, and subsequently the heart.”
6. Drink up. Hydration is important to help prevent clogging of the arteries. Sodhi says to drink half of your ideal body weight in ounces of water every day. For example, a 150-pound person should drink 75 ounces of pure water–this doesn’t include coffee, tea, juice or other beverages.
7. Get some shut eye. Poor sleep has been linked with high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack and stroke, diabetes and obesity, so get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly.
8. Take herbs. Formulations of herbs, vitamins and minerals exist that support good heart health.
Virender Sodhi is an Ayurvedic medical doctor, naturopathic physician and CEO of R-U-Ved Herbs. R-U-VED Products can be found at natural food stores nationwide or at www.ruved.net. Founded in 1988, R-U-VED is the only Ayurvedic herb company in the U.S. owned and operated by practicing Ayurvedic physicians, who also cultivate the medicinal herbs offered to ensure the utmost in quality and safety standards.