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HEART HEALTH

When we think of normal heart health recommendations from a doctor, lab tests that include cholesterol levels usually determine strategies. Cholesterol, often broken down into total, HDL, and LDL, has been linked with coronary artery disease. But there is more to the story than just that.

Inflammation is part of our heart health equation as well. When we think of inflammation, aches and pains in our muscles and joints may first come to mind. However, inflammation can take place in our cardiovascular system as well. In fact, when inflammation is present, the way the cholesterol interacts with you blood vessels (the arteries and veins that are part of the cardiovascular system) changes and becomes more damaging.

In lab tests, one way we can learn about our inflammation is via hs-CRP. The “hs” stands for “highly sensitive” and CRP stands for C-reactive protein, a substance made by the liver that is a marker for inflammation. In addition to marking inflammation in the cardiovascular system, this marker may be high for reasons such as infection. It is more common to see this marker ordered by doctors when evaluating heart health.

Heart health recommendations usually include dietary changes and exercise. Both of these are certainly part of decreasing elevated hs-CRP. However, today I would like to focus on another strategy to decreasing inflammation and that is stress reduction.

Mental contributors to our physical health is largely lacking in treatment plans from doctors. Stress influences our body in a myriad of ways and it is absolutely linked to the wellbeing of our heart as well. How people manage stress is very personal. There are certainly studies revealing that daily meditation lowers heart risk factor.

Like barriers to exercising, the barriers to practicing daily meditation include time limitation or not enjoying doing it. I often say “If it is not fun, it is not sustainable.” It works the same way with exercise or meditation. Think of something that is enjoyable to you and when you are doing it, quiet your mind, do your best at keeping out your daily to-do list for a few minutes, take deep breaths, and perhaps find a mantra to repeat. I would like to challenge you to think of meditation out of the box for a second. Think of it as a deep breathing exercise. Think of it as a moving meditation with gentle yoga. Think of it as a daily prayer you do as you are sweeping. Try to incorporate deep breathing and quieting the mind in activities that you do daily on autopilot.

I would love to hear of ways that you manage stress in your life! Please reply to this email to let me know!

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