By Dr. Aaron Dutruch D.C.
Your heart, like any other muscle in your body, changes with exercise. The heart’s one “exercise” is to pump blood. It pumps blood to your lungs to get oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide, then it pumps that oxygenated blood to the rest of your body. Unlike other muscles, too much work over a long time isn’t always a good thing. As the muscle structure of the heart grows thicker the heart becomes more inefficient and has a harder time getting oxygenated blood to all parts of the body. This is why maintaining your blood pressure is so important.
Blood pressure is an easy way of measuring the resistance that the heart is pushing against and is a good determination of overall heart health. There are several factors that we can control that can affect your blood pressure, including weight, diet, exercise and your habits.
The correlation between increased weight and increased blood pressure is easy to understand. Your blood pressure increases because your heart simply has more material it needs to oxygenate, and the pressure must be greater to make sure all parts of the body are given enough blood to do that. Exercise and diet are a great way to maintain your weight, but they also play an essential role in reducing your blood pressure.
The current recommendation is approximately 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (ie. walking, biking etc.) or 15-20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (ie. running/jogging, swimming, etc) per day to maintain/improve cardiovascular health. This type of exercise not only burns calories, but it also helps to reduce the likelihood of plaque buildup in the arteries and encourages your heart to build lean, efficient muscles.
Diet in this instance, doesn’t necessarily mean restricted calories, its more about giving your body the proper balance of nutrition to perform efficiently. Eating a diet that is lower in sodium or trans fats, and consists of lean meats, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based oils is a good start. Sodium increases your body’s ability to hold onto water, and directly increases blood pressure until its eliminated by the body. Trans fats and some animal fats tend to increase your LDL (low density lipoprotein) or “bad cholesterol.” This type of cholesterol can clump together and stick to the walls of your arteries, reducing the space for your blood to flow through. HDL (High density lipoprotein) is your “good cholesterol” and can be found in several plant-based oils, easy examples are olive oil and avocado oil. These HDL can act like scrubbers for your arteries and help to reduce the overall affects of the LDLs.
Some of the more common habits that affect your heart health is the use of nicotine and alcohol. Alcohol use causes the blood vessels to constrict until it has cleared your system. It can also lead to liver and kidney damage which also increases blood pressure. When nicotine is in your blood stream it resembles a crystal. Those sharp edges can damage the walls of your arteries and give the “bad cholesterol” somewhere to stick, causing more permanent damage such as calcifications.
Heart health is an important, but often misunderstood topic and keeping an eye on your blood pressure may be the easiest way to start the journey to a better you.
Dr. Aaron Dutruch D. C. received his BS in Kinesiology, Fitness and Human Performance from LSU and his Doctorate of Chiropractic from Texas Chiropractic College. He is proficient in Upper Cervical chiropractic care and is a certified FAKTR provider.