By Michelle Rauch
As we focus on heart disease in this month’s issue it is a reminder of just how many families are impacted by it. My mother suffers from heart disease.
As I write this month’s column I am actually doing so from the emergency room, where my mom is being seen once again for chest pains upon recommendation from her cardiologist. Living with someone who has heart disease, I can say it is something that is easy to just “learn to live with.” It should be anything but that, and a trip to the ER is always a sober reminder about the lifestyle changes that must be made.
The American Heart Association recommends a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and fish. Natural goodness for a healthy heart. They also tout the benefits of a vegetarian diet. According to the AHA, vegetarians are less likely to suffer from heart disease than those who eat meat. A diet high in vegetables can lead to a healthier weight, lower blood pressure and less hypertension, three key factors that impact heart disease when out of control. So think about it this way, you only have to look as far as your backyard to release the ingredients to a healthy heart.
I have written about the super foods before and the ease of growing them, but it bears repeating. Boosting your immune system with a dose of antioxidants is as simple as popping some blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. They are among the best of the best and research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture supports that. Kale, spinach, brussels sprouts are winners, too. Living in zone six allows Kentucky gardeners to plant in July and August to harvest crops of broccoli, lettuce, peas, kale, and arugula in November. If the benefits of homegrown fruits and veggies are appealing but you don’t have the time or space to devote to your own garden, the farmer’s market is the next best thing.
More awareness is being made about the connection between what we put into our bodies and our health and with that is a new recommendation about the number of servings of fruits and vegetables we should be eating. Many of us grew up with the recommended five servings a day. That’s been bumped up to a suggested nine to thirteen servings a day.
I have focused on the obvious, which is the impact of the homegrown food out of the garden on heart disease, but there is something else. Getting exercise and reducing stress are also top on the list of The American Heart Association’s lifestyle recommendations to prevent heart disease. Gardening as stress reliever? Check. Gardening as means of exercise? Check. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found gardening can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke as well as prolong life by 30% for those 60 years old and older.
Time spent in the garden can be as low or high impact as you want. It’s up to you. The act of digging, raking, weeding, mulching, watering and potting plants can benefit you with endurance flexibility and strength. Gardening is perfect for those with a fragile heart and is the ultimate mind body soul exercise for everyone.