It’s not easy to exercise when you’re feeling exhausted and there are times when curling up in a comfy chair with a good book may well be the best therapy. But despite the lure of the couch, remember that when energy levels are low, physical movement is your saving grace. Exercise is what causes the heart to pump blood around the body and into those flagging muscles.
Looking After Your Heart and Getting More Energy
If you’re wondering where your get-up-and-go has gone, it could simply be that you haven’t done as much physical activity recently and muscles have forgotten their jobs. Maybe you’ve eaten a bit more than usual too, and treated yourself to a few extra glasses of wine, as well as the odd chocolate bar – we all need to release a few endorphins from time to time. As life hopefully begins to get back to a more normal rhythm, the way to get back some energy is to make some permanent and healthy changes to your lifestyle.
Here are a few ways to safely recapture your vitality:
- Get moving. It sounds wrong somehow to say be active when your body is saying rest, rest, rest. But it works. Now, if anyone tells you to do a two-hour workout in one day, just ignore that advice. The way to start is slowly. Even a steady walk of ten to twenty minutes is fine for starters, and you can build from there as you begin to feel more energised.
- De-Stress. Dealing with stress is so important. If it’s allowed to run riot it can rob you of your happiness as well as your energy. Make sure you include things in your life which you truly enjoy. We’ve all had to spend time away from friends and loved ones and that’s been hard, so make the most now of meeting up with those who matter to you. Value them and take time to spend with them. Try to avoid the more negative ways of managing stress such as over-indulging in food, alcohol and stimulants such as coffee and nicotine. Maybe try some meditation, or simply enjoy talking with a good friend.
- Shed excessive weight. If you’ve recently gained a few pounds, or if you’ve been carrying too much for a while, you’ll find life much more comfortable if you can lose it. The only sure way to achieve this is to eat less calories than you burn, but to also do some exercise. Avoid faddy or expensive diet schemes; they may work in the short-term, but they are not a long-term good bet. The truth is you don’t have to count calories unless you find it helps. Simply incorporate into your everyday diet plenty of low calorie but nutrient rich foods – lean proteins, vegetables, fruits and wholegrain carbs such as good bread, pasta and rice. Cut out sugar, white flour goods, fatty and processed meats, fizzy drinks (apart from sparkling water) and you’re onto a winner.
- Quality sleep. Everyone is different when it comes to how much sleep they need. A rule of thumb is that most adults need around seven hours, but some need more, and some manage with less. It’s a good idea to ensure you don’t suffer from sleep apnoea which is where heavy snoring wakes you every few minutes and you stop breathing for a few seconds. This can put you at risk of heart problems and stroke. If you are overweight sleep apnoea is more likely to be an issue. Read more about sleep.
- The right kind of fuel. Make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. These foods are packed with vitamins and minerals which are vital for your health. Avoid eating large meals which are laced with too much salt, sugar, and saturated fat. If you get used to having smaller portions of nutrient-rich foods this will help your blood sugar levels, your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels to be within the healthy range. Try to remember to drink more water.
Just by following these five steps you’ll make yourself feel much more energised and also decrease your risk of heart disease.
To support you in your quest, we have three natural products which may be purchased together or separately:
- L-Citrulline to raise nitric oxide in the blood. This causes a relaxing of hardened artery walls and lowers blood pressure, whilst increasing blood flow throughout the whole body.
- Vegan Omega-3 capsules to provide the essential fatty acids needed by the body for energy and brain health.
- Co Enzyme Q10 to help with the conditions associated with heart failure, including angina pain and releasing excess fluid. Co Enzyme Q10 occurs naturally in the body of young people but depletes with age. When taken as a supplement it helps improve muscle strength, vitality and physical stamina. It may not be suitable if you are taking statin medication.
Three Heart-Saving Foods
Science has found certain superfoods to have amazing properties when it comes to heart health, and with that will come much more energy. Here are the three top players:
Flaxseed (also known as linseed) is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and phytoestrogens which, when combined, provide optimal benefits to heart health. The best way to eat them is in their milled or ground form. You can buy or make loaves of flaxseed or linseed bread. Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to mayonnaise as a dressing on sandwiches or salads. Blend ground flaxseed into smoothies or sprinkle on cereal or porridge.
Leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach whose leaves are dark green are rich in micronutrients and they are also a good source of vitamin K which helps protect the health of your arteries. Steamed young stalks and leaves of kale make an excellent vegetable dish and are lovely sprinkled with a little lemon juice and a grating of fresh nutmeg.
Add spinach leaves to your stir fry dishes just before serving when the heat of the food will wilt the leaves enough to incorporate them into the dish. You can sneak handfuls of spinach into bolognaise sauce, moussaka, vegetable or meat chilli and shepherd’s pie too. Spinach is also great blended into a smoothie.
We’ve been told for ages that fat is to be avoided, but there are different kinds of fats, and some are a necessary part of a healthy diet. Avocado and nuts (particularly walnuts) contain good fats which our bodies need.
Extra-virgin olive oil has been found to have a protective effect upon the heart as well as artery walls. This is because it is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. It is also rich in antioxidants. A little extra-virgin olive oil drizzled over salad or pasta or used as a dip for some freshly baked flaxseed bread will give your heart and your energy levels a welcome boost.
If Your Heart Is Struggling
The medical term for when your heart is not pumping blood as efficiently as it should is heart failure. This sounds pretty alarming, but it doesn’t mean that your heart is about to give up. What it does mean is that your heart is having a hard time in meeting your body’s needs, particularly when you are trying to engage in physical activity.
Some of the early signs of heart failure are feelings of constant and unusual deep fatigue. Energy levels may dip so that everyday actions, such as climbing stairs and lifting shopping bags, become very uncomfortable. This happens when there is a reduction in the blood which flows into muscle tissue, and this is because your heart is not pumping as well as it once did. When the going gets tough, the body has an emergency system where it diverts blood away from leg and arm muscles and instead makes sure it goes to the major organs such as the heart, brain, and kidneys. This results in feelings of discomfort during spells of physical activity.
Another reason for a decrease in energy levels is when your body is failing to get rid of waste as quickly as necessary. There are certain other reasons for feelings of excessive tiredness such as thyroid malfunction or anaemia so it’s important to tell your doctor how you feel so that the appropriate blood tests can be carried out.
Self-Help for Heart Failure and Energy Boosting Tips
The good news is that there is much you can do to help yourself in terms of avoiding or reversing the progress of heart failure. If you can commit to making the appropriate lifestyle changes these will prove highly effective alongside medical treatment.
The kind of changes you may need to make involve such things as alcohol consumption, smoking, physical activity, stress relief therapies and exchanging certain foods for more heart-healthy choices.
A few adjustments to your diet are essential if you are to avoid heart disease or to manage an existing condition:
Reducing salt in your diet will help lower blood pressure. Salt is necessary in the body but only in tiny amounts and most natural foods contain enough so we don’t need to add extra. Most people have grown accustomed to salty foods from childhood, so when we taste foods which have not been laced with salt during the cooking process or even sprinkled with it at the table, we find those foods bland.
An excess of salt also causes calcium loss and a resultant drop in bone density and in cases of heart failure, it causes the body to store excess fluid which accumulates in the tissue. It can also cause lung congestion, causing shortness of breath.
A few ideas to wean yourself off salt:
- Choose unprocessed foods instead of foods which have been manufactured in a factory. Many manufacturers still adhere to the salt/fat/sugar ‘hook’ to get customers addicted to the taste of their product.
- Avoid processed meats such as sausage, ham and salami. Packaged breakfast cereals, ketchup, soy and Worcestershire sauces, carbonated drinks and even some ice creams all contain salt.
- Read food ingredient labels and look out for the word ‘sodium’. Adults should eat less than 6 grams of salt per day – roughly a level teaspoonful.
- When cooking you can be very creative with herbs and spices. You can add fresh herbs and crushed garlic to dishes for extra flavour without the need to add salt.
- Spices such as ginger and chilli (fresh or ground), coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon and ground peppercorns add depth and warmth. If you like to make spicy dishes from ready-mixed curry pastes and blends, check the ingredient label to make sure they are not heavily salted.
Cutting down on saturated fat will protect your arteries from the build-up of plaque known as cholesterol which gives your heart a very hard time pumping enough blood around your body and leaves you feeling permanently exhausted.
Alcohol can be a comforting habit and it has been established that a glass of red wine can relax your heart muscle, slowing the pulse and lowering blood pressure. This is due to a polyphenol compound called resveratrol and is the reason why a small amount of red wine has been found to help prevent coronary heart disease.
Unfortunately, where alcohol is concerned it’s a fine line between enough and too much. For anyone with a heart condition, too much alcohol can raise pulse and blood pressure. The most usual recommendation is no more than 1 to 2 alcoholic drinks per day. For anyone with serious symptoms they may need to give up alcohol altogether.
Potassium is needed by the body to function efficiently but for anyone taking diuretics for heart failure, much of the potassium gained from diet may be lost. You may be advised to supplement your diet with foods rich in potassium:
- Cantaloup melon
- Fish, especially halibut
- Soy beans
Exercise to Boost Cardio Function
By walking every day your heart will have to pump blood into your muscles as well as your major organs. Your muscles have their own memory and will begin to become accustomed to the extra work and gradually become stronger. If weak and aching joints are making a daily walk something of an unpleasant experience you may find our Co Enzyme Q10 will support you in your quest for more energised and pain-free exercise.
As your strength builds you can incorporate bursts of faster walking into your session and might even like to try the Scandinavian style of walking with a walking pole in each hand so that you also work the top half of your body, shoulders and arms.
There are other forms of physical activity which are good. Swimming and aquafit are both non-weight-bearing exercises and both excellent for giving your heart and other muscle groups a workout.
Cycling is a good sport for heart health. Either out on a cycle path away from traffic or in the gym on an exercise bike. Many gyms have exercise bikes with built-in video screens so you can choose a scenic route and incorporate a few little hill climbs when you feel ready.
Supplements for Heart Health and Energy
We have supplements specifically to help with low energy levels put together for you to cover all aspects of recovering your vigour and verve. You may also find our energise pulse point oil a great comfort for those moments when a quick lift is needed.
Help and Support
The British Heart Foundation have a wealth of useful information on their website and a support facility with helpline available.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of using natural supplements, or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932.