Photo: Stethoscope in the shape of a heart

by Alexandra Balgos

Heart disease statistics are shocking across the country, including here in Hawaii, where it is the #1 cause of death. Diabetes is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, and diabetes affects 1 out of 2 adults in the state!

Since February is American Heart Month, now is a great time to celebrate our heart health and consider ways to prevent disease from occurring. It’s never too early, or too late, to start taking care of our bodies. While we may not have the power to control our genetics or environment, we do have the power to build habits that have been scientifically proven to prevent and reverse the effects of both heart disease and diabetes. There are 4 elements of a heart healthy lifestyle that we promote here at ‘Ekahi Health: Nutrition, Exercise, Stress Management, and Emotional Wellbeing.

 Let’s first look at the ways in which the modern western lifestyle fails to align with good heart health:

  • Nutrition—The Standard American Diet (SAD) relies heavily on overly processed foods that are high in fat, animal protein, refined carbs, sugars, and low-nutrient foods.
  • Stress—This modern life is full of stressors. Whether it’s from work or home, unmanaged stress leads to increased cortisol, which increases both blood cholesterol and sugar.
  • Exercise—Most Americans spend the majority of their day seated. Desk jobs and driving have made it difficult to fit movement into our busy schedules.
  • Emotional Health & Wellbeing—Although technology has great potential to connect us, it can isolate us as well.

Now, let’s look at some simple tweaks to our daily grind that support our heart health:

  • Nutrition—Replace heavily processed foods with whole plant-based foods. Doing so has been shown to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation.
    • Replace animal proteins with plant-based proteins like beans, tofu, and lentils
    • Increase consumption of fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, and veggies
  • Stress—Develop a consistent stress management practice, incorporating meditation and deep breathing, which has been proven to reduce cortisol levels in the body.
    • There are tons of free apps that provide guided meditations to get started
  • Exercise—Move more! 20-30 minutes of exercise daily will significantly improve heart health.
    • Stand up more often at work
    • Swap an episode of television or Netflix binging with a stroll around your neighborhood
  • Emotional Health & Wellbeing—Connect with your community and build a strong support network of family and friends.
    • Participate in community events around your area
    • Take some time to check-in with your loved ones

In summary, our health depends on many different facets of our daily life. Incorporating some of these swaps are sure to help you reclaim your wellness, leaving you feeling happier, more energized, and at less of a risk for having a heart event. Any approach to health and wellness must include a comprehensive look at the way we eat, breathe, move, and love.


‘Ekahi Health offers comprehensive lifestyle management services with two innovative health care programs: Wellness to better manage your diabetes and Program to help prevent, reduce and even reverse the effects of cardiovascular disease.

For more information about ‘Ekahi Health, visit www.ekahiwellness.com and www.ekahiornish.com and follow them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.