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4 Easy, Natural Ways to Make Your Heart Stronger

Holistic heart doctor Joel K. Kahn, MD, explains how time spent outdoors can be good for preventive heart health.

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Stroll in the Sun

Studies
have found higher rates of high blood pressure among people with the lowest sun
exposure. One reason may be due to nitric oxide, a gas whose production is
stimulated when your skin is exposed to the sun’s rays. Nitric oxide makes
arteries resist contraction, plaque, and blood clotting, reducing both heart
attack and stroke risks. Vitamin D, which sunlight helps your body produce, is
also linked to better heart health. Walk outdoors for 15 to 30 minutes daily.

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Try Forest Bathing

In
Japan, visiting parks for healing has become a popular practice called shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”). Research on 280
volunteers found that people had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, a
reduced heart rate, and lower blood pressure when they walked through a wooded
area than when they spent time in an urban one.

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Walk Barefoot (When You Can)

One
of the consequences of modern society is that rarely is our body in direct
contact with the ground. The earth has an electrical current, and direct
contact with it may be a stabilizing force for good health, possibly by
exposing us to electrons, which can act as powerful antioxidants. Although
“earthing,” or “grounding,” is considered alternative by mainstream medicine,
preliminary research shows that the practice seems to favorably affect thyroid
function, blood sugar metabolism, and blood thickening, all of which affect
heart disease risk. Pad around barefoot whenever possible. Let your backyard
grass tickle your feet, and dig your toes into sandy beaches.

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Trade the Gym for a Park

Exercising
outdoors may be more beneficial than working out indoors. A 2011 British review
of 11 studies found that people who exercised outside generally reported more
revitalization and energy and less anger, tension, and depression—all traits
linked to heart attack—than those who worked out indoors.

Claire Benoist for Reader's Digest

Watch for: Air Pollution

Unfortunately,
many people live in areas where air pollution—which can harm your heart—is
prevalent. In a recent Swedish study, higher ozone levels in the air were
associated with a small increased risk of cardiac arrest. Use airnow.gov to
check local air-quality conditions. The site’s rating system advises when
high-risk people, such as those with asthma or heart disease, should avoid
prolonged exposure to the outdoors. It’s also smart to seek areas away from
traffic and other sources of air pollution.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest