Omega-3 fatty acids from fish help lower heart rate.
Image Credit: Purple-Gecko/iStock/Getty Images
Only a few foods, such as omega-3 fatty acids, have a direct impact on your heart rate. Others influence it by keeping your heart and blood vessels in top condition. Following a balanced diet is essential, but regular exercise, maintaining an optimal weight and managing daily stress are equally important. Because your heart rate reflects the organ's overall health, talk to a doctor if your heart rate becomes irregular or stays high while at rest.
Your heart rate changes in response to activity level, emotions and stimulants such as caffeine. It should stay in the range of 60 to 90 beats per minute, however, when you're at rest, reports the Harvard Medical School.
An elevated heart rate is associated with high blood pressure. It also puts enough stress on blood vessel walls to cause damage. Healthy blood vessels are vital for keeping your heart rate down. They must expand and contract to accommodate variations in blood volume caused by changes in heart rate.
Some plant-based foods, such as walnuts and vegetable oils, contain a type of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Fish provide two different forms of omega-3 known as eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA.Your body converts a small amount of ALA into DHA and EPA, but not enough to meet all its needs.
Increased intake of EPA and DHA is associated with a significantly lower heart rate, according to a report in Frontiers in Physiology in October 2012. In fact, omega-3s from fish oil had a direct impact on heart muscle contraction and helped keep the heart rate lower when activity increased.
Trout, salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and whitefish are some of the top sources of EPA and DHA. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish weekly.
High blood levels of fats called triglycerides may raise your heart rate, according to a 2005 study published in the International Journal of Cardiology. High triglycerides also increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, but they often go down with dietary changes.
Foods that lower triglycerides include omega-3 fatty acids and whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread and quinoa. Dietary fiber also helps keep triglycerides under control. Beans, oats, ground flaxseeds, rice bran, fruits and vegetables are good sources of triglyceride-lowering fiber, notes the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
One of the best ways to maintain a normal heart rate is to make sure your diet includes foods rich in magnesium and calcium because they regulate your heart rate. In the heart and blood vessels, calcium makes muscles contract, while magnesium helps them relax.
You'll get both minerals from leafy greens, broccoli, baked potatoes and salmon. Go with low-fat dairy products for calcium. Include a variety of nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains on the menu for a boost of magnesium.
High blood pressure damages artery walls, and excess cholesterol in the bloodstream sticks to the damaged areas. Over time, this makes blood vessels narrow and harden, then the heart beats harder to get blood through the body.
Potassium is vital for lowering blood pressure. On the flip side, sodium raises blood pressure. The ratio of potassium to sodium, or the amount of potassium in your diet compared to the sodium consumed, influences the risk of developing high blood pressure.
Keep sodium intake under 2,300 milligrams daily, and be sure to get 4,700 milligrams of potassium from foods such as baked potatoes, prunes, orange juice, bananas, tomatoes and spinach.
Blueberries, strawberries, tea, apples and citrus fruit help lower blood pressure and relieve arterial stiffness, according to studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February 2011 and October 2012.