How To Improve Your Heart Health
The habits needed to build a heart-friendly lifestyle are ones we’ve all heard about time and time again, but surprisingly most of us ignore one or more of these areas in our life or we think we can concern ourselves about these later in life when heart health becomes a more pressing issue. However, fostering a healthy heart early in life will go a long way toward prevention in our later years. Consider these 7 heart-healthy habits and determine which ones can you can work on this year.
Maintain a healthy weight — Carrying extra pounds increases blood pressure and blood lipids making your heart work harder all day, every day. If you are overweight, losing just 5% to 10% of your starting weight can make a big difference in your blood pressure and blood sugar, lowering your risk of coronary artery disease.
Exercise — One of the best ways to strengthen your heart is to work it. Physical activity is about the closest things you have to a magic bullet against heart disease. Exercise helps your heart muscle become more efficient and better able to pump blood throughout your body. Adults should aim for at least 30 minutes a day, but any amount of activity is better than none and that 30 minutes can even be broken up into 10 minute increments. The bottom line is that exercise cuts your risk of heart disease significantly, so just get moving!
Quit Smoking — Smoking dramatically raises your risk of death from heart disease. The chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke promote the buildup of plaque in the arteries. But just a year after you stop, your chances of a smoking-related heart attack will be reduced by half. After 15 years, your likelihood of dying from a heart attack will be the same as someone who never smoked. So quit smoking and your heart will thank you.
Limit alcohol — Drinking too much alcohol can raise the levels of fats in the blood, lead to high blood pressure, and increase your likelihood of obesity and diabetes, all of which strain your heart. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to no more than one drink a day.
Relax and reduce stress — Evidence suggests that stress activity in the brain can lead to inflammation in the arteries which can also lead to high blood pressure. Giving yourself a daily break may sound frivolous, but it’s essential to the long-term performance of your heart. Consider regular stress-relieving activities to be as valuable as a daily workout.
Get enough sleep — Studies show that those who sleep fewer than six hours per night are about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who sleep six to eight hours per night. It is believed that sleeping too little causes disruptions in biological processes leading to increases in blood pressure and inflammation. Find ways to get more z’s for the good of your heart.
Create a Heart Healthy Diet — One of the very best ways to maximize heart health is through your diet. Focus on fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats to keep your blood moving and your weight down. Limit things like sugary drinks, processed foods, and trans fats. It is important to note that healthy fats from fish, nuts, and seeds can help stabilize heart rhythms, lower cholesterol, and reduce inflammation in the arteries, whereas trans fats raise cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Do pay attention to getting the right fats in your diet. As most of us have a diet deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, we may benefit from a daily omega-3 supplement.
Remember you don't need to aim for transformation of all your habits at once. Even small changes can make a big difference in your heart health.