Posted on May 30, 2023, 6 p.m.
You only have one heart, making it important to take care of it. You may have heard of heart health, but may not be too sure how to achieve it, luckily research and experts have given interviews and published papers with recommendations on how to achieve it.
It may come as a surprise that you don’t really need to put in a massive effort to improve heart health, some methods can be effortless such as expressing gratitude offering a stress-reducing effect when it comes to reacting to and recovering from the acute effects of psychological stress. Studies suggest that adopting a more thankful mindset may even promote better cardiovascular health by helping to lower systolic blood pressure responses throughout the testing periods.
It should be no surprise that regular exercise can accomplish a lot in improving heart health. Even more “gentle” forms of exercise like adding yoga to an exercise routine can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Structured yoga practices can be a healthier addition to aerobic exercise than muscle stretching, studies show that yoga helps to lower blood pressure, and resting heart rate, as well as improve one’s 10 years risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
In addition to regular physical activity and following a healthy balanced diet, keeping stress levels in check, practicing good oral hygiene, limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking, and making sure that you get enough quality sleep are some of the well-known lifestyle changes that are backed by science and can help you to improve your heart health.
According to Jefferson Health: “Good dental hygiene is a good way to a healthy heart.” “Stress can cause high blood pressure and is linked to cardiovascular disease. Find healthy ways to reduce your stress. Exercise, yoga, meditation, and social interaction with friends are good ways to reduce stress and your risk of heart disease.” “The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven to nine hours of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can make you feel tired during the day and make you more likely to crave non-healthy foods leading to weight gain.”
Harvard Health Publishing suggests that you should: “Wash your hands often. Scrubbing up with soap and water often during the day is a great way to protect your heart and health. The flu, pneumonia, and other infections can be very hard on the heart.” “Try breathing slowly and deeply for a few minutes a day. It can help you relax. Slow, deep breathing may also help lower blood pressure.” “Taking a moment each day to acknowledge the blessings in your life is one way to start tapping into other positive emotions. These have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being, just as their opposites — chronic anger, worry, and hostility — contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.”
The Mayo Clinic Health System recommends that you could “Start making basic lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart disease and subsequent issues.” “If you currently smoke, chew tobacco, vape, or use other tobacco products, quit right away — your health care team can help. If you don’t smoke now, keep it that way.” “Heavy alcohol use is detrimental to your heart health. Although some research indicates moderate consumption of certain alcoholic beverages may have positive health effects, limiting your intake to a maximum of one drink per day or abstaining from alcohol altogether is best.”
There are no shortcuts, you need to put in some work in the form of exercise. But that need not be boring as there are many different forms of exercise to try out to help extend the mileage you can get out of your ticker. Studies indicate that if you find something that you enjoy doing you will stick with it, also doing something with your friends can change things up a bit and make it more enjoyable. It isn’t about how much time you spend in a gym, it is more important that you limit sedentary time and maintain an active lifestyle.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine aerobic exercises, strength training, and stretching/balance workouts can help to improve heart health. Aerobics helps to improve circulation resulting in lowered blood pressure and heart rate while increasing overall fitness. Resistance training can have a more specific effect on body composition such as reducing fat and creating leaner muscle mass. Flexibility and stretching workouts may not directly contribute to heart health but they do benefit musculoskeletal health enabling one to remain flexible, and free from pain, cramping, and other muscular issues that can affect the ability to be physically active.
UT Southwestern Medical Center suggests that one could “Build movement into chores. Find ways to multitask, whether you’re making dinner, cleaning, or brushing your teeth. Do a few sets of jumping jacks, squats, and lunges while waiting for water to boil. When you bend down to pick something off the floor, get all the way down and do a few push-ups. Walk in place or do calf raises while brushing your teeth. Some movement is better than nothing.”
Following a healthy balanced diet means avoiding processed foods, junk food, fast foods, sugary drinks, and donut shops. What is important is that you take control of what you put into your body, which might even mean that you need to learn how to cook for yourself. But if you struggle to even boil water there are plenty of food services that can deliver nutritious meals that have been tailored to meet your exact macronutrient requirements.
“Too much sodium causes you to retain water, according to a small 2017 study. When it does, your heart has to work harder to move the additional fluid through your body. Choose foods labeled as ‘no salt added,’ try to avoid foods that have more than 400 milligrams of sodium per serving, and try to stay below 1500 milligrams total per day,” writes Healthline. “Saturated fat can lead to atherosclerosis, where hard plaque builds up in your arteries. You can lower your intake by eating low-fat cuts of meat, like the eye of round roast or sirloin tip, and avoiding high-fat dairy products. Generally speaking, if it’s greasy, it’s likely higher in saturated fats.”
“A heart-healthy eating plan includes vegetables and fruits, beans or other legumes, lean meats and fish, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, whole grains, and healthy fats, such as olive oil,” says the Mayo Clinic.
“Eating healthy can help lower your risk of heart disease. A heart-healthy diet includes foods that are low in saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium (salt),” writes the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Heart-healthy items include high-fiber foods (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) and certain fats (like the fats in olive oil and fish).”
Carrying extra weight means that you are putting extra stress on your entire body, which includes your heart. Following a healthy balanced diet and being physically active will help you to drop unwanted pounds and move towards a weight that is more ideal for your body structure.
According to the Mayo Clinic Health System: “You need to exercise regularly and lower portion sizes and calorie intake at meals to lose weight or maintain a healthy size. Simply put, to lose weight you must burn more calories than you consume…Healthy and fresh food choices — such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes — lower your risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, as well as make you feel better than when you eat processed and junk food.”
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion says that: “If you’re overweight or have obesity, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help lower your risk of heart disease. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, that would mean losing 10 to 20 pounds. Find out how to control your weight…If you don’t know if you’re at a healthy weight, use this calculator to figure out your body mass index (BMI).”
“Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase the chances of developing heart disease — including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes…A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight and is generally associated with higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.” “Waist circumference also can be a useful tool to measure how much belly fat you have. The risk of heart disease is higher if the waist measurement is greater than: 40 inches (101.6 centimeters, or cm) for men and 35 inches (88.9 cm) for women,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
One thing that most people either forget about or avoid is seeing a doctor for a regular checkup. However, prevention is important to your heart, this includes checking things like cholesterol and blood pressure which can give you an idea of how your heart health is doing and perhaps catch something early to take steps to correct before it becomes a problem, because prevention will always be better than cure.
“Visiting a doctor annually (or more often, depending on your health) can help you take a preventive approach to care. If you have conditions known to affect heart health, such as chronic kidney disease or diabetes, make efforts to manage these conditions to improve your overall health…This includes lowering stress, eating a heart-healthy diet, and exercising. If you aren’t sure where to begin, talk with your doctor about ways you can safely improve your heart health,” writes Healthline.
The Mayo Clinic Health System suggests that you “Get physical examinations or checkups at least yearly. “Doing so will help you monitor health conditions and allow your provider to examine you for high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol and diabetes. If you have these conditions, talk to your health care team about medicines and lifestyle changes to help you control them, which will lower your risk for heart disease.”
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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