There might not be anything more important than taking care of your heart. And doing so can be simple.
At least simple in theory.
It takes dedication and consistent habits to keep your heart healthy throughout your life. Here are some of the habits of those living a heart healthy life:
Manage your health
It may seem like a broken record but maintaining all of those pesky statistics measured at your annual health fair and checkup will help maintain a happy and healthy heart. Proper management of items such as blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and BMI are paramount in lowering your risk of heart issues. Knowing these numbers for yourself will allow you to establish a baseline to know if you are at risk; from there you can work to establish a plan to bring any risk factor into alignment.
Make smart, nutrient-dense food choices
Making smart choices at the grocery store will help ensure success in maintaining optimal heart health. If you have the tendency to be a little more carnivorous, try steering yourself towards leaner and alternative protein sources. Opt for fish first, then skinless poultry, choosing red meat sparingly. And there are plenty of vegetarian sources of protein packed with heart-healthy fats, like avocado, nuts and seeds. When deciding which fruits and vegetables make the most sense bulk up on colorful plant foods. Those that are rich in color are also rich in vital heart-healthy nutrients. Making smart carbohydrate choices are also key to maintaining a healthy ticker.
Eliminate unhealthy foods and ingredients
“Anything with more than two grams of saturated fat per serving will do the heart more harm than good. You should also avoid any foods that have more than 1 gram of trans fat per 100 calories”, according to Health.com. Minimizing your intake of other ingredients like sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure, will also help. The Department of Agriculture recommends that healthy adults have no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, (equivalent to about a teaspoon).
Watch your stress level
When you feel stress do you find yourself eating and speaking quickly? Do you tend to work too much or do you put off doing things that need to be done? It’s important to know what triggers those palpitations and prepare your response. Learn to manage your stress through relaxation techniques and take a little time for yourself. Even if it’s only 20 minutes, sit quietly without an agenda and take a few deep breaths.
Exercise regularly (30 minutes/day)
Inactivity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. The key to making sure you are keeping your heart healthy is consistency. Your heart is a muscle so it’s easy to reason that a muscle needs to be worked regularly to stay fit. Strive to get a minimum of 150 minutes of heart-pumping exercise in each week.
Get enough sleep
The American Heart Association recommends that adults get 6-8 hours of sleep per night. As with exercise, consistency is the key to making this habit work. Several recent studies show links between shortened sleep duration, defined as less than six hours of sleep, and increased risk of heart disease.
Stress less and don’t take on too much
Being predisposed to being over committed and over scheduled is no longer the exception, it’s the rule. In order to promote a heart-healthy lifestyle, it is recommended you make it a habit to focus on one thing at a time. Try dividing your day into buckets such as; sleep time, family time, exercise time, work and mediation time. Do only one thing during the time allotted for each of these activities and move on.
Take an Omega 3 supplement
According to Active.com, most Americans are deficient in essential omega-3 fatty acids. If you aren’t eating oily fish at least once a week you should consider supplementing your diet with high-quality fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are one of four basic fats that the body derives from foods. While many of the other fats are harmful, omega-3s benefit the body and are especially good for the heart. Super Omega-3 EPA is a source of two fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Supportive but not conclusive research shows that the consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The body uses omega-3 fatty acids as one of the primary components of cell membranes. Omega-3s are also beneficial to the structural system and to the skin.
Evidence suggests that one drink a day for women and two for men can raise HDL (good) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and possibly reduce inflammation and help ward off diabetes. However, be warned that even a little too much alcohol can undermine the heart.
This is probably old, worn-out news. But any smoking at all significantly increases chance of heart disease and stroke – as much as 2-4 times that of nonsmokers. And according to the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign, women show smoke are 25% more likely to develop heart disease than male smokers.
Cutdown on sugar and simple carbs
A sugar-laden diet may raise your risk of dying of heart disease even if you aren’t overweight, says a major study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine. According to Harvard Health Publications, added sugars make up at least 10% of the calories the average American eats in a day. But about one in 10 people get a whopping one-quarter or more of their calories from added sugar.
Over the course of the 15-year study, participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar. Overall, the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of sugar in the diet—and that was true regardless of a person’s age, sex, physical activity level, and body-mass index (a measure of weight).
You’ve heard it time and again, cut back on the sweets!
Enjoy life now!
It’s a hectic and stressful world constantly focused on what’s coming next, or the goals to reach in the future. That pressure causes us to live in the past and future, but rarely in the present. Try one of these activities to enjoy the ‘now and help take pressure off your heart.
- Laugh! Laughing can support blood pressure levels already in the normal range
- Start a project you are excited to work on
- Take up a hobby such as knitting, sewing or crochet
- Read a book or listen to music
- Watch a movie
- Spend time with friends having dinner, playing games, etc.
- Play a sport
- Take a nature walk
- Take a class (but not a stressful class)
- Be grateful for what you have