A healthy heart keeps all of your body’s systems working properly. In order to keep your heart healthy there are some things you need to remember. Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, limiting stress, and not smoking are all excellent ways to keep your heart in optimal condition. It is your job to keep your heart healthy and you need to do everything you can to protect it to ensure it will function properly. Here are some tips on how to enhance your heart health along with the how and the why.
How: Set a goal, schedule a regular workout time, have fun and incorporate variety. Exercise shouldn’t be a bore or a chore. Find physical activities you enjoy and set a goal to exercise at least five days a week for 30 to 60 minutes. Keep it simple and consistent and try to do your workout at the same time everyday. Once working out becomes routine, you will start to crave it and hate to miss it. Performing aerobic exercise on most days of the week will result in the most benefits for your heart.
Why: A sedentary lifestyle is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Many of us don’t appreciate the value of exercise until it’s prescribed as a way to recover from health complications. Regular exercise should be used as a prevention tool to avoid health conditions. Cardiovascular exercises such as jogging, cycling, and swimming strengthen the heart and lungs and improve the body’s ability to use oxygen. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that regular exercise helps to keep your arteries elastic, which also leads to improvement in your blood flow and blood pressure.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
How: Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat keeps you aware of what you are putting in your mouth and is very effective in maintaining a healthy weight or losing excess weight. Also, try planning your meals in advance. This will help you control how many calories you consume. Be sure to combine your monitored eating habits with an active lifestyle. Activity causes calorie burn and helps prevent weight gain.
Why: Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Yet a ten percent loss of body weight can significantly reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol, protecting your cardiovascular system. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack. Coronary arteries deliver oxygen-carrying blood to the heart muscle. If the heart cannot get enough oxygen, chest pain, also known as “angina,” can occur. If the flow of blood is blocked, a heart attack can result. Too much LDL (bad cholesterol) can lead to fatty deposits in the blood vessels, which can also cause a heart attack or stroke.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
How: The American Heart Association suggests limiting saturated fats to less than seven percent of your total daily caloric intake, trans fats less than one percent, and Cholesterol to less than 300 mg a day for healthy adults. The best way to reduce saturated and trans fats in your diet is to limit the amount of solid fats that you consume, such as butter, margarine and shortening. When you go grocery shopping, choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods with healthier fats such as fish, olive oil and nuts. If you have a day where you overindulge in unhealthy choices, don’t quit on your healthy diet. Make sure your next meal is a healthy one and keep moving forward. If you throw in the towel it could lead to serious health problems down the road. Stay positive and keep trying!
Why: Foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease, while foods high in sodium can worsen high blood pressure. Foods such as fish, olive oil and nuts, however, contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that actually have a protective effect on the heart. These dietary fats can improve blood cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease. Additionally, fruits, vegetables and whole grains work to regulate blood pressure and heart health.
How: Stay educated on the negative effects of smoking, this alone should prevent you from picking up or continuing the habit. To keep your mouth busy, try chewing gum if the urge strikes or opt for a tooth pick. If stress or just the pleasure of smoking is what tempts you, there are plenty of healthier options for both – you just have to take the time to pursue them. Your heart will thank you. Work on developing the attitude that you are doing yourself a favor by not smoking. Be proud that you don’t smoke.
Why: Nicotine in cigarettes narrows the blood vessels, which makes the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. This results in high blood pressure and increased the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots.
How: Focus on what you have not what you lack. Be thankful for family, friends and your accomplishments. Surround yourself with supportive people that don’t focus on negativity. Also, know your limits and avoid overloading your plate. Don’t be afraid or too stubborn to say no or ask for help along the way. Be flexible and accept the fact that things change in life and at times you will need to adapt.
Why: Stress increases your heart rate and constricts the arteries, which restricts blood flow to the heart. According to an article in the New York Times, studies have reported an association between stress and high blood pressure. People who regularly experience sudden spikes in blood pressure (caused by mental stress) may, over time, develop injuries to the inner lining of the blood vessels which will restrict blood flow to the heart as well.
Taking care of your heart is something we are all perfectly capable of doing. By following these simple lifestyle choices, you can greatly reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular and heart disease. Be proactive and be sure to discuss heart health during your next visit with your physician. Regular checkups can help identify complications before symptoms arise. There are also medications available to help prevent and treat heart disease which you can also discuss with your doctor.
About the Author:
Patrick Landers manages the health and fitness program for one of BaySport’s corporate clients, running everything from group exercise classes to incentive programs. Patrick graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and strives to stay on top of the dynamic fitness industry on a daily basis. His certifications include ACSM Health Fitness Specialist, AFAA Personal Training, AFAA Group Fitness Instructor, CPR & AED, and Intrinsic Coaching.
Patrick was born and raised near Chicago, IL. He moved to San Jose, CA in November 2011 where he enjoys the great weather and being active outdoors year round. He believes that being fit and living a healthy lifestyle can bring a tremendous amount of satisfaction to one’s life. He enjoys reading about new fitness trends and cutting edge workouts as well as spending time outdoors, playing basketball, running, and golfing.
Cook, LeHue. “How Exercise Prevents Heart Disease.” (2011) Http://www.livestrong.com/article/311545-how-exercise-prevents-heart-disease/#ixzz2J0CaTAZl.Web.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “5 medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease.”(2012)
Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease-prevention/WO00041. Web.
U.S.Department of Agriculture. “Why is it important to eat fruit?” (2012) http://www.choosemyplate.gov. Web.
American Accreditation HealthCare Commission. “ Stress and Anxiety.” (2013)