You wear it on your sleeve.
You have a heart of gold (or stone).
You have heart-to-heart conversations with the people you love.
The heart is the symbol of much or our inner lives. But more than just our emotions and feelings, the heart is responsible for so much – sending blood through your body and providing it the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function at its best. Most people are born with a healthy heart, and there are ways we know how to keep it in good shape – helping you live a longer, happier and more active life! Check out these simple healthy heart tips!
1. Say NO to Cigarettes.
Did you know that smoking cigarettes is the single most preventable cause of heart disease and premature death for men and women in the US? It’s such a destructive habit because it increases your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease (PVD), coronary heart disease, and sudden cardiac arrest. Do whatever you can to stop smoking today!
One way to improve heart health is by reducing the amount of red meat in your diet. Red meat is high in saturated fat, so swapping it out for healthier options like chicken, fish or other sources of plant-based protein such a beans or legumes, is a simple way to follow a heart-healthier diet! Bonus tip: focus on eating more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products along with whole grain breads and nuts to keep you satisfied.
3. Put down the saltshaker.
For a healthy heart and decreased blood pressure levels, limit your consumption of salt and salt-rich foods like salad dressings, canned soups, cured meats, soy sauce and packaged foods. Processed foods and packaged meals are the worst when it comes to sodium levels, so stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meat instead.
4. Get up and move.
Sitting for long periods is one of the worst things you can do for your heart! Even if you exercise regularly, being sedentary for most of the day (like rarely getting up from your desk at work), more than doubles your risk for heart attacks and diabetes. Set a timer on your phone for once an hour to stretch your legs for at least 2 minutes.
5. Know your numbers.
High blood pressure and cholesterol are major risk factors for heart disease. And that’s why The American Heart Association recommends your blood pressure be less than 130/80. Properly controlled blood pressure contributes to a healthy life by reducing your risk of strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure and other conditions. Following a low-sodium diet and exercising regularly makes a difference, but sometimes prescription medication is needed to keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check.
6. Lose those extra pounds.
Excess pounds increase more than just your weight. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have heart disease, strokes, diabetes, cancer and depression. If you’re overweight or obese, every 20 pounds you lose you could drop your systolic pressure by five to 20 points! What’s more, exercise can lower your blood pressure, dropping your systolic blood pressure by four to nine points if you exercise for at least 30 minutes each day.
7. Manage your stress proactively.
Taking time to relax and manage stress is an important part of heart health. The American Heart Association says that chronic stress can increase your risk for heart disease, so do your best to avoid situations that trigger feelings of anxiousness and tension. And when you experience the occasional feelings of stress begin to creep in, use deep breathing, yoga and meditation for a way to positively manage stressful situations.
8. Keep your doctor’s appointment.
Did you know that regular medical checkups by a primary care physician is one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease? It’s true – staying connected with a physician who knows your medical history and continuing to take medications that control blood sugars, blood pressure and cholesterol help decrease your risk!
9. Make exercise part of your routine.
It’s not always easy to fit into busy schedules, but regular cardiovascular exercise is critical to heart health. If you’re not exercising, now’s the time to increase your physical activity. Don’t start with marathon training – set small goals that you can easily track and reach. Aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Raking leavings, cleaning house or playing tag with your kids or grandkids counts! If that’s too much, start with 10 minutes a day and work your way up. Consistent exercise has been shown to help you lose weight, decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels, not to mention combatting depression and helping you feel great! That’s a win-win-win for your heart!