The heart is one of the hardest working organs in the body, so protecting it should be our number one priority—not just from heartbreak, but from heart disease—the leading cause of death in the U.S.
It’s better to prevent than cure heart or cardiovascular disease, and to do so effectively, we need to examine our lifestyle. Our diet, activity level, and other habits all play a part in how our heart functions.
If you want to reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall well-being, below are four top tips to follow for a heart-healthy lifestyle.
- Ditch poor habits
- Manage your weight
- Support your heart
- Reduce stress levels
Read the full article below for more.
Ditch Poor Habits
It’s hard to deny the legitimacy behind the expression “old habits die hard” — I mean, after all, even Mick Jagger titled a song after the phrase. Still, when you’ve been doing something for quite a long time, it becomes part of your norm and can be challenging to stop.
Many of us dedicate our New Year’s resolutions to giving up our undesirable habits, although sometimes, we fall short. Luckily, February is Heart Month, which may just be that extra motivation or push needed to kick those unhealthy behaviors, like binge drinking or smoking, once and for all.
Most of us are aware that tobacco use and heavy drinking are bad for our health, but not all of us know exactly how much damage these habits can do to our hearts. Smoking can cause arteries and blood vessels to tighten and form clots inside, often resulting in a heart attack. Likewise, excessive drinking can contribute to fat buildup in artery walls, also increasing the risk of heart failure.
For hard-to-kick habits that affect the heart, experts suggest breaking a big goal into manageable short-term goals. So rather than quitting cold turkey, cut back on the number of cigarettes or drinks you have a day. This allows you to ease into a healthier lifestyle, and celebrate small victories along the way!
Manage Your Weight
While ditching unhealthy behaviors is critical for a healthy heart, it’s equally as important to start introducing healthy habits into your routine as well! Since weight loss can have a beneficial relationship with heart health, focusing on maintaining a healthy weight might be a great substitute or replacement for any poor habits you previously indulged in.
Science shows that excess weight and body fat cause a wide range of cardiovascular diseases, from high blood pressure to heart failure. And poor lifestyle choices like overeating and a lack of physical activity are two of the main contributing factors to unhealthy weight gain and obesity. So modifying your eating habits and activity level is essential for achieving a healthier weight.
You’ll find that losing weight is easily attainable when you figure out what strategies work best for you. Start by exploring an adaptable weight-loss program that adjusts to your food preferences and fitness goals. No two physical activities are alike, so you’ll get more out of your workouts when you can base them around your fitness objectives (e.g., burn fat or build muscle). Similarly, a diet plan with flexible food choices will better support people in developing a healthier pattern of eating to sustain weight loss efforts in the long run.
Support Your Heart
What we eat affects not only our weight but also our heart. Limiting and avoiding foods that can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol, such as those high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fats can decrease your risk of a heart attack significantly. However, to the same degree, there are certain nutrients essential for maintaining a healthy heart.
Consuming foods low in calories and fat, yet rich in vitamins and minerals, is the key to a heart-healthy diet. Aim for more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat sources of protein like lean meat, fish, and low-fat dairy products. Mainly, ensure that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals that boost heart health like magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, and CoQ10, just to name a few. You can also add supplements to your diet like a cholesterol blocker containing polyphenols, that are known to improve heart function by protecting the lining of blood vessels.
Moreover, reading and understanding nutrition facts labels can also regulate heart health by helping you make more informed decisions regarding the foods you eat. Aside from nutritional information, food labels also indicate the recommended serving size and number of servings in the product’s package, which leads to improved portion control. Practicing portion control may also encourage you to make other healthier choices beyond heart health!
Reduce Stress Levels
When it comes to heart health, we can’t forget the role of our mental and emotional well-being. Stress, for instance, which is our body’s reaction to demands, can have serious health implications if not properly managed. Stress is linked to high blood pressure and inadequate sleep—both of which place you at greater risk for cardiovascular disease.
Stress can also have a negative effect on the behaviors that impact heart disease risk. As an example, some individuals may deal with stress by eating. Emotional eating is using food as a coping mechanism to feel better when we are upset, or in this case, experiencing stress. Unfortunately, this usually results in overeating and turning to “comfort foods”—aka—unhealthy foods. Not to mention, people may also turn to other poor habits, like smoking and drinking, as ways to handle stress.
Given this, having a stress management plan is crucial for your overall health and especially for keeping your heart intact. A highly-effective way to combat stress is through physical activity as it releases endorphins, which trigger positive feelings. Additionally, you can incorporate mindfulness while exercising by focusing on your breathing, which will shift your attention away from negative or stressful thoughts. A little TLC can go a long way too! Be sure to set aside time each day to relax and decompress. You can enjoy a leisure activity like reading a good book or listening to music. Don’t forget the self-love aspect of stress-management either; practicing positive self-talk can enhance your self-esteem and, in turn, reduce stress.
Note: These suggestions are meant to act as a guide. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider when implementing any drastic changes to your diet or healthcare routine.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended as a substitute for advice provided by a competent health care professional. You should not use this information in diagnosing or treating a health problem. No claim or opinion in this blog is intended to be, nor should be construed to be, medical advice. If you are now taking any drugs, prescribed or not, or have a medical condition, please consult a competent physician who is aware of herb/drug interactions before taking any herbal supplements. The information presented herein has not been evaluated by the FDA or the Department of Health and is not intended to diagnose, prevent, cure, mitigate or treat any disease or illness.