Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for people in almost all racial groups?
While you might not pay it much thought, your heart works around the clock to keep you alive. If it doesn’t get the appropriate care, serious problems may develop.
Understanding how different habits affect your heart is one of the surest ways to keep it in top shape. Here are ten things you can do to improve heart health.
10 Tips to Improve Heart Health
Every 36 seconds, someone in the United States dies of heart disease. Luckily, this doesn’t need to be your reality. There are plenty of ways to improve heart health and live longer. Here are a few of them.
The foods you consume may affect your heart health. For example, processed foods can predispose you to a heart attack. Opt for whole grains and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kales, and collard greens.
Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are good for the heart. Other heart-friendly foods include avocados, legumes, fatty fish, asparagus, walnuts, and legumes such as beans.
2. Manage How You Deal with Stress
Short-lived stress can push you to increase your productivity at work, improve your relationships, and get out of your comfort zone. In times of danger, it can be life-saving.
However, long-term stress can be harmful. It increases your risk of insomnia, depression, anxiety, and rumination. Over time, it takes a toll on you emotionally and psychologically. You may experience physical symptoms like stomach upsets, headaches, and aching muscles.
The body usually triggers over 1400 biochemical responses to stress. A faster heart rate and increased blood pressure are the most common ones. Failure to manage stress healthily traps you in a stress cycle.
Many people don’t know that excessive stress may expose you to the risk of stroke and heart attacks. It could trigger unhealthy coping habits like smoking and overeating, ultimately affecting your heart. Healthy ways to deal with stress include:
- Take time to disconnect from news stories, daily chores, and upsetting activities
- Talk to others, especially those who can understand your feelings and concerns
- Take a day off from work and other responsibilities when you feel overwhelmed
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
If you find yourself stressing about your heart health or that of a loved one, consider taking a basic life support course. It may help save a life before you see a doctor. Anyone can get BLS certification.
3. Meditation to Improve Heart Health
There are different types of meditation for different needs. Transcendental meditation is one of your best meditation options for heart health. Practicing it for 15 minutes every day can lower your risk of stroke and heart disease by up to half.
The benefits of meditation come from its ability to lower blood pressure, and 20 minutes of meditation every day can make a huge difference. Other mindfulness techniques such as yoga and deep breathing may also be helpful.
Play some soothing music in the background, close your eyes, and clear your mind. Inhale, exhale, and let go of the stress. Music goes hand in hand with meditation, and pairing them together could work like magic.
When you feel stressed, your heart races faster than usual, and you may breathe faster. Take long full breaths to calm your mind and heart. It may promote better memory and focus too. Although mindfulness takes some time and practice, scientists believe that it is good for your health.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Losing some weight may be beneficial for your heart health, and a few pounds make a huge difference. If you are obese or overweight, losing five to 10 percent of your body weight can better your metabolic profile.
The healthiest way to lose weight is by exercising and consuming fewer calories. Avoid fad diets as losing more than two pounds per week can be unhealthy. Instead, adopt a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and fish. Include some nuts and seeds as well.
If you are obese, your heart has to work harder to pump blood. The chamber gets bigger, and the surrounding muscles may also enlarge. Over time, your heart may lose its ability to pump blood or relax, leading to heart failure.
5. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Some alcohol, especially red wine, is okay. However, too much of it can be detrimental to your health. Excessive alcohol consumption causes high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms. It may also trigger liver problems, stroke, cancer, and coronary issues.
Chronic consumption of large alcohol amounts can lead to alcoholic cardiomyopathy, which is a condition where your heart muscles weaken.
The effects of alcohol on the heart are complex and may vary for different people. Even moderate consumption may be harmful to some people and may increase your risk of getting cardiovascular illnesses.
Drinking alcohol, regardless of the quantity, may be harmful if:
- You have ever had a heart attack
- You have a family or personal history of pancreatitis or liver disease
- You have diabetes
- You suffer from arrhythmia, high blood pressure, or high triglycerides
Insufficient sleep increases your risk for coronary and cardiovascular diseases. Even when you are doing everything else right, lack of sleep changes the functioning of your body. The American Heart Association links poor sleep quality to high blood pressure, a common cause of heart disease.
Ensure that you get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night to protect your heart. If you aren’t sleeping enough, your metabolism slows down, making it difficult to lose weight. Getting sufficient quality sleep leaves you feeling fresh and energized in the morning.
A good night’s sleep is good for your heart, immune system, and mental health.
If you have trouble sleeping well through the night, consider making a few changes. Try to limit time spent on your phone, TV, and other screens before bedtime. It gives your brain time to relax as you get into a relaxing mood.
Also, avoid caffeine and establish a routine that includes relaxation exercises like yoga and meditation.
7. Cut Back on Salt, Sugar, and Saturated Fats
A salt-packed diet can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart diseases. An adult shouldn’t consume more than 6g of salt every day. When buying packed foods, check the sodium content and ensure that it is less than 0.6g for 100g if possible.
There are lots of ways to flavor your food without harming your heart. Here are a few tips:
- Use coriander to add flavor to your curries
- Black or white pepper and mild chili powder may be great for potatoes and meats
- Use spring onions and dill to flavor oily fish
- Sage and thyme are ideal for flavoring chicken
While there is no concrete proof that sugar can damage your heart, eating too much of it can promote weight gain. It can increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Minimize saturated fats and processed foods, including cakes, pies, fatty meats, and cakes. These increase your cholesterol levels, a known risk for heart diseases.
8. Good Dental Hygiene
Good dental hygiene may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of protecting your heart health. However, flossing daily and regular trips to the dentist could be life-saving. Good dental health may be an indicator of good heart health. The risk factors for periodontal disease are similar to those of heart disease.
The bacteria responsible for gum disease can get into the bloodstream and increase your C-reactive protein. This protein is a common indicator of inflammation in your blood vessels. This inflammation can make you more susceptible to stroke and heart disease.
9. Avoid Sitting for Too Long
Do not sit for prolonged periods. No matter how much you work out, staying seated for a long time is unhealthy, and it’s even compared to being as bad for your health as smoking. The more you sit, the higher your risk of premature death.
Sitting slows down the flow of blood through your body. It lets fatty acids pile up in your blood vessels, eventually causing heart disease. If you spend a lot of time sitting, your body loses its ability to process fats. The production of lipoprotein lipase, which is responsible for breaking down fats, falls by approximately 90 percent.
Sitting for extended periods can also trigger insulin resistance which can cause obesity or Type 2 diabetes, increasing your risk for heart problems.
If you have an office job, get up from your seat and walk around every few hours. It refreshes your brain and reduces your risk of cardiovascular illnesses.
10. Manage High Blood Pressure
When you have hypertension, there is too much force of blood against your arteries. Failure to get treatment puts your kidneys, heart, and brain at risk. Unmanaged high blood pressure can cause memory loss, heart attacks, fluid build-up in your lungs, strokes, and kidney failure.
Signs of high blood pressure include headaches, nausea, and visual problems. However, a blood pressure test is required to diagnose hypertension. You can manage or prevent high blood pressure by observing a healthy diet, exercising, and taking your medication.
Keeping your heart healthy is essential no matter how old you are. Luckily, there are many ways to improve heart health without making significant lifestyle changes.
When unsure, speak with your primary care doctor, who will recommend the best changes to make. Depending on your personal and family history, they may help you avoid future complications.