3 Simple Ways To Improve Your Heart Health This Year

In 2020, the horrific toll of the COVID-19 epidemic had overshadowed mainly the condition that remains the leading cause of death worldwide: heart disease. Last year, at least twice as many people died from cardiovascular disease as those who died from the novel coronavirus complications.

While the virus’s challenges are new, specialists have been examining heart disease for years – and all can get help from this knowledge. Lifestyle habits that maintain your heart healthy can also make you less prone to severe complications from infections like influenza and COVID-19, according to experts.

So, what exactly are these heart healthy habits? They are referred to as “Life’s Simple 7.” Basically, they are:

  • Control Your Cholesterol
  • Monitor Your Blood Pressure
  • Eat Healthy Foods
  • Stay Active
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight
  • Quit Smoking
  • Control Stress

Control Your Cholesterol: High cholesterol levels play a part in worsening heart health. The more cholesterol circulating in the blood, the more difficult it can be for the heart to pump that blood properly. This cholesterol may also contribute towards plaque buildup in the arteries and results in developing atherosclerosis. High cholesterol also increases the risk of heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks.

Monitor Your Blood Pressure: Keep in mind that high blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease. So, work closely with your physician to monitor it. Regular workout, a healthier diet, and coping with stress are great ways to maintain your blood pressure low. Your doctor can even recommend medications to help you maintain your heart health.

Eat Healthy Foods: Eating a healthy diet can help lower your risk of heart disease. A heart healthy diet includes foods low in trans and saturated fats, sodium (salt), and added sugars. Heart healthy foodstuffs include high-fiber foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) and certain fats (such as the fats in fish & olive oil). Guacamole and salmon are also rich in heart-healthy fats.

Stay Active: Physical activity can help prevent heart disease. Adults need a minimum of 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week. This includes brisk walking, dancing, and cycling. If you are starting, try walking for 10 minutes a day – for a few days, each week. Then incorporate more physical activity over time.

Maintain a Healthy Weight: People who are obese or overweight have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and type-2 diabetes. If you are obese or overweight, losing just a 10-pound weight can reduce your cardiovascular disease risk.

Quit Smoking: Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease, and smokers are nearly twice as likely to have heart attacks as people who have never smoked. Not only does it damage the lining of your blood vessels, but it also decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood and increases blood pressure.

Control Stress: When you are under a lot of stress, you are more likely to have a cigarette, get fewer or no physical activity, and drink higher than a moderate quantity of alcohol – all of which are associated with cardiac problems. Stress management can help prevent serious health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression. Deep breathing and meditation are great ways to relax, cope with stress and improve your heart health.

Choosing Only 3 Steps to Jump-Start Your Heart Health This Year

But seven steps can seem overwhelming or even confusing. So, let’s make it even easier by focusing on a few. Unfortunately, this is not the case with steps three and four. Most people do not eat enough plant foods such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits.

And few people get the recommended amount of exercise. That is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) per week plus muscle-strengthening activity (such as weightlifting) for at least two days per week. 

Obviously, not everyone needs to lose weight or lower their blood sugar. The reality is, most people do not smoke, so step six does not apply to a lot of people. Of course, improving your diet and exercise will help you lose weight (Step five). But did you know that better eating and increased physical activity can also help with steps two, five, and seven?

Start with a small change and then add on:

In 2021, do a favor to your heart by doing these three things.

1) Make Small Changes to Your Diet: 

  • Swap meat for beans in any of your favorite dinner recipes. 
  • Eat a slice of whole wheat bread instead of white bread. 
  • Try a vegetable you have never eaten before.

2) Perform A Heart Rate Boosting Exercise For 10 Minutes: 

  • Take a brisk walk across your area.
  • Get on a treadmill or other exercise machine.
  • Do some simple movements, such as a combination of jumping jacks, squats, leg raises, and arm circles.

3) Know Your Numbers:

It is easy to trace these four core values. Stand on the scales, then use your weight and height to calculate your BMI (body mass index). Take your blood pressure (many pharmacies have machinery). Check your medical records for the latest blood test results, including cholesterol and fasting blood sugar levels.

These are the default goals:

  • Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL
  • Fasting blood sugar less than 100 mg/dl
  • Body mass index between 18.5 and 25
  • Blood pressure lower than 120/80 mm/Hg

It is important to remember that your individual goals may vary based on your age, medical and family history. Talk to your doctor about this, then work in coordination to achieve or maintain these four values within the optimal range for you. This may include taking medication.

In the meantime, start making small adjustments to your nutrition and workout routine. Gradually adding more heart healthy foods and spending some time exercising can make a difference in your heart and overall health.

The Takeaway

Your heart is the powerhouse for your entire body, so it is essential to give it the care and attention it needs. If you pay attention to your heart health, your whole body gets the benefit. When your heart is healthy, all aspects of your physical health are also considered. A healthy heart means a better quality of life and enables you to function optimally.

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