Tips For a Heart Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy heart should be among our top priorities. It is the pump that delivers oxygen and nutrients to all cells and its diseases are the top reason for deaths.
Your heart is the most important muscle of your body. It pumps blood through your arteries and veins to all parts of your body, providing oxygen and nutrients for your organs to function correctly.
The average adult heart beats 100,000 times per day, and every second, it contracts 40 times, sending blood from the chambers to be pumped into circulation. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and affects more than 17 million people in the United States alone.
Suppose you have known risk factors for heart diseases, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history of coronary artery disease (CAD). In that case, a healthy heart should be your priority in order to prevent future problems with this vital organ.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Aim for healthy body weight by eating healthy foods in appropriate portions and physically active.
If you're already overweight, losing even 5-10 percent of your body weight can help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol - all significant risk factors for heart disease. In addition to losing weight if you're overweight or obese, aim to maintain a healthy BMI by balancing calories with physical activity.
The best way to determine your BMI is through a free online calculator such as this one from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Regular physical activity is essential for a healthy heart lifestyle. Exercise reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides; strengthens the heart muscle and increases its efficiency; and helps reduce weight, which can lead to other health benefits.
If you are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight can improve your health. To lose weight safely and permanently, combine increased physical activity with a reduced-calorie diet. Regular exercise helps keep blood vessels healthy, so they don't narrow down over time. And it helps control weight, another essential factor in preventing heart disease.
When exercising, start slowly and build up to the recommended frequency and duration.
Start slowly and build up to the recommended frequency and duration of exercise over time. Walking is an excellent place to start because it's easy to do and doesn't require any special equipment or training. If you're more active now, you may want to try something more challenging, such as jogging or biking.
You don't have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment - find ways to be active in your daily life:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk rather than drive whenever possible.
- Play with your kids outside, or get up from your desk every hour and stretch during your workday.
If that seems too hard at first, try breaking up large tasks into smaller ones that can be done while standing or walking around - such as washing dishes while watching television or taking walks during breaks at work.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
A heart-healthy diet is low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium. It's also high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least 2 cups of fruit daily and 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables. To limit your saturated fat intake, choose lean meats or poultry with no skin.
- Choose whole grains rather than refined grains. Eat 6 ounces (about one slice) of whole-grain bread or two pieces of whole-grain ready-to-eat cereal for breakfast every day. Eat whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oats, quinoa, barley, and buckwheat instead of white pasta and white rice. Choose brown rice instead of white rice when dining out.
- Limit fat in your diet. To no more than 20 grams per day if you are trying to lose weight; if not trying to lose weight, then it should be less than 10 grams per day. Saturated fats should be limited to 7% of total calories; monounsaturated fats should be increased to 10%; polyunsaturated fats should be 10%; trans fats should be avoided altogether.
Pay Attention to Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that travels through the bloodstream. The liver and other organs make it, but it's also found in certain foods. Cholesterol is used to make cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that help digest fats.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls as it flows through the body. Blood pressure varies throughout the day; its more common measurements are systolic and diastolic (the top and bottom numbers). High blood pressure has no symptoms but can damage arteries over time.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure increase the risk of developing heart disease. Your doctor will most likely recommend a diet low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other good foods. Limit your intake of alcohol because it can raise blood pressure and triglyceride levels (a type of fat in the blood).
Pack Your Diet with Fiber-Rich Foods
Fiber helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels while improving digestion, keeps you feeling full, and is essential for your overall health.
But how do you get more fiber in your diet? Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Eat more whole grains. Whole grains are a good source of fiber and other nutrients your body needs. You can find a variety of whole grains in most supermarkets, such as 100% whole wheat loaves of bread and portions of pasta, brown rice, and oats. Add whole grains to your favorite recipes by swapping out half the refined flour or white rice called for in a recipe with whole wheat flour or brown rice (or even quinoa!).
- Snack on fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber - especially vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and carrots. They also provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that protect cells from damage and help regulate blood sugar levels, so you feel fuller longer after eating these foods.
- Add more beans to meals like soups and salads. Beans are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, so they will help lower cholesterol levels and keep you feeling full longer than other foods you might eat instead of. You can sprout beans at home or buy them grown at natural food stores or farmers' markets (if available). Sprouting beans reduces their phytic acid content, making them easier to digest and allowing more nutrients from the bean to be absorbed by your body.
Control Portion Size
The concept of portion control is simple: eat less food, and you'll lose weight. However, knowing what constitutes a portion size is not always easy.
Your food at each meal depends on your age, weight, and gender. An average adult should consume about 1,500 calories daily from three meals and two snacks.
Smoking damages your heart and blood vessels. It raises blood pressure increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Many people struggle with portion control because they don't know how many calories are in the foods they are eating. A calorie is a unit of energy - it tells you how much energy your body gets from a particular food or beverage.
The following tips can help you control portion sizes:
- Use smaller plates.
- Use smaller bowls.
- Eat slowly.
- Use small serving utensils (forks instead of spoons, knives serving spoons).
Smoking damages your heart and blood vessels. It raises blood pressure and cholesterol levels, leading to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Smoking also reduces oxygen to your heart, so your heart must work harder to pump blood. This can increase the risk of heart failure. Here is a great article on How to quit smoking.
Reduce Salt Intake
Salt is a significant contributor to high blood pressure or hypertension. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
The recommended daily salt intake is 6g (or 1.5g sodium). However, it would help if you tried to cut back on salt as much as possible. The amount of salt in food varies widely. It's best to check the label for sodium content and avoid those high in salt.
Some foods naturally contain more sodium than others, such as bacon, cheese, and ready meals. Reducing how much of these foods you eat can help reduce your overall salt intake. You can also reduce the amount of processed meat you eat by eating more fresh meat. But remember that fresh meat contains some sodium, so you still need to be careful about how much you eat.
Drink More Water
Water is an essential Lifestyle tips for a healthy heart beverage to consume for a healthy heart. Drinking adequate amounts of water helps prevent dehydration, which can cause heart problems and high blood pressure. It helps to flush out toxins and other unwanted substances from your body.
Eat More Fish and Avoid More Red Meat and Processed Meat
Fish is an essential part of a heart-healthy diet. Fish is low in saturated fat, high in omega-3 fatty acids, and a good source of protein and other nutrients. Omega-3s have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation in the body.
Some examples of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon and albacore tuna. Other types of seafood, such as shrimp, scallops, and tilapia, are also good choices because they can be prepared without adding a lot of extra fat or calories.
Drinking adequate amounts of water helps prevent dehydration, which can cause high blood pressure.
Limit your intake of red meat such as beef, pork, or lamb. These meats may increase your risk of developing heart disease. Red meats are also high in saturated fats, raising blood cholesterol levels. Processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and hot dogs also contain high amounts of sodium, increasing your risk for heart disease.
With heart disease being a giant killer, this article above can help inform you about ways to reduce the risk for heart disease. Plus, it can provide tips for adopting a heart-healthy diet, controlling cholesterol levels, and exercising regularly.