Of all the vital organs in your body, your heart is the MVP. This hard-working muscle pumps around 2,000 gallons of blood through your body every day. Needless to say, your heart loves you, but are you reciprocating? Unfortunately, cardiac disease is one of the most common afflictions in men 45 years of age and over, and in women 55 and over. Triggers include genetics, lifestyle, and diet choices. Let’s touch on some ways to say “I love you!” back to your heart.
LET’S GET PHYSICAL
Regular cardiovascular exercise keeps the heart muscle strong, improves blood flow, and may help reduce plaque buildup in the arteries. It also combats obesity, a leading cause of the trio of chronic diseases mentioned above. Just 20 to 30 minutes of daily moderate exercise can increase your heart’s strength. Even small steps make a difference, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking a few blocks after a meal.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GOOD FATS
We generally think dietary fats are a big no-no for heart health, but saturated fats like the ones found in red meat and trans fats in bakery products and junk food aren’t the kind we’re talking about here. Many raw foods have naturally occurring essential fatty acids, especially omega-3. While touting the title of the number one brain food, omega-3 is equally important for heart health as it is known to reduce inflammation. This miracle fat is invaluable because our bodies can’t produce it naturally. In addition to eating certain fish and taking supplements, there are plenty of plant-based sources, such as walnuts, winter squash, flax seed, and wild berries, which contain omega-3. Just a handful of each can give your daily diet the boost it needs.
MAKE IT MANAGEABLE
Perhaps the most difficult part of starting any new healthy habit is exactly that—starting. Lifestyle changes can be overwhelming and leave feeling you more stressed than ever. Make it easier by keeping track of small changes, increasing your habits one by one, and using accountability. Surround yourself with people who support heart-healthy ways, and maybe even get a buddy to join in for a bit of friendly competition.
HEALTHY PINK GUMS, HAPPY HEART
As if we didn’t need another reason to keep our teeth and gums in tip-top shape, studies have found links between oral health and coronary disease, as well as other chronic diseases. One reason is due to the passage of harmful bacteria from the mouth into the body. Keeping up with dental appointments is important to help reduce the risk of secondary illness from poor oral hygiene. At best, flossing and brushing twice a day could keep heart and other health problems away. Now that’s something to smile about!
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, CHOLESTEROL, AND DIABETES
What do these three things have in common? Heart disease. They can put you at higher risk for conditions such as atherosclerosis—fatty buildup in the arteries that disrupts the regular flow of blood, increasing the chance of clots that can lead to cardiac arrest or stroke. But enough doom and gloom. The key is making positive changes that help your heart fight the good fight.
GIVE IT A REST
Studies have shown that people who get a well-rounded night’s sleep (seven hours) have lower blood pressure, lower levels of inflammation, and better cell regeneration, all things your heart will thank you for.
JUST SAY NO TO TOBACCO
Smoking is hard on the lungs, but it’s also just as bad for the arteries. Tobacco use not only damages the lining of the arteries long term, but delivers immediate risks worth taking into consideration. Smoking puts excess stress on your heart by reducing the amount of oxygen in the body and stimulating adrenaline, which forces your heart to work much harder and can raise blood pressure.