Your heart works hard to constantly pump blood around your body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells and removing waste products. So, the least you can do is look after it.
Luckily, there’s a wide variety of things you can do to make sure your heart is kept happy. From exercise to changing the way you eat, it’s never too late to incorporate some heart healthy habits into your lifestyle.
Lace up those sneakers
You don’t have to start running marathons tomorrow, but you need to get your heart pumping every day. There are many studies that prove the preventative effects of exercise against heart disease.
Most adults should participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate-vigorous (aerobic) physical activity at least five times a week to help stave off heart disease.
One study found that cardiac rehabilitation and exercise therapy benefitted seniors with coronary heart disease.
Whether it’s a fast-paced walk, gardening or dancing around your kitchen, anything that gets your heart rate up is beneficial. Regular physical activity will also help burn off fat, manage your weight and improve your mood.
Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to live longer. If you are a smoker, you are twice as likely to have a heart attack as a non-smoker. Even if you’ve been smoking for years, it is never too late to quit and start letting your body recover.
Your risk of having a heart attack starts to reduce the moment you stop smoking.
Limit alcohol intake
Most people already know the dangerous effects alcohol can have on your liver, but there is still little awareness about what heavy drinking can do to your heart.
Heavy drinking can increase levels of both cholesterol and triglycerides. High levels of these two substances are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and strokes.
Alcohol can also damage the heart muscle, increase blood pressure and lead to weight gain.
Opt for whole grains
Anything in whole-grain ‘kernel’ form, including whole-grain wheat flour, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and buckwheat, is a heart-healthier choice than refined products.
Eat healthy fats
Oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocado and other good fats all help to keep the heart strong. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Limit unhealthy fats
Limiting saturated and trans fats in your diet in an important step that can reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary heart disease.
Skip the salt
Reducing the amount of salt you add to food at the table or while cooking is a good start. However, a lot of the salt we consume comes from processed foods such as soups, baked goods and frozen dinners. Eating fresh food and checking food labels can help you cut down your salt intake.
Steer clear of sugar
A diet full of sweets and processed foods with added sugar has been associated with a greater risk of heart disease. The human body doesn’t need sugar to function properly, and the extra calories often go straight to your waistline.
Eat more fruit and veg
Keep your heart as healthy as possible by simply eating more of the foods you know are good for you. All fruits and vegies are rich sources of nutrients, vitamins and fibre. So, remember, eat the rainbow.
Learn to manage stress
Stress can have a profound impact on your heart health. Take a little time each day to focus on yourself and do something you love. Yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises are all easy ways to ward off stress and stay calm.
Check your family history
Understandably, knowing heart problems run in your family can be worrying. Family history is what’s called an ‘unmodifiable risk factor’ but that doesn’t mean future heart problems are inevitable. Lifestyle measures are the most important thing anyone can do.
Don’t wait until you have a health scare to start
There’s growing evidence on how our diet and lifestyle in childhood impacts health in later life – so it’s never too early to start encouraging healthy habits. Plus, the build-up of plaque in our arteries develops over years and prevention is always better than cure.
Indulge every now and then
It’s not all about cutting things out. Some studies have shown wine, chocolate and lean meat may be beneficial for heart health in moderation.
Wine, especially red wine, contains resveratrol, which is beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Cocoa’s polyphenols are also good for the heart, as well as being a strong antioxidant.
And lean meat, eaten every now and again, contains lots of essential nutrients and may pose no extra risk to your blood vessels.
While you definitely don’t want to overdo it on these things, it may be good to know that it’s still possible to enjoy the things you love while looking after your heart.
How do you keep your heart healthy and happy every day? Do you have a family history of heart disease? Why not share your favourite heart-friendly snack in the comments section below?
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