Simple Changes Your Heart Will Love
Your heart is a vital organ that literally keeps your body functioning. Unfortunately, many of us don't treat it that way. Little things, like daily habits and lifestyle add up and can overwork the heart, leading to damaging effects long term. So, take care of your heart and in turn, your heart will love you for it.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean your health routine has to make a drastic 180 degree turn; instead start to incorporate these changes gradually. When it comes to heart health, it isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Creating sustainable change that you can really stick with is what matters. Utilize these tips to keep your heart feeling stronger for longer.
Eat Foods that are Helpful, Not Hurtful
Whether you realize it or not, the foods you eat have an impact on your body, especially on your heart. Routine consumptions of fatty foods can contribute to a buildup of fat in your arteries. Over time, this can lead to blocked arteries, thereby increasing your risk of a heart attack. Key foods to avoid include:
- Fatty meats: bacon, sausage, marbled beef, chicken and/or turkey with skin
- Whole-milk products: certain ice creams, cheeses, butter, yogurt
- Egg yolks
- Fried foods of any kind
Instead, choose nonfat milk or low-fat dairy products. In addition, choose healthier cooking oils made with unsaturated fats, such as canola and olive oils. Also, try to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily. Not only are they good for you, they'll fill you up.
Get Your Exercise Routine Going
Exercise is definitely the best way to get your heart pumping. This helps your body use oxygen better and makes your heart stronger. It can also help to decrease blood pressure and the amount of fat in your blood.
Start your exercise program slowly, especially if you haven't been active for a while. Begin with short sessions, such as 10-minute walks. Gradually increase the length of your workouts to at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. And don’t be afraid to get creative, there are more ways than one to get your heart pumping.
Watch Your Blood Pressure…And Your Weight
Make sure your blood pressure is in the healthy range or under control; typically it should be equal to or less than 120/80 mm Hg. Your blood pressure is the force against the walls of your blood vessels as blood flows through them. The harder your heart works, the greater your risk is for having a heart attack.
Being overweight or obese is stressful for your entire body and can increase your risk for a multitude of health conditions, one of the major ones being heart disease. If you are overweight, losing weight can make a big impact on heart health. This is due to the fact that reaching and maintaining an ideal weight helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two things that directly impact heart health.
Take Stress Reduction Seriously
Continued and elevated stress has been consistently linked to health problems, including an increased risk for heart disease, cardiac death and death from heart disease. On top of that, many of the common ways people deal with stress, such as overeating and smoking, only further harm heart health.
Of course, many of the stressors we contend with in daily life aren’t going where any time soon, so finding a healthy way to cope with things that cause you stress will significantly improve your overall health and quality of life. Some helpful tips on how to beat serious stress include:
Avoiding unnecessary changes in your life: Try to keep things stable and reliable. Uncertainty often fuels stressful situations.
Quiet your mind: Your mind will often play tricks on you, especially when you’re stressed. Your body will respond to stressful thoughts, real or not. Try writing down your thoughts to work through them instead of accepting them or internalizing them.
Stay in the present: The present moment is rarely what we’re stressed about, it’s often thoughts about a future or past moment that sparks the stress. To keep your mind in the present, center your attention on your breathing, a sound or visual pattern, a repetitive movement, or meditation.
Bravely and aggressively face the stressor: Resist the temptation to ignore whatever is causing stress. By leaving a stressor unchecked, it will run rampant. Instead, carefully think about the problem, write about it to work through it, or talk to friends, family or a co-worker who can relate.
Review your coping responses: Confidence is helpful in fighting stress and it builds on memories of past successes. Think through the times in life where things have gone well, or at least did not go as poorly as you feared they might.
Take action: Commit yourself to a reasonable course of action to deal with whatever is that’s causing you stress. Action is powerful in helping you to reduce stress. In fact, research shows that the body lowers the amount of epinephrine, a powerful stress hormone, when a person shifts into action.
Put yourself in time out: At least once or twice a day, take time to calm down by relaxing. Some suggestions are listening to soothing music, taking a walk, gardening, reading, or exercising. You could also choose to do more formal relaxation like deep breathing or meditation. Whatever it is that you decide to do, make sure it’s something you enjoy.
Follow Your Heart
By making healthful decisions, like eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, you are giving your heart the love and care it needs. In addition to supporting your heart with healthy lifestyle choices, it is important to learn about your risk factors for heart disease.