8 Tips for Heart Health
January 6, 2015
They say there’s no cure for a broken heart, but we disagree. Doctors estimate that 4 out of 5 cardiac arrests are preventable! Here are 8 steps you can take today to encourage cardiac health and even help heal past damage!
Well Balanced Diet
There will always be mixed messages from experts preaching “eat this, not that,” but when you boil all of the chatter down, a heart healthy diet is simple. It’s rich in grains, fruits, vegetables and fiber. Omega-3 fatty acids (the types found in salmon, avocado and nuts), are your friends, and sodium-laden fast foods are not. It’s all about moderation—of course you can have a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate, just not the whole bottle and a piece of cake to accompany! If you stick to the fresh, lean and homemade foods you enjoy, and limit your high fat or junk food, you’re doing a great job.
No one wants to do it, but the reality is, exercise is an integral part of heart attack prevention. Even if you aren’t quite at “fighting weight,” you can still incorporate good exercise habits into your busy lifestyle. Walking is one of the best ways to get in your 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 3-5 times weekly. If you need to lose weight, up the time to 60 minutes and decrease your meal portions and you’ll be on your way to a healthier heart. Remember, taking the stairs and housework counts! Every little bit helps.
Quit it! Or at least decrease the number of cigarettes you smoke daily. Smoking not only exponentially increases your risk of heart disease, it also raises your blood pressure, lowers good cholesterol and puts you at risk for blood clots! Consider this: in the 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure drops to normal levels. In the weeks and months after your last cigarette, you lung function improves. And in just one year after quitting, your risk of heart disease is reduced to half that of a smokers!
Check your Genes
If there is a family history of heart disease, the best thing you can do is find out as much as possible about the causes. Genetics does not necessarily mean destiny! If you are armed with the knowledge that high cholesterol is your biggest risk factor, you ask your doctor about medication to keep cholesterol at healthy levels. Maybe you discover that on your dad’s side, the heart disease was caused by factors like obesity or smoking, both of which you can target specifically in your preventative lifestyle changes.
Know your Numbers
Once you’ve been screened for risk factors, you can target specific numbers and set goals for improving them with your doctor. For instance, if your triglycerides are high, you can change your diet and waistline and watch them drop to healthy levels by 30 to 50%! Being aware of your own specific areas of risk will help you to tailor your lifestyle changes accordingly. Ask your doctor about your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides, and also what good goal numbers are for you.
It has been proven that hobbies, dancing, and laughing all have one thing in common—they reduce stress! Sometimes we take for granted how harmful stress can be to our lives, but the truth is, stress can damage the endothelium, or the lining of our blood cells, increasing our risk of heart trouble. Visiting with friends, spending time with family, joining a book club or knitting circle, and even seeing a funny movie all count as heart healthy activities!
Adopt a Dog
The National Institutes of Health state that dog ownership lowers the risk of heart disease. They are proven to lower stress, keep owners more active, and add to quality of life! Allergic? There are many low maintenance, non-shedding breeds, such as Poodles, Schnauzers, Portuguese water dogs, Shih-tzus, Maltese, Lhasa Apsos and more! Many of the smaller breeds don’t require too much exercise, which may be perfect for your lifestyle. They are happy as can be with a stroll in the park, and even happier to snuggle on your lap when you’re home. Not a dog person? Owning a cat will help reduce stress, as well.
It may surprise you, but studies have shown that dental health directly correlates with heart health! It’s time to start taking your oral hygiene more seriously if you are at risk for heart disease. Periodontal disease can lead to harmful plaque causing bacteria making its way into the bloodstream when brushing and flossing, and certain oral bacteria have been known to harm blood vessels by releasing toxins, leading to blood clots. Be sure to speak with your dentist if you are at risk, and take action to maintain impeccable oral health.
What steps have you taken to improve your cardiac health? Were your lifestyle changes effective in reducing your risk of heart attack and other heart disease? Share your story in the comments below!
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