As February presses on, we continue to recognize American Heart Month. With heart disease remaining the leading cause of death in the United States, it’s important to always revisit your lifestyle habits and ask if they are supporting a healthy heart, body and mind.
How to Keep a Heart-healthy Lifestyle
1) Know Your Health History
Some people are more at risk for heart problems and related conditions than others. If you have living relatives, ask them if they know anything about your family’s health history. Share this information with your doctor who can talk to you about any genetic risks.
2) Eat a Healthy Diet
Healthy food choices are key, but you don’t have to be a perfectionist with your diet. Simple changes can make a big difference. For starters, load up on fibrous foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes. Soluble fiber is known to help lower bad cholesterol. Aim for 10-25 grams of soluble fiber per day.
Next, work on limiting sodium, trans fats, saturated fats, processed foods and added sugar. These include things like fatty cuts of meat, fried foods and desserts/sweets. Instead, opt for healthy fats like olive oil, salmon, avocados, nuts and seeds.
3) Move More, Move Often
Exercise strengthens muscle, including the heart muscle. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week, plus muscle-strengthening activities at least two days each week.
Physical activity doesn’t have to be complicated. Even something as simple as a walk on your lunch break or a quick swim in a pool can be beneficial. When you’re at home watching TV, you can even lift hand weights and do other stationary exercises.
4) Quit Smoking
If you’re a smoker, one of the best things you can do for your heart is to quit. Smoking increases heart rate, tightens major arteries and can cause an irregular heart rhythm, all of which make your heart work harder. It can also raise blood pressure and put you at risk of stroke.
5) Manage Stress and Sleep More
Stress increases your cortisol levels, raises blood pressure and contributes to weight gain, all of which can lead to heart disease. It can also lead to other unhealthy habits like emotional eating and a lack of sleep. Sleep is crucial for helping your body recover and reset. To unwind, try cognitive thinking strategies and do activities that relax the body and mind. This can include yoga, reading, breathing exercises and physical activity.
6) Talk to Your Healthcare Provider
Your healthcare team is a great resource for keeping your heart healthy. They’ll help you get regular lab work and speak with you about your risks. They can also offer treatment advice and prescribe medication if necessary.
Your Weight and Your Heart
Thankfully, heart health and weight management are closely related. By incorporating the healthy lifestyle habits mentioned above, you may also find it easier to lose weight or keep it off. A lower weight in and of itself can reduce strain on your heart and lower your risk for heart disease.
To learn more about weight and heart health, CLICK HERE.