5 Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Maintaining a healthy heart is an important part of taking care of yourself. Regular health checkups and living a healthy lifestyle are the best ways to keep your heart healthy. Here are five specific ways to achieve good heart health.
1. Eat a heart-healthy diet.
A diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, the No.1 cause of death according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research shows a heart-healthy diet can reduce your heart disease risk by as much as 80%. If you're already at high risk for certain cardiac conditions or have been diagnosed with heart disease, a heart-healthy diet is an absolute must.
Aim for foods low in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar, such as fresh produce and whole grains. Eating heart-healthy foods can prevent or help manage high blood pressure and keep cholesterol levels in the healthy zone — which have a direct effect on your heart health.
Add these heart-healthy foods to your grocery list:
- Brown rice or quinoa
- Fresh fruits, such as apples, oranges, bananas, and pears
- Fresh vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, and leafy greens
- Frozen fruits and vegetables without added sugar or salt
- Lean chicken and turkey without the skin
- Low-fat dairy products
- Salmon, nuts, nut butters, and other sources of healthy fats
- Vegetable oils, such as olive oil or canola
- Whole grain bread, pasta, and oats
Cut back on:
- Cereals high in sugar
- Packaged or prepared foods
- Processed lunch meat, hot dogs, and breakfast meats
- Red meat
- White bread, rice, and pastas
Regular physical activity reduces your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. When combined with a healthy diet, exercise also helps you manage your weight — obesity is one of the greatest risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity a week, which is about 2.5 hours.
When it comes to exercise, consistency is key. Exercising daily is more important than what type of activity you do. Even low-intensity exercise can help. Find ways to work more movement into your daily life: Take the stairs. Park the car further away and walk longer distances. Stretch your body during the day.
If you need more inspiration, try these:
- Brisk walking
- Swimming or water aerobics
You can also talk with a primary care provider to determine the right form of exercise for you.
3. Stress less to live longer.
Stress is a part of our everyday lives. Understanding how you experience stress and learning how to manage it also helps to keep your heart healthy.
During a stressful event, the body releases a hormone called adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Managing stress with unhealthy habits, such as smoking, eating junk food, and drinking alcohol, causes additional damage to your heart.
Managing stress is also important for your mental health, which can affect your heart. Chronic stress can lead to depression and anxiety, which over time can cause calcium deposits in the arteries, increase your risk for metabolic diseases, and create other problems that cause heart disease.
Here are a few ways to reduce stress:
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise.
- Get a good night's sleep. Adults need seven to nine hours a night.
- Make time for hobbies and activities you enjoy.
- Spend time with family and friends.
If chronic stress is a problem for you, consult a mental health professional, who can offer valuable guidance and support.
4. Avoid alcohol and tobacco products.
Although some research indicates small amounts of alcohol may offset some forms of cardiac inflammation, the benefits are quickly overshadowed by alcohol's long-term negative effects.
Research shows even moderate drinking can increase the risk for coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and poor circulation. Alcohol is also high in calories and can lead to poor sleep. Cutting back or eliminating alcohol from your diet contributes to a healthier heart.
Similarly, smoking and tobacco use are bad for your overall health. Smoking is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths related to cardiovascular disease. Smoking causes narrowing of the arteries and arterial inflammation, and it contributes to plaque buildup.
Damage to the heart caused by smoking can be reversed. Quitting smoking allows for your heart to heal and prevents further damage.
5. Keep your heart healthy with routine primary care.
Attending regular primary care appointments is an important tool for reducing your risk for heart disease and managing overall health. A primary care provider can monitor your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, all of which have a direct impact on your heart health.
It's important to share any changes in your health with your primary care provider, no matter how mild they might seem. A primary care provider who's familiar with your health history can make informed referrals to specialists, including a cardiologist, if necessary.
The Reid Health Heart & Vascular Center is by your side. Find a location near you.