7 Ways to Love Your Heart
With Valentine’s Day upon us and love in the air - let’s take a quick moment to recall how to love our own hearts. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death among men and women. What might come as a surprise is that many factors related to risk are actually modifiable. It is true that unavoidable elements such as your age, sex (males have a greater risk) and family history have a part to play, but every person still has control over various life habits which increase one’s risk for early progression of the disease. Show your heart some love by providing the care it deserves.
- Recognize your heart may need to go on a diet: Certain components in food can have major negative impacts on the heart and vascular structures (directly or indirectly) such as excess saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, and processed sugar. Trans fat is exceptionally high-risk as it can present negative effects on lipoprotein particle density. Skip the bar food to be heart friendly and provide it the high-fiber foods - whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lentils and legumes it deserves. While you’re at it, add in the healthy fats found in cold-water fish, nuts, seeds and avocados.
- Your heart prefers the no-smoking section: Smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease via the acceleration of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Simply managing to put the cigarette down as a single change can have one of the greatest impacts on your risk for heart disease and other major health issues. If you don’t smoke avoid others who do. Second hand smoke is also a killer.
- Move it: Seriously, you need to accumulate at least 3 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week as well as strength training to keep your heart strong. Regular exercise can help improve your blood sugar regulation and manage your blood pressure – both issues associated with diseases that impact the heart.
- Is it true if you don’t use it - you lose it? Not when it comes to fat. Creeping weight gain stresses the heart so even modest reductions in fat provides relief for your heart for a number of reasons. Hypertension is directly tied to size. Reach obese levels and metabolic and hormonal disorders lead to chronic inflammatory disease. Type 2 diabetes will soon follow – and those who are diabetic are 2-4x more likely to have a heart attack or stroke when compared to non-diabetics.
- Loosen up: Chronic stress is a killer too. Unmanaged stress can strain your heart through the actions of sympathetic hormones and resultant increases in blood pressure. The easiest way to reduce stress is to avoid the situations that cause it. Realize a large degree of stress is dependent upon perspective and how one allows uncontrollable factors to impact mental well-being.
- You are not a machine, get your zzzz’s: Lack of sleep adds to your overall stress levels throughout the day which makes your heart work harder than necessary. When you are sleepy throughout the day you respond to stressors with greater cardiovascular and hormonal responses which force your heart rate to elevate much quicker than if you got adequate sleep.
- Don’t skip your meds: This is obvious but very important. If you have been prescribed certain medications such as statins for cholesterol or beta blockers for high blood pressure you need to keep within your physician’s guidelines as these help protect your heart from additional harm.