What’s the most important muscle you should think about keeping in great shape? No… it’s not your 6 pack. It’s YOUR HEART. “Over 800,000 Americans died from heart attacks and other cardiac illnesses last year,” reports preventive cardiologist Lori Mosca, MD, founder of Columbia University Medical Center’s Preventive Cardiology Program. “Sadly but most of these deaths, at least four out of five, were preventable.” Even if you are genetically predispositioned for heart disease, you can cut your risks dramatically by pursuing a heart healthy lifestyle. Take these few key tips from heart experts to keep your heart in great shape for the rest of your life.
Regular exercise is a must for keeping your heart in good condition. But you don’t need to spend hours at the gym to do it. Getting the exercise your heart needs is easier than it sounds. If you’re not overweight, just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more times a week is all you need to maintain your heart’s health. Cramped for time? Even15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night is fine! Not only will exercise help you keep your heart in good shape, it will also help you control your blood pressure, prevent diabetes, and maintain healthy cholesterol levels. What form of exercise you choose to do isn’t important… just GET moving to improve your heart’s health!
A well balanced diet is KEY to keeping your heart healthy. Don’t get confused by fad diets and the media’s mixed messages about “good” and “bad” foods for your heart. It’s easy to eat smart if you follow national guidelines from accredited organizations like the American Heart Association. These experts recommend a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fiber, and whole grains for optimal heart health. They advise Americans to watch out for saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. It’s best to moderate your diet so that only 30% of your daily calories come from these fat sources. An easy way to make sure that your diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, and low in saturated fats, is to divide your plate at each meal. Try a balanced dish of half vegetables, 1/4 high-quality protein (like legumes — terrific sources of protein and great for a healthy heart!), and 1/4 for fish or a lean meat. Also be careful to watch your SALT intake and limit how much salt you shake onto your plate. Eating a heart healthy diet is simple when you eat whole, balanced, meals! Follow these basic tips and your diet will be full of the healthy nutrients your heart will fall in love with.
Chronic stress can place a lot of damage on your healthy body and put you at a huge risk for heart illnesses. Stress brings about physical, mental, and emotional strain that can cause a lot of pain to the heart. Chronic stress can increase the heart rate and the rate of blood flow causing high blood pressure. It is best to manage your stress and try to live a balanced lifestyle. Make sure to exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get enough sleep to keep stress from affecting your heart!
No Ifs, Ands Or BUTTS!
The single most dangerous thing you can do for your heart is smoke. Not only does cigarette smoking increase your risk for heart disease, it also increases blood pressure, the tendency for blood clotting, and decreases levels the healthy HDL cholesterol. A “pack a day” smoker has more than twice the risk of a heart attack than someone who doesn’t smoke. If quitting cold turkey sounds scary, start small by cutting back a little. Even eliminating one cigarette a day can make a difference. Begin with one less cigarette a day and keep going till you’ve quit entirely.
The good news? Once you’ve quit it wont take long for your heart to get back at it. “Twenty minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.” Says Mosca. “Two weeks to three months later, your circulation and lung function improve. Just one year after quitting, your excess risk of coronary heart disease is just half that of a smoker’s.” Give up the smoking habit and get your strong heart back!
Achieve a Healthy Weight
While a number on a scale is certainly subjective, carrying extra weight is a major risk factor for heart disease, especially if you carry your weight in your midsection. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains even losing just 5% of your body weight can lower your risk for heart disease. Click HERE for my top ten tips on a healthy, happy weight.
Pass on the Salt:
Be mindful of sodium — a main culprit in processed and packaged foods — that can contribute to high blood pressure, a heart disease risk factor. Instead, flavor foods with fresh herbs and spices; adding antioxidants instead of salt.
Know your Family Tree
Unfortunately there are risk factors for heart disease that you can’t control. Family history and your genetics play a huge role in what health conditions you may be at risk for. Families can share a predisposition to heart disease both because they have shared genes and a shared lifestyle. Sure you got your genes from mom and dad… but you were also influenced by their fitness and nutritional habits. The most important thing to understand about a healthy heart is that many of the factors that put you at risk for disease lie within your power to control. You may have inherited a family history of heart disease, but you can still do your best to manage your diet and stay active to keep your other risk factors low. Just remember, you can do something about your risk: genetics is not destiny. Eat right, stay active, and visit your doctor for regular checkups.
The number one killer in America today is a disease that can be prevented. Don’t let heart disease come between you and healthy living! Develop a heart healthy wellness plan that keeps your heart in top shape. Focus on eating a healthy diet, exercising, quitting smoking, and stressing less. And be sure to visit your doctor for regular check-ups. You CAN prevent heart disease with these tips on living heart healthy!
Is YOUR heart STRONG or a ticking time bomb? Find out by taking this quick ONLINE QUIZ . for a heart risk assessment!
I challenge you to focus on fitness as a way to keep your HEART HEALTHY…. instead of a way to look hot in your skinny jeans. How do you take care of your heart with your fitness routine? Are you cooking something HEART HEALTHY for the menu tonight?
Sending my LOVE to you all for a happy and HEALTHY Heart 🙂