We often like to fantasize that our heart is the center of our love and feelings, but do you spend enough time focusing on its importance to your physical health?
February is American Heart Month, so now is the perfect time to love your heart back. Read this guide for insight into the importance of heart health and what you can do every day to keep your heart beating strong throughout your life.
The importance of heart health
Your heart works hard, beating about 100,000 times per day and about 35 million times per year. Pretty amazing, right? And because your heart impacts every other bodily function, it’s vital to prioritize your heart’s health. Just as a car cannot run without its engine, you cannot function at your best without a healthy heart.
Heart disease is one of the leading health problems in the United States. This fact is startling, but the reality is that most people neglect to monitor their heart health. If you get proactive about your wellness, you can reduce your chance of being a part of that statistic. Even if you believe you’re too old to make changes, it’s never too late to start caring for your heart and lessen the impact of existing damage. There are a few urgent signs of heart disease to watch out for and speak about with your doctors, such as chronic chest pain and discomfort, poor circulation, and frequent shortness of breath.
Lifestyle and genetic predispositions are the two primary causes of heart disease. Smoking, excessive alcohol and caffeine intake, stress, and diet are all controllable factors. And, even though you cannot control your genetics, you can combat the effects of these risk factors through diet and exercise.
The benefits of a healthy heart
Your well-being and quality of life can be vastly improved if you look after your heart. Increased energy levels, lower blood pressure, reduced joint pain, a reduced risk of certain cancers, and even a longer life expectancy are among the many benefits.
Practically speaking, having a healthy heart makes your day-to-day life more enjoyable. When your heart pumps blood effectively, you can move more freely for extended periods of time. Mobility creates opportunities for children and adults alike. Children can keep up with their friends and explore interests in sports and other high-energy activities. Boosting your heart health can also keep you participating in the activities you love as you age, such as playing with children and grandchildren, partaking in physical hobbies like sports, and exploring new places on foot.
Practical tips and steps to take
Considering your heart’s significance, there are a few steps you can take every day to keep your heart in tip-top shape. However, before you follow these tips, make sure to discuss your heart health with your doctor and disclose a thorough family history of any heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, or other diseases.
You don’t need to completely cut your favorite foods out of your diet, but there are healthy substitutions and additions you should consider putting on your plate to help your heart. Because the heart is a muscle, it needs plenty of healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to work efficiently.
- Limit unhealthy fats (and avoid trans fats entirely). Choose foods that contain healthy fats, such as avocados and salmon. Naturally occurring fats are less likely to clog your arteries.
- Eat plenty of fruit and veggies that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Dark, leafy greens are rich in iron, which also helps your heart.
- Choose whole grains for your bread, pasta, and cereal. These grains are rich in fiber and won’t spike your blood sugar levels as much as processed starches do.
- Reduce your sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams or less a day, but be sure to verify the recommended amount for your age and activity level. You can easily reduce sodium consumption by reviewing your condiments carefully and by minimizing added salt. Instead, replace salty dressings and condiments with olive oil and black pepper or lemon and lime juice to enhance the flavor of your foods.
Exercise is one of the most effective tools for strengthening the heart. Benefits of regular physical activity include keeping your weight under control, warding off potential artery damage from high cholesterol, regulating blood sugar, and fighting high blood pressure that could otherwise lead to a heart attack or stroke.
However, you should only exercise with proper technique to minimize strain on your heart. It’s not necessary to run miles every day to reap the benefits of exercise. Below are a few fun and simple workouts that can help keep your heart fit:
- Swimming engages every part of your body and can be easier than most other workouts for people who experience joint pain or stiffness.
- If you like nature, consider biking on a nearby trail. Biking keeps your heart rate up, provides fresh air, and can be done as fast or as slow as you’d like.
- Stretching and lifting your body weight during yoga trains your heart to pump blood to your muscles more effectively. It’s also a great way to reduce stress, which is a risk factor for heart attacks and arrhythmia.
- Arguably the easiest heart-healthy workout is to walk. Consider taking a thirty-minute walk around your neighborhood or a trail two to three times a week, which is a great lunchtime activity if you work remotely.
Finally, you should remain aware of your heart health. It’s always a good idea to ask your doctor about your heart health regardless of whether you’re experiencing symptoms of heart disease. Pay attention to the following details at your next doctor’s appointment.
- Healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can indicate that it’s time to get serious about diet and lifestyle changes to prevent an onset of heart disease.
- Notice if your weight has shifted significantly for better or worse. However, gaining or losing weight isn’t always the best indicator, so be sure to ask about your body-fat, bone-mass, water, and muscle percentages. Most doctor’s offices have body-composition scales to measure such things, but you can also purchase one for your home to take daily measurements that can be delivered straight to your phone.
- Ask your doctor to assess whether you have a strong or weakened pulse. People with a weaker pulse or elevated resting pulse rate (over 100 bpm) can be at a higher risk of a heart attack. Record your resting pulse rate, and use this as a starting point to track your progress in strengthening your heart.
Implement these tips for your diet and lifestyle to stay in sync with your heart health so that you can continue to live a fulfilling life.
*This article is intended for educational purposes only, not as medical advice. Consult a medical professional for questions about your health.
This article was prepared by ReminderMedia.
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