Americans are more unhealthy than ever. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are increasing at alarming rates, with heart disease leading the pack. In 2008, 616,000 people died of heart disease but last year, that number was up to 787,000 people. That’s almost one in every three deaths. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. It is important to take care of yourself so that you decrease your risk for heart disease. Today I have Darci Maxwell who wants to share with you ways to have a healthier heart.
Eating healthy is the best way to ensure that you will have a healthy heart. It is important to have a positive attitude about eating healthy. Look at healthy eating as an understanding of which foods you should eat more of rather than banning food from your diet. The first step in eating healthier is to control your portion size. Use a smaller plate or bowl when eating so that you end up eating less. Put more fruits and vegetables in your diet (at least 50% of your plate should be filled with fruits and veggies), just make sure that they are heart-healthy options like fresh fruit rather than canned fruit packed in sugar. Switch to whole grains and avoid starches. Eat plenty of healthy fat such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (found in olive oil and fish, respectively, and avoid saturated fat and trans fat. And of course, reduce your sodium intake.
Quit Smoking or Drinking
If you drink or smoke, your chances of developing heart disease increases significantly. This blog says that even moderate drinking can actually double the risk of heart attacks and strokes (however, light alcohol consumption might actually have a positive effect on your cardiovascular health). Smoking also increases the risk of heart disease. It increases heart rate, raises blood pressure, adds dangerous chemicals into your body that are harmful to your heart, and can create irregularities in the heartbeat. For the sake of your heart, give up your bad habits and live a healthier life.
Many studies have shown that there is a link between stress and heart attacks. Living a stressful life releases stress hormones such as cortisol in your body, raises blood pressure, and can cause you to overeat (or eat junk), decrease exercise, and mess with your sleep schedule. Stress also can change the way that blood clots, increasing the risk of a heart attack. If you live a stressful life, it may be time for a change. First, identify the stressors in your life (finances, illness, work, relationships, legal problems, etc. are just a few examples). Then, find a way to limit those stressors and relax. Join a yoga class, write in your journal, meditate, or relax by the side of the pool. Find something that helps you calm down, and do it often.
Exercising is another great way to keep your heart healthy and strong (if not one of the best). Exercising decreases your chance of developing heart disease by 50%. You should get 15-30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. If you don’t have a regular exercise program, start one! Decide how you would like to start exercising, whether you’d like to start going to the gym, join a class, or just go on walks around the block. Your exercise plan should include aerobic exercise, stretching, and strength training. Great heart healthy exercises include: jogging, swimming, biking, hiking, dancing, yoga, and stair climbing. Just make sure that you do a warmup and cool down before and after your exercise.
Get Enough Sleep
It is important to get enough sleep for many reasons, but to keep your heart healthy. Not getting enough sleep or getting poor sleep is linked to high blood pressure. While how much sleep someone needs is different for every person, you should strive to get between six and eight hours every night. If you have a hard time sleeping, try the following tips: exercise more, avoid caffeine, and alcohol for up to 5 hours before bed, develop a bedtime routine, turn off electronic devices an hour before bed, and find a way to clear your mind so that you can fall asleep. You may also want to read our post on why you should be getting enough sleep.
Let’s discuss: What ways are you ensuring that you have a healthy heart?