Here are nine things you can do (and not do) to make your heart healthier, which could lead to improving your overall health.
Do: Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
Pick fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish as the largest large part of your diet. Switch to fat-free and low-fat dairy products. Avoid foods and beverages with added sugars.
Limit these: Salt, sugar, processed carbohydrates, alcohol, saturated fat (it’s found in red meat and full-fat dairy products), and trans-fat (found in fried fast food, chips, and baked goods).
Be mindful of portion sizes. Eat slowly and only until you’re full.
Don’t: Smoke or Use Tobacco
Smoking can permanently damage your heart and blood vessels which can lead to heart disease. Smoking can also cause heart disease by changing your blood chemistry which leads to plaque in the major blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body.
Avoid second-hand smoke, too.
Do: Stay Active
Physical activity helps control your weight. It also reduces the chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on the heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
If you haven’t been active for a while, you may need to slowly work your way up to these goals, but in general, you should aim for at least:
- 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking at a brisk pace.
- 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running.
- Two or more strength training sessions a week.
Don’t: Let Stress Overwhelm You
We all have stress in our lives. But coping with stress in unhealthy ways, such as overeating, drinking or smoking, can damage your heart. It’s better to find alternative ways to manage stress, such as physical activity, relaxation exercises or meditation, which can improve your health.
Do: Monitor Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure greatly increases the risk of a heart attack. Getting your blood pressure tested, reducing sodium in your diet, staying active, and maintaining a healthy weight can all help keep blood pressure within a healthy range. Try to keep numbers below 120/88 mm hg.
Check with your physician to find out how often you should have your blood pressure checked. Many people monitor it at home themselves.
Do: Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Being overweight – especially around the middle of the body – increases the risk of heart disease. Your body mass index (BMI) uses height and weight to determine whether a person is overweight or obese. A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight and is generally associated with higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Waist circumference also can be a useful tool to measure how much belly fat you have. The risk of heart disease is higher if the waist measurement is greater than:
- 40 inches for men
- 35 inches for women
Even a small weight loss can be beneficial. Reducing weight by just 3% to 5% can help decrease certain fats in the blood (triglycerides), lower blood sugar (glucose) and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Do: Control Blood Sugar
Over time, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart. Here are a few ways to manage blood sugar:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat fewer carbs
- Eat more fiber
- Drink water and stay hydrated
- Get enough quality sleep
Don’t: Skimp on Sleep
Not getting enough sleep gives you a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, and depression.
Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night. Make sleep a priority in your life. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, so it’s easier to sleep.
Don’t: Ignore Getting Regular Physicals
The best way to stay on top of full-body health, including your heart, is to keep up with your annual physical. Contact your primary care physician to schedule your annual exam. Also, StarMed Healthcare clinics in Charlotte can provide physicals for the whole family to keep you and everyone you love heart-healthy.