10 Ways To Keep Your Heart Healthy
Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United Kingdom.
A recent report by the British Heart Foundation (PDF) found that it causes 26% of all deaths, which is more than 150,000 deaths each year — or a staggering 420 deaths per day.
Fortunately, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make which will improve the health of your cardiovascular system and help you avoid cardiovascular disease.
This article will share 10 of the best ways to keep your heart healthy.
Make changes to your diet
The food that you eat has a dramatic impact on the health of your heart.
The ideal “healthy heart” diet includes:
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
They also contain powerful antioxidants which help to keep your heart healthy.
Some of the best fruits and vegetables for heart health include berries, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, sweet potato, carrots, acorn squash, spinach, and citrus fruit.
Aim for at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day.
Whole grains are packed with nutrients and are very satisfying to eat.
Add more oatmeal, brown rice, and brown bread to your diet for better heart health.
Unsalted nuts and seeds including chia, linseed, avocados, and tahini will add healthy unsaturated fats to your diet.
These healthy fats will reduce the ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and increase ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) in your bloodstream.
Also, choose healthy oils that are made from seeds or plants including olive oil, flaxseed oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, and sesame seed oil.
Use these oils instead of butter or margarine.
Healthy protein foods
Healthy proteins include foods like eggs, lean meat and poultry, tofu, fish and seafood, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
These foods contain a variety of valuable nutrients including vitamin B, iron, zinc, and protein.
Avoid eating a large amount of a single type of protein.
Instead, mix up your protein intake each week.
Instead of drinking sugary sodas, drink more water and green tea.
There is some evidence to suggest that small amounts of dark chocolate and red wine can improve the health of your heart.
However, you should enjoy these delicious treats in moderation.
To maintain good heart health, adults should perform at least 30 minutes of exercise, five or more days each week.
Each session should be performed at medium intensity or higher.
There are many ways to incorporate medium intensity exercise into your busy schedule including riding a bike to work, playing with the kids, playing sport, walking during your lunch break, or walking your dog every day.
Reduce your stress levels
Stress can contribute to heart disease by encouraging unhealthy behaviours like overeating, consumption of alcohol and tobacco, and physical inactivity.
Stress often leads to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels which also increase the risk of heart disease.
Take steps to reduce your stress levels, like meditating, exercising more often, talking to a therapist, practising mindfulness, reducing caffeine intake, and practising yoga.
Manage your blood cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is carried through the bloodstream.
It is a structural component of all cell membranes and essential for maintaining good health.
Unfortunately, having very high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can cause it to build up on the walls of the arteries.
This leads to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.
Manage your cholesterol levels by eating foods high in good cholesterol and taking medication if required.
Smoking tobacco will greatly increase your chances of both cancer and heart disease.
Smoking is also linked to other health problems like infertility, early menopause, and pregnancy complications.
If you are still smoking, talk to your doctor to develop a plan for quitting.
Maintain a healthy weight
Gaining weight is very easy to do in a world packed with fast food, chocolate bars, beer, and other decadent foods.
Unfortunately, gaining too much weight will increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Make changes to your diet, exercise more often and talk to a dietician if you are struggling with excess weight.
Reduce your salt intake
Eating an excessive amount of salt can cause high blood pressure.
This will eventually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Gradually reduce the amount of salt you add to your food and avoid processed foods that are high in salt.
Manage your diabetes
If you have diabetes, your risk of having a heart attack or stroke is much higher.
People with diabetes also tend to have more severe heart disease and can contract heart disease at a younger age.
If you have this condition, make sure you are receiving proper treatment from your doctor and make any lifestyle changes that they recommend.
Have regular checkups with your doctor
Keeping your heart healthy requires regular checkups with your doctor.
Regular checkups are particularly important if you are over the age of 40.
Your doctor will check your blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol levels and general health.
They will tell you about any issues they find relating to the health of your heart.
By identifying any problems early on, you can take action before they become more serious.
Get more sleep
Sleep is an important part of maintaining a healthy heart.
One recent study found that people over 45 years of age who slept fewer than six hours per night were twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack compared to adults who slept more.
Researchers believe that this is due to an insufficient amount of sleep disrupting important biological processes and causing inflammation.
Aim for between 7 to 8 hours each night.
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