The heart is one of the most important muscles in our bodies. It's constantly working to pump oxygen and up to six quarts of blood through the circulatory system per minute. It beats on average 72 times per minute throughout our entire lives. The blood carries vital nutrients to our bodies' tissue and whisks away harmful waste products. Everything you do can affect your heart's health, from diet and exercise to lifestyle choices and stress. This is why it's important to make the right choices to prevent heart attacks and heart disease. Even if you have a family history of heart disease or you've made some unhealthy choices in the past, it's not too late. Take control and change your risk factors by making healthier lifestyle choices. Check out the article below to learn how to do that.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, but it is avoidable if you're willing to put in the effort to prevent it. A combination of a heart-healthy lifestyle and regular checkups at the doctor can make all the difference, and it's not that difficult to do. Follow the tips below to get your heart in the best shape of its life.
You hold the key to your healthy heart. Every year, specifically on your birthday, you should schedule a checkup at your doctor. The doctor will check your cholesterol level, blood pressure and glucose level. This is because high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes can all affect the health of your heart and blood vessels. If any of these readings aren't ideal, you might need more frequent monitoring. In some cases, you'll be referred to a specialist who will provide more specific care and possibly medications. Follow the health care expert's recommendations which would include taking prescription medications.
Aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity daily. This can strengthen your heart, help you build bone density, strengthen your muscles and promote physiological well-being. You'll have more energy, get better sleep and even get glowier skin due to improved blood circulation. Find something you like to do, such as dancing, jogging, swimming, running, cycling, playing with your kids or grandkids, skating, playing catch and even household chores. Physical exercise helps maintain your physical fitness level and the wellness of your heart.
Drink at least 8 glasses of water each day, and more if you're doing a lot of physical activity or if you're spending time in hot weather. One simple way to do this is to bring a bottle of water with you everywhere you go.
Most people eat too many foods with excessive amounts of fat and sugar. Eating unhealthy foods like this increases a person's cholesterol levels and chance of a heart attack. Deposits from unhealthy fats can even block blood vessels. A healthy diet provides the body essential amino acids from protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and adequate calories. A properly balanced diet is also thought to be an important key to lowering health risks such as heart disease. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits with every meal and snack. A high-fiber diet rich in complex carbs, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins such as chicken and fish is ideal for heart health.
Having a BMI of 25 or higher is typically associated with a greater risk of high blood pressure, stroke or heart disease, especially if you tend to carry excess fat around the middle. According to the Mayo Clinic, men should try to keep their waist circumference below 40 inches, and women's should be below 35 inches. If you're having trouble losing weight, your doctor can help you develop a personalized plan that gets you the results you want.
Consuming food items that are high in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol will eventually lead to high blood cholesterol. You should avoid foods containing those fats such as fast food, some baked goods, packaged snacks such as chips and other processed foods to keep your cholesterol at an acceptable level.
Adequate amounts of restful sleep are crucial to maintaining good heart health and preventing depression and obesity. Adults typically need between 7 and 9 hours per night, and most people don't get enough. Sleep debt is the effect of not getting enough sleep, and a large debt causes mental, emotional, and physical fatigue. It results in a diminished ability to perform high-level cognitive functions. Try going to bed at the same time every night, and keep your room dark, quiet and cool for more restful sleep. If you're getting a decent amount of sleep but you still feel tired, tell your doctor, since it's possible you could have sleep apnea.
Excessive amounts of stress can lead to higher blood pressure and may contribute to unhealthy behavior such as overeating, reduced physical activity and smoking. Chronic stress levels can also leave you feeling tired, anxious, irritable and forgetful. Try to reduce your levels of anxiety, stress or anger through a variety of relaxation techniques. Get enough exercise, reduce your caffeine intake, maintain a positive attitude and practice deep breathing techniques. Make time to relax before you go to bed and take part in calming activities that you enjoy, such as listening to relaxing music, cooking, taking a hot bubble bath, having a spa day, watching your favorite shows or movies, or taking some time out for yourself.
The Heart Foundation recommends drinking no more that 2 alcoholic drinks per day for men and 1 for women. Drinking that amount of alcohol can actually reduce your risk of heart disease, but more than that can increase your risk of both heart disease and stroke.
Smoking is one of the worst habits for your heart, as well as your entire body. It not only increases your risk for heart disease, it also dramatically increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you can't quit on your own, try nicotine replacement therapy such as gum or patches, or ask your doctor about other ways to quit.
While you can develop heart disease at any age, realize that 4 out of 5 people with coronary heart disease are more likely to die from it after age 65. Your risk for stroke doubles every 10 years after age 55, as well. If one of your parents or siblings has heart disease, it's possible that you will develop it, too. If you abuse drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines, drink alcohol heavily, or if you've had a previous heart attack, you're much more likely to develop heart problems or have a second heart attack. Talk to your doctor about these and other risk factors, and you might be prescribed a daily dose of aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke.
You don't need to spend a fortune on expensive foods or spend hours slaving in the kitchen to reap the benefits of a heart-healthy diet. Purchase, wash and cut your vegetables and fruits, and store them in containers or storage bags so you can easily grab them for a snack. Prepare large batches of soups, stews and healthy sauces on the weekend and freeze them in containers, then you'll have easy access to healthy meals that you can quickly heat and eat. Check out your local farmer's markets for the freshest produce, and make it a habit to shop mostly around the perimeter of the grocery store, where the healthiest foods are located. Keep raw vegetables and fruits near the front of your refrigerator so they're always within reach. Healthy snacks should be placed in the front of your pantry. You'll be more likely to grab these when hunger pangs strike. Follow the tips below to ensure you're getting the best nutrition possible for a healthy heart and body.
Your breakfast should be filled with high-fiber and low-sugar cereals. Low-fat milk and antioxidant-rich fruits are also highly recommended. Low-fat Greek yogurt, oatmeal with fruit and eggs with whole wheat toast are also good choices. Eating 25 grams of fiber every day will work wonders in lowering your cholesterol.
Certain types of fish, such as tuna, salmon and mackerel are good sources of omega-3 fatty-acid. It's a good idea to include fish-based dishes in your menu at least twice a week menu. Instead of cooking your favorite meat dishes, substitute your cravings with fish. If you don't like fish, try fish oil supplements, since they're rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You can find them at most retail and drug stores.
Replace red meat with chicken, turkey, fish, eggs and beans as often as possible. Red meat contains higher levels of saturated fats than other meats. It also contains higher levels of carnitine, a compound that increases hardening of the arteries. Limit your consumption of red meat to no more than 18 ounces per week, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Plant-based fat sources such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds are all sources of healthy fats that can actually lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. So, grab a handful of nuts or seeds when you get a craving for something salty and crunchy, or drizzle some olive oil into your favorite soups, sauces and pasta dishes for delicious flavor and a heart-healthy boost. Try sliced avocado on whole wheat toast for a filling and healthy breakfast, lunch or snack. Consider taking a fish oil supplement, as well.
Complex carbohydrates are a healthier alternative to pasta, white bread, crackers, cakes, cookies and other flour-based foods. Instead, eat more brown rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, beans and whole wheat bread or pasta. At least half of your grain intake should be from whole grains. People who eat whole grains regularly have a lower risk of heart disease than those who do not. They also have a lower level of cholesterol. Whole grains include wheat, corn, brown rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, rye and popcorn. Not only are they healthy, they keep you fuller longer, and don't cause your insulin levels to spike like refined carbohydrates.
Use fresh herbs, spices, lemon, olive oil, vinegar, hot peppers, onions and garlic for a big flavor boost to your meals. Eating healthy doesn't have to mean bland, boring food. Using a variety of seasonings and marinating chicken or fish can take your meals from average to delicious without the need for excessive amounts of unhealthy sugar and fat.
Try to limit or cut these foods out of your diet. Sugar and flour from candy and sweets, pastries, cookies, ice cream, and refined grain breads, pastas, crackers and baked goods. Don't drink your sugar. Avoid soda, energy drinks or fruit drinks. Eat less from animal fats like meat, poultry skin, cheese, butter, high-fat milk, palm oil and ice cream. Avoid hydrogenated fats like fried foods. Choose packaged foods that do not contain hydrogenated oils. If you must choose packaged foods like salad dressing and mayonnaise, purchase ones that do not contain these oils.
If you're relying on a few cups of coffee every day to get going, you're not alone. As much as we all love our morning coffee, too much can lead to heart issues. Try not to drink more than 2 cups of coffee in one day. Too much caffeine can speed up the heart rate and make you more prone to heart palpitations. It can also increase feelings of anxiety. If you find it hard to totally quit the habit, you can gradually reduce your intake or switch to tea, which has lower caffeine levels. Green tea is an even healthier alternative. Green tea does not contain large amounts of caffeine, but is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which is good for your overall health.
If you have a sweet tooth, you may have to make changes to your lifestyle and eating habits. Resist the temptation to munch on the chocolate bars, cookies, cakes, pies and ice cream. Dark chocolate is friendlier and healthier for the heart. Eat a few bites of 60 percent cocoa content chocolate daily for a chocolate fix and loads of heart-healthy antioxidants. Enjoy fresh fruit that's in season on a daily basis, or purchase frozen fruit during the winter months. Individuals with high blood sugar levels are not just prone to diabetes, they're also one step closer to developing heart disease.
A little bit of salt is good and even necessary for health, but most people get too much. Salt The vast majority is hidden in processed foods. The recommended daily sodium intake is less than 2,300 mg. If you're over 51 or have high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, the limit is even lower - 1,500 mg. Many people don't realize how much salt is in processed foods, but the vast majority of Americans get more than they should. Read the labels on food, since some foods don't taste salty but actually contain high levels of sodium. Avoid processed foods, select lower sodium options when possible and season your food with an abundance of fresh herbs, spices and citrus for extra flavor. Cut back on added salt slowly until your tastebuds adjust accordingly. You just might find out that you don't miss the extra salt at all.
A vegetarian diet is derived from plants, with or without dairy. It is healthful, nutritionally adequate and provides health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Vegetarian diets offer lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein and higher levels of carbohydrates and plant-based protein. People who follow a vegetarian diet tend to have a lower body mass index, lower blood pressure and less incidence of heart disease. When following a vegetarian diet, strive to include a variety of color on your plate, and eat beans, lentils or tofu for protein and extra fiber on a daily basis. Even a semi-vegetarian diet or having meatless meals two days a week can work wonders for heart health.
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