Goals, like losing weight and putting on a little muscle are all well and good. But when people first start taking on healthy goals, sometimes they tend to forget the most important parts of their body: those vital organs. Most vital of all is, of course, the heart. There are many risks that affect the heart. Cholesterol, blood sugar, heart disease, blood pressure. Just because you’re getting stronger or losing weight doesn’t mean you’re making your heart any healthier. So, we’re going to look at the heart healthy approach to a life with less risk.
Don’t ignore it, go to the doctor
A lot of people ignore symptoms related to the heart that they really shouldn’t. Feelings of pain, tightness or discomfort in the chest might not be anything to be concerned about. But they can also be signs of an irregular heartbeat, heart disease, or many other serious conditions. Don’t take the risk and get it checked out. Even if you don’t have any worrying symptoms, schedule a visit to the doctor every year. You never know if you might develop conditions that affect your blood sugar, or if your cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides are at their optimal levels. Based on your age, gender, weight, and other conditions, your doctor can tell what those levels are and specific your means of reaching them.
Cut the worst habits
You probably know the advice that’s coming already. Quitting smoking isn’t just advised for those who want better heart health. It is mandatory. For one, smoking damages your arteries, making it easier for fats to gather up and block off the blood vessels, causing heart attacks, strokes or angina. Nicotine increases your heart rate needlessly, pushing your blood pressure up. Smoking even makes it harder for your blood to do its job. By introducing more carbon monoxide into your system, your blood cells can’t effectively carry as much oxygen around your body, which is their primary function. Another habit worth watching closely is your drinking. In moderation, a glass of wine or two can be very good for your heart, lowering blood pressure and raising HDL (the “good cholesterol). Too much, however, can lead to a slew of other problems like liver damage, cancer, and damage to the heart muscles.
Get that heart pumping
Nothing is more important to the health of the heart than exercise. When you train your body, you also train your heart, as it temporarily increases blood rate, which strengthens the heart muscles. But not exercises are equal when it comes to improving heart health. Some exercises are more effective at improving the heart than others. Interval training is the single best kind of exercise as it continuously raises and lowers blood pressure, making the heart much better at handling a broader rate of activity. However, jumping into vigorous exercise without building up to it can prompt a heart attack in those who are already at risk.
If you’re focusing just on calories, you may not be eating in a way that is best for the heart. Many people are aware that “fats” generally are bad for the heart. But it’s two particular kinds of fats that you want to limit. Saturated fats raise the level of unhealthy cholesterol in your body while trans fats do that while lowering the level of HDL “good” cholesterols at the same time. Salt and added sugars are another risk and are contained in many “low fat” processed foods, so make sure you always read the label carefully. So, what can help your heart? Omega-3 fatty acids in fish and nuts, more fiber and there’s been a lot of evidence to suggest the role of garlic in the treatment of diseases like coronary heart disease as well as asthma and cystic fibrosis. If you’ve started seriously counting calories, then that’s a good start. The next step is to start eliminating heart damaging foods and start reading the salt and sugar contents of everything you eat.
Keep an eye on your waistline
At the same time, never doubt that your weight is important. Finding out where you fit on the BMI scale should give you an idea of whether or not you should be losing weight. The more overweight you are, the higher your resting heart rate, which puts you at more risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes
Keep your cool
It’s not as easy to spot or as prevalent as your physical condition, but your mental health can have a big impact on your heart, as well. Stress is commonly known to have links to heart health, but it’s more than a stereotype that it can lead to a heart attack. People cope with stress and stressful situations differently, but chronic stress and anxiety work with other risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol to make them even more dangerous. Elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline which is particularly unhealthy. If you’re dealing with anxiety or stress, finding a way to manage it like meditation, exercise, or a hobby can be as crucial to a fit heart as eating well.
Know your medication
We’re not going to suggest that you don’t take any medication you’ve been prescribed because it’s linked to a certain risk factor. However, you should be aware of those risks. For instance, pain medications like ibuprofen and Indocin can raise your blood pressure. It’s a good idea to know how the medications you take affect your heart health. That way, you can remove other risk factors to balance it out. There are plenty of herbal supplements like ginseng and Senna that can have the very same effects. Remember to always consult the doctor before you add any supplement to your diet.
It’s a link that has only recently been discovered, but people are starting to grow more aware that there’s a connection between a healthy mouth and a healthy heart. The reasons haven’t yet been entirely discovered, but there’s evidence suggesting that bacteria and plaque on your gums can enter your bloodstream and reach your heart that way. Some believe it’s simply an exposure to the same risk factors such as poor nutrition, sugary foods, and smoking. However, whatever the link is, having gum disease raises your risk of a heart attack by 28% according to a study made only last year. If you’re at all concerned about heart health, make sure you brush and floss every day.
Get your 8 hours of sleep a night
Sleep is the body’s greatest regulating tool. Why we need it is still unclear, but the positive effects of getting sleep and the negative effects of skipping it are well known. Beyond being drowsy and irritable, sleep deprivation makes you twice as likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack. This is most likely down to disruptions that low sleep causes in regard to metabolism and blood pressure. If you’re living an active, healthy life or you’re an athlete, it’s easy to develop sleep disorders. A few sleep tips for athletes include maintaining a consistent sleep and exercise schedule, giving yourself plenty of time between your workout and bedtime, and creating a bedtime routine that doesn’t involve any electronics, particularly bright screens.
Most important of all the tips above is that you go to see your doctor and get a physical, particularly looking at the different aspects of heart health. Depending on the condition of your heart, some tips will be less recommendable than others. So, start by surveying the situation