The hardest-working muscle in your body is your heart. Your heart has been beating nonstop every day of your life and will continue to work for you your whole life.
Heart health is one of the top health concerns for both men and women, and taking care of your heart health pays big dividends.
Follow these tips to help support your heart health:
Get your blood flowing
Couch potato and desk-jockey lifestyles are not good for your heart. Try to move your body every day. When you exercise, your heart pumps blood with more pressure. This pressure causes the lining of your arteries to release nitric oxide. Nitric oxide then relaxes your blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow through your body.[i] Try for 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day. You can break this into three 10- to 15-minute walks if you need to. If you sit for work, take a break and move around every half hour or so. Get a fitness watch and track your movements to stay motivated.
Choose fats wisely
Most people in America eat too many unhealthful fats, while they are missing the healthful Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish. Flip this by avoiding processed foods and fast foods and by eating fish two times a week. You can also eat nuts like almonds and walnuts or flaxseeds throughout the week to make sure you are getting the essential Omega-3s, ALA. Consider supplementing if you are not getting enough Omega-3s or if you are not always eating as well as you should.
Stress is an everyday affair for most of us, and learning to manage stress is an essential component of heart (and general) health.[ii] There are many ways to reduce stress including exercise, meditation, getting away from computers and cell phones, and just simply laughing more.
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of your best tools for keeping your heart healthy. If you are overweight, losing even 10 pounds can improve many parameters of heart health. Studies show your waist size is strongly associated with heart health.[iii] Find a weight loss program that suits you, is easy to follow, and has good support. It should help you to maintain lean body mass and be something you can follow for a long time.
Eat for heart health
A heart-healthy diet is one that is low in refined carbohydrates and includes plenty of fish, lean proteins, and lots of vegetables, as well as nuts, low-sugar fruits, and sufficient fiber. Limit red meat, saturated fats, and trans fats. Help keep blood sugar under control by avoiding too many simple sugars.[iv]
Want to supercharge your heart health? Studies show that having pets, laughing and volunteering all help to support good heart health.
Studies show the best way to help your heart is with a healthy lifestyle. These simple changes can have an extraordinarily positive impact on your heart health.
[i] Green DJ, Maiorana A, O’Driscoll G, Taylor R. Effect of exercise training on endothelium‐derived nitric oxide function in humans. The Journal of physiology. 2004 Nov 1;561(1):1-25.
[ii] Tacón AM, McComb J, Caldera Y, Randolph P. Mindfulness meditation, anxiety reduction, and heart disease: a pilot study. Family & community health. 2003 Jan 1;26(1):25-33.
[iii] Coutinho T, Goel K, de Sá DC, Kragelund C, Kanaya AM, Zeller M, Park JS, Kober L, Torp-Pedersen C, Cottin Y, Lorgis L. Central obesity and survival in subjects with coronary artery disease: a systematic review of the literature and collaborative analysis with individual subject data. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011 May 10;57(19):1877-86.
[iv] Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, Covas MI, Corella D, Arós F, Gómez-Gracia E, Ruiz-Gutiérrez V, Fiol M, Lapetra J, Lamuela-Raventos RM. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. New England Journal of Medicine. 2013 Apr 4;368(14):1279-90.