The peace of mind that comes with knowing you have a healthy heart is priceless. The good news is with a simple few lifestyle changes you can be confidently moving towards having a healthier heart.
1. Eat Healthy
The first step to getting a healthy heart is to start eating foods that nourish your body. Healthy options are becoming more common at restaurants and fast food chains, so the excuses for eating better are dwindling.
Try to focus on consuming whole foods. Eat foods that have been processed as little as possible. This should lead to eating more fruits and vegetables, and less junk that comes in bags and boxes. Fruits and vegetables have the majority of our vitamin and mineral needs, so aim to eat 5 servings a day.
Consider foods that contain heart healthy fats such as olive oil and fish. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health.
2. Take a Hike
Just a small dose of daily exercise can dramatically improve heart health. Walking for 30 minutes a day can help strengthen your heart. Break this little goal up into a 15 minute walk around the block in the morning and evening, you’ll have found the time to exercise.
Exercise can increase your “good” HDL cholesterol, and decrease your “bad” LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol cleans the walls of blood vessels. Damage to the inner walls is the first step in the process of atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks and strokes. The more you exercise, the better your chances of reducing your “bad” cholesterol.
3. Stop Smoking
Cigarette smoking is a terribly unhealthy habit. Smokers are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease. Almost 20% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking. That’s because smoking is a major cause of coronary artery disease.Smoking tobacco narrows arteries, raises blood pressure, and thickens blood, making it more likely to clot—the perfect recipe for a heart attack.
Even if you don’t want to give up the habit, exposure to secondhand smoke can cause heart disease even in nonsmokers. Smoking in the presence of other people can have a serious effect on their health too.
Rather than taking a smoke break, take a quick stroll around the block. You’ll feel better and be getting a small dose of exercise in as well.
4. Achieve and Maintain Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight can be a real challenge today in our culture. Food servings are much larger than they used to be, unhealthy choices are everywhere, and busy schedules can play havoc with regular mealtimes and activity.
A healthy weight is an important goal. If you are overweight, just a modest 5 to 10 percent drop can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering your blood pressure and improving your cholesterol profile.
5. Avoid Stress
Living under constant stress can lead to things that you see – anger, overeating, coping habits like smoking, and poor money management. Stress also causes problems that you can’t see – down to changing the way blood clots. Chronic stress exposes your body to an increase in blood pressure, and persistently elevated levels of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. All of these factors (and more) combine to put wear and tear on your heart and vascular system, which increases the risk of heart attack.
The good news is healthy habits reduce stress. Proper diet and exercise go a long way, and reducing stressors will also help smokers kick the habit.
What are your sources of stress? Family, finances, health issues? Defining them and addressing them can get you on the path to beating them. Feeling in control of income and expenses is a huge burden of relief. Create a budget to manage expenses. If income is short of expenses, a reverse mortgage might be a way to make ends meet and relieve yourself from financial stress.
Simple Changes Make a Big Difference
It doesn’t take a whole lot of lifestyle change to reduce the risks of heart disease. Start with one small new habit a month, and let those little habits snowball into a healthier happier you. A few dietary changes, a small amount of daily movement, and giving up smoking goes a long way towards maintaining healthy body weight, reducing stress, and keeping your heart humming.