The 7 Best Things You Can Do for Your Heart
February is American Heart Month, offering us a great opportunity to take inventory of our own heart-health. Heart disease warrants our attention, because…
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of disability in America.
- More Americans die each year from heart disease than from all forms of cancer combined.
- Heart disease is very preventable.
As deadly and widespread as heart disease is, it really is quite avoidable. Some of the primary factors that lead to heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Being overweight
- Lack of physical activity
- High stress
For the most part, all of these risk factors are preventable. That means that you and I can do something about them to reduce or eliminate our risk for contracting heart disease.
7 Best Things You Can Do for Your Heart
1. Stop Smoking!
If you smoke or use tobacco, quitting is one of the most significant things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease. Smoking constricts the arteries and damages virtually every organ in the body. Smoking starves the blood of oxygen and fills the body with toxins, while hindering the body’s ability to remove them. Smoking also raises blood pressure.
2. Eat whole foods
The standard American diet (SAD) of fast- and highly processed food is killing us. The SAD diet is high in sugar and saturated fats; low in fiber and plant-based foods. The SAD diet promotes diabetes, obesity, and heart disease; and robs us of the nutrition we need.Whole foods such as: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, nuts and seeds, and some dairy are real food and offer far healthier choices. These foods help lower blood sugar, blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and promote all-around health.
3. Exercise regularly
Our bodies are designed for motion, yet most Americans spend the bulk of their day sitting: at work, in a car, at the table, or on the couch watching TV. Inactivity is a key risk factor for contracting heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and a host of other diseases.Shoot for 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense exercise four to five days each week. Include both aerobic and resistance or strength training. Start slowly and work up to this level of activity. Regular physical exercisecan lower blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar. Exercise helps oxygenate the blood, improves circulation, strengthens the heart, and promotes good health.
4. Lose weight
Carrying excess weight puts a strain on your heart, raises blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol. Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.Eating whole foods and regular exercise can help you achieve weight loss. Here are some simple weight-loss tips that really work:
- Practice simple portion control
- Eat fewer carbs
- Don’t skip breakfast
- Eat three meals per day
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid sugary and diet drinks and juices
- Decide not to eat after 7pm
- Get your exercise
5. Avoid sugar
Research published last year in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal reported that people who get 25 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar nearly triple their risk of dying from heart disease. And even those who consume moderate amounts of added sugar (10-25 percent) increase their risk of death from heart disease by 30 percent.The low fat craze of the last decade replaced fat with sugar in many processed foods. Too much sugar makes us fat, elevates our blood sugar, makes us insulin resistant, increases inflammation in the body, and directly damages multiple organs, including the heart.
Processed breakfast cereals, white bread, white pasta, white rice, sugary drinks, and snack foods are some of the major culprits. Stick to whole foods and avoid sugar as an additive or in its refined form.
6. Get plenty of sleep
Lack of sleep means that we’re not giving our body the opportunity to rest and regenerate that it needs for optimal function. Not getting enough sleep is also associated with greater risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Prepare for sleep by avoiding food and alcohol for at least three hours before bedtime. Try to stay on the same sleep schedule each day. Getting proper exercise can help you sleep better too.
7. Reduce stress
Richard Swenson, MD, comments that stress-induced illnesses are “the new bread and butter of medical practice. A high percentage of patients who visit a primary-care-physician have stress-related ailments—headaches, hyper-acidity/ulcers, irritable bowel, malaise and fatigue, insomnia, chronic-pain syndromes, anxiety, depression.”Stress levels play a direct role in our ability to eat, sleep and function normally. Chronic and acute stress contribute to heart disease due to the harmful stress chemicals that are released into the bloodstream and the fact that the immune system is compromised.
There they are: seven lifestyle changes that can lower or eliminate your risk for heart disease, the number one killer in the US. Of those changes listed, which ones would bring about the greatest benefit for you? Which ones are you most likely to implement? When will you start? What else will you do to promote your success? Let us know how we can help!