We all want to live healthier, better lives and one of the best ways to do that is to take care of your heart. It is the one organ, after all, that’s responsible for supplying every cell in your body with sufficient nutrients, oxygen, and water. Without it, your body’s cells won’t have the fuel they need to carry out all the functions it takes to be alive and to stay healthy.
The Secret to a Healthier Heart: Some TLC
Your body is a multifaceted interconnected and intertwined living system, with every organ, body part, and cell working together in a complexity of harmony to carry out the daily tasks of living. It’s mind-boggling to consider all the things that must take place in your body just for you to sit and read these words on the screen. At the core of everything is your heart, beating, pumping blood, sending nutrients to every last cell in your body. It’s important that it can function as efficiently as possible or your body won’t have the fuel it needs. Get started with these 10 vital steps:
1) Give up smoking
Smoking is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease. It constricts blood vessels, raises your blood pressure, and speeds up your heart rate, among other things. This increases your chances of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. If you are a smoker, quitting smoking now is the best thing you could do for a healthier heart.
2) Keep active
Keep yourself active. Movement increases your blood flow, giving your cells and organs more oxygen and fuel to complete their daily tasks of living. Make sure to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day, 5 times a week. Walking or biking to work or any moderate exercise that gets you moving and breaking a sweat is ideal. Reduce the time you spend sitting down each day. Get up and get moving!
3) Eat well
While there’s no reason to deprive yourself of your favorite foods altogether, it’s important to have a steady intake of varied nutritious foods. Reduce your intake of salt and unhealthy fats. Focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins. Avoid processed foods and saturated fats. Limit sugar and alcohol consumption.
4) Focus on your middle
Research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows an association between excess belly fat and unhealthy blood lipid levels and higher blood pressure. Take the time to slim down. As mentioned before, eat well and exercise. Losing weight is more a function of diet while staying healthy is a function of diet and exercise. Replace simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are found in foods such as baked goods, sugars, and cereal while complex carbohydrates are in vegetables, rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal.
5) Know your numbers
Being overweight increases risk of heart disease and other health problems. Maintain a healthy weight to keep your heart healthy. Know your waist measurements and BMI—and what they mean. Don’t put it off for another day. Your heart needs you to have a healthy weight as soon as possible. Keeping track of your numbers will help you stay accountable and on track.
6) Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep
Make sure you get 7 hours of sleep a night. 7 hours of sleep for young and middle-aged adults has been linked to lower amounts of calcium in the arteries. Calcium buildup in the arteries is an early sign of heart disease. Getting too little sleep, 5 hours or less, or too much sleep, consistently 9 hours or more, seems to correlate with an increase in calcium build up.
7) Get checked for diabetes
High blood sugar damages arteries over time and increases the risk for heart disease. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and getting adequate weekly exercise will decrease your chances of diabetes. But it’s still a good idea to get checked for it at different times along the way. Talk to your doctor about getting checked for diabetes today.
8) Practice good dental hygiene
Dental health is a good indicator for good overall health. Periodontal gum disease usually has the same risk factors for heart disease. Brush your teeth at least twice a day for 2 minutes each time. Make sure to spend equal amounts of time in every area. Be sure to floss at least once a day to clean the areas between your teeth and near the gumline.
9) Avoid secondhand smoke
Exposure to secondhand smoke increases your chances to develop heart disease, especially if you already have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol. As much as you can control it, avoid people who are smoking.
10) Be social
Heart disease is more common among people with depression and those who are socially isolated. Spend quality time with family and friends. Engage with people and enjoy their company. Laugh, talk, and avoid staying alone. It’s ok and necessary to be alone sometimes, but make sure you’re getting consistent regular social interaction.
Every Little Bit Counts
Every step you take toward healthier living will positively affect your heart health. Just start one thing at a time and build up to a lifestyle change. It will all add up to a better quality of life, no matter what stage of life you’re in. A healthier heart is always a healthier you.
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