There isn’t really any secret about how to keep your heart healthy as most of the options are common sense. We’re going to consider some of these options but they are not intended as medical advice. If you have any concerns over your health, you should always talk to your doctor or a medical expert.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) around 610,000 people die from heart disease in the United States every year. They also say that every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Although a tiny percentage of the population, these figures seem very high, so how can we make sure we stay out of these statistics?
The fundamentals of helping to keep your heart healthy are fairly basic although some people do have a disadvantage in that there may be a family history of problems. Everyone is different so it isn’t a case of “one size fits all” but there are some simple and basic steps that can be taken to cut down on developing any problems.
Do You Know How to Keep Your Heart Healthy?
If asked the question, probably the first two things most people would say is eat healthily and get enough exercise. Both those can go a very long way in helping to prevent problems, so why is it that so many people ignore them?
It’s true that there’s much more awareness of the need to eat well and exercise than there was in the past. The problem with diet is that it can be difficult to avoid food which isn’t particularly healthy. We live in a fast moving, instant gratification world and we expect food to be cooked or delivered to us very quickly. This gives rise to pre-packed, ready-made meals which are very convenient but not necessarily good for us.
With exercise, there has been a massive increase in gym membership in recent years, so things have, to some degree got better, but there are still many people who don’t get enough exercise. It can be difficult if you work all day in a job which tires you out so when you get home at night all you want to do is sit down and relax. If you have young children then it can be even more difficult. There just doesn’t seem to be the time.
Hopefully, once you’ve read this article you may have some better insight into helping to maintain a healthy heart. Including the two areas already mentioned, we’ll look at six areas where you can see if you might need to change your habits or make improvements.
Let’s be honest, we all like “naughty” food, the type that isn’t good for us, but annoyingly tastes so good! If you can cut down on it you’ll be doing yourself a big favor. Replacing this kind of food with fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help to protect the heart. Of course not everyone can eat whole grains as their body can’t take them and there are some people who believe they’re actually bad for you. They’ve been a part of our diet for around 10,000 years so it’s probably a matter of balance.
Fruit can also cause some people problems, particularly if you suffer from eating acidic foods, which can upset the stomach. Many people won’t eat vegetables because they say they just don’t like them. That can sometimes be as a result of being made to eat them when you were much younger. Most of us remember being ordered to eat our vegetables because they’re good for us! As we get older our taste for different foods change and very often vegetables become tasty – if you haven’t tried, do yourself a favor!
Beans and other low fat foods which provide protein can be helpful. When we say beans, that doesn’t necessarily mean baked beans in a can as they often have high sugar and salt in them. Having said that, in moderation they’re probably ok. Certain types of fish are also good in helping to reduce the risk of heart problems.
What we’re really describing is a Mediterranean diet – mainly plant based foods, oily fish and more healthy fats such as olive oil. Apparently saturated fats found mainly in red meat and dairy products, should make up no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake. You should avoid trans fats completely if possible. Trans fats are found in deep fried fast foods, packaged snack food and some bakery products.
Sugar and salt can be bad for you if you have too much, so check what your daily intake should be. We need a certain amount of each but there are often plentiful amounts naturally in some food. It’s been widely reported how bad excesses of each can be and both can have an effect on the heart.
Most of us get at least some exercise but there are those whose only strenuous activity is pressing the TV remote control button! On the other hand, there are those at the other extreme who spend as much time as possible in the gym, working out as much as they can. It’s all a matter of balance really, if you’re training or trying to lose weight then you might be pushing yourself hard. If you are just looking to keep yourself fit, then you’ll be doing a lot less.
Under normal circumstances the body doesn’t need too much exercise to stay fit. We have to be careful here because everyone is different so it’s difficult to give a definitive amount that should be carried out. What we can say, is that it’s a case of being active and moving around that can make all the difference.
How much exercise is needed can also vary depending on who you listen to, but it seems somewhere between 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week should make some difference. Of course any is better than none so take a look at all of your activities to see how much or little you’re doing.
It’s not only working out, running, swimming or other such activities that provide benefits, any activity will be beneficial. Things such as gardening, walking the dog, climbing stairs or even general housework can make a difference. For more on this, take a look at our article on fun workouts: how to enjoy getting fit.
Your weight is obviously affected by diet and the amount of exercise you get, but there’s more to it than just that. For example, some people are bigger built than others, some have a faster metabolism and some just have to look at a cream cake to pile on the pounds. One thing is for sure, if you’re not at a healthy weight, it can increase the risk of heart problems. It can also cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even lead to diabetes.
As we’ve mentioned a couple of times, everyone is built differently so it isn’t really possible to say someone of a certain height should be a certain weight. What can give an indication though, is finding out your BMI (body mass index). You can calculate your own BMI at smartbmicalculator.com. This website also shows your SBMI (smart body mass index), a new calculation which uses extra data such as age and sex.
It’s important to point out that your BMI won’t give you an absolute answer, but just a rough guide as to where you might want to be. Professional medical advice will provide the best answer.
Not much needs to be about this one as the facts are clear and well known. It’s incredible to think that it wasn’t so long in the past that tobacco was presented as having beneficial properties. Oh how times have changed! Take a look at the old TV commercial below, it’s almost unbelievable what advertisers were able to get away with in the past.
Damage can be caused to the heart and blood vessels from the chemicals that are in tobacco. This can lead to narrowing of the arteries and then possibly a heart attack. The carbon monoxide produced by the smoke replaces some of the oxygen in the blood and this can lead to high blood pressure.
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of heart disease, most of us know at least one person who has suffered because of the habit. If you’re a smoker and are thinking about how to keep your heart healthy, you know what to do. Quitting isn’t easy, but the sooner the better because after five years of not smoking, the risk of disease is much lower.
It appears that there isn’t really any evidence that stress can directly cause heart disease. If someone who has a history of heart problems is put under stress or suffers anxiety, then there is a possibility it could bring on symptoms such as angina.
There has been some suggestion that stress, in itself, might not cause cardiovascular disease but it’s some of the things associated with it, which might. For example, stress can cause some people to turn to smoking, alcohol or even over eating to divert attention away from the situation.
How you cope with stressful situations will make a difference and again, because we’re all different, some things will work for some people and not for others. It might be that doing some physical activity can help. Learning to relax can be very beneficial and something such as yoga or even meditation could make a difference.
Identifying what stresses you out is a good starting point and then, if possible, avoid those situations. Of course that’s not always possible, so having different techniques to deal with it can be really helpful and your doctor should be able to give advice too.
Getting enough sleep is very important to our health, not just the heart, but in many other ways. An average person needs somewhere between seven and nine hours sleep each night. Most of us know what works best for us.
You shouldn’t be waking up in the morning feeling tired and groggy, that can be a sign of not getting enough sleep. Some of us are better “morning people” than others but if you’re not refreshed after a night’s sleep, you’re either not getting enough or it’s not quality sleep.
This is where a fitness tracker with a sleep monitor might be able to give some insights. Many of them analyze sleep patterns with varying results. So how does a fitness tracker measure sleep? It’s all down to movement. When we sleep, we move less, when our sleep is not deep we tend to move more. A fitness tracker measures our movements during the night and its algorithm translates them into sleep patterns.
Some people are able sleep better than others so if you find it difficult to drift off, set yourself a routine. If you go to bed and get up at the about the same time each day it might help. Having food and some drinks too close to bed time might make it harder to sleep. The quieter and darker your bedroom, the better.
Most of what we’ve discussed in this article is common sense, to help stay healthy watch your weight and eat healthy foods. If you can avoid drinking too much alcohol, don’t smoke, steer clear of what causes you stress and make sure you get enough sleep, you’ll be doing yourself a big favor. Making sure you get some exercise will also help. To go one step further, you might want to consider the best cardio machine to exercise your heart.
It’s best to get regular health checks, particularly if you’re changing your diet or routines. Your doctor can check your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and screen for diabetes. Remember, we’re all different in our make-up so take some time to check what, if any, changes you need to make on how to keep your heart healthy.