Taking care of your heart can help you live a longer, happier life. As we mentioned in our previous blog, What Causes Heart Disease, living an unhealthy lifestyle increases your risk of developing heart disease. This increased risk also means you’re more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even premature death. With heart diseases being the leading cause of death in the United States, it’s more important than ever to keep your heart happy. Eating a nutritious diet, getting active, and understanding your heart’s health are three key ways to keep your heart healthy this year and beyond.
Chances are you’ve read a few articles about how you can eat better. You may have even made it a part of a New Year’s resolution. But what does it mean, and how do certain foods impact your heart’s overall health?
Eating healthier doesn’t have to be a challenge though, fresh fruits, veggies, and meats can all be a natural way to improve your diet overnight. Certain fresh foods can increase those levels of “good” cholesterol in addition to giving your body the vitamins it needs to perform at its best.
Leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Additionally, leafy green vegetables are high in vitamin K which can reduce blood pressure and limit your risk of developing heart disease. Incorporating leafy greens into your diet could be as simple as adding a salad with a low-fat dressing to your meals, or adding the spinach or kale to a smoothie in the morning to give your day a healthy boost.
Another fresh option that’s high in vitamins and antioxidants is berries. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries can all reduce the inflammation that can lead to heart disease. According to a scientific study, drinking a beverage made of freeze-dried strawberries decreased the total “bad” cholesterol (LDL) by 11% after just 8 weeks. Adding in these sweet treats can be a good substitute for desserts or just a mid-day snack, and can help you live a healthier life.
Nuts like almonds and walnuts are packed full of fiber and micronutrients, which can ultimately lower your risk of heart disease. These micronutrients can decrease your level of “bad” cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation and belly fat. It’s important to note, incorporating more nuts into your diet can lead to an increase in sodium. So reach for the unsalted nut mix rather than those packed full of sea salt or other seasoning blends.
Incorporating heart-healthy foods into your diet will not only make you feel better overall, but they can also help you lose weight. Losing weight cannot only reduce the stress on your heart, but can reduce your mental stress, improve your quality of sleep, and allow you to stay active for longer.
Fueling your body with the proper nutrients from eating healthy gives your body the energy it needs to get up and get active. Staying active or just increasing the amount you move around can help strengthen your heart, reduce stress, and improve your quality of sleep. Two types of exercise can have a positive impact on your heart’s health, endurance and strength training.
Endurance exercise can be any activity that increases your heart rate for an extended time. This could be hiking, biking, swimming, dancing, or even walking. These exercises can improve the blood flow which results in lowered blood pressure and can even lower your heart rate over time. Wearing a fitness tracker or heart rate monitor during workouts can help you keep an eye on how hard your heart is working.
Keeping your heart pumping is a good thing, but working out and maximizing your heart rate can be lethal. Understanding your maximum heart rate is as simple as subtracting your age from 220. For instance, someone who is 35 years old has a maximum heart rate of 185 beats per minute. Exercising at maximum capacity for extended periods can lead to more severe symptoms including heart attack and stroke. While you may have heard that you need to hit 10,000 steps a day to have a healthier heart, the American Heart Association actually recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity for adults.
In addition to endurance exercise, strength training can help your heart perform at its best with lower blood pressure, less “bad” cholesterol, and improved blood flow. Lifting weights, body-resistance exercises, push-ups, pull-ups, and squats are all examples of strength training that can help you build lean muscle and lose weight. These exercises don’t even need to be done in a gym. Taking 20 minutes a day in your home for push-ups and squats can go a long way in getting your blood flowing and burns the belly fat that’s putting pressure on your internal organs. Getting active is also a great way to relieve yourself from any stress or anxiety. Coping with stress and anxiety can lower your blood pressure and can even reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Understand Your Heart’s Health
While your risk of heart disease varies based on a variety of factors, understanding your heart’s health can help you make guided decisions to lower your risk. With a comprehensive Heart Health Panel from your local ARCpoint Labs, you can get your body’s complete blood count, cardiometabolic panel, lipid levels, glucose levels, and more. In most states, you can even request a Heart Health panel without needing a doctor’s orders, so you can take your health into your own hands.
Blood count tests can be a beneficial way to identify potential diseases such as anemia or leukemia, in addition to getting a good overall picture of your body’s health. Knowing how much “good” and “bad” cholesterol is in your body with the lipid levels panel can help you also know which foods to cut out of your diet and if you need to increase your exercise. Finally, understanding your body’s level of glucose can let you know if your blood sugar levels are too high. This could mean determining if you have Type 2 diabetes, which can drastically increase your risk of heart disease.
Take care of your heart this year and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. It’s as easy as eating healthy, getting active, and understanding your heart’s health.