Every year, we celebrate World Heart Day on September 29. It was created by the World Heart Federation – and for good reason. According to the CDC, 610,000 people die from heart disease in the US each year. That means one in every four deaths is caused by heart disease. How do you improve your heart health and avoid becoming a statistic? What are some of the things you can do daily to prevent it?
How to Improve Heart Health
Exercise has many benefits for your body – from giving your cardiovascular system a boost to releasing serotonin (also known as the happy hormone). By exercising for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), depression, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon and breast cancer, and vertebral fractures, and you’ll feel happier.
That doesn’t mean you need to do high-intensity workouts in the gym. You could also participate in yoga, dancing, swimming, or even brisk walking for 30-minutes to reduce your risk. Anything that gets your heart pumping is the goal.
If you don’t know how to get started, enlist some friends to join you, take selfies while out on beautiful walks in nature and post them on social media, and make sure to start slowly and build the length and intensity of workouts gradually. This will help keep you motivated since it won’t feel overwhelming and it will also prevent injuries associated with wanting to do too much, too soon. Also, don’t become obsessed with the number on the scale. You are doing this for your heart health and there are more accurate ways to measure your progress: lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, less fatigue when doing simple tasks such as going up a flight of stairs, better sleep, and better moods.
2. Eat Well
Eating a diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, potatoes, olive oil, seeds, and fish will help nourish your body. By the same token, you should limit saturated fats, dairy, and red meat, since all of them have been linked to higher risks of cardiovascular disease. A well-balanced diet minimizes the build-up of fats and high cholesterol.
Research the different kinds of fats and become familiar with what fats are good and bad for your body. Trans fats found in fried, processed snacks, and fast foods raise your cholesterol levels. While unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – such as those found in avocado, nuts, olive oil, and fish – are healthy and necessary for your body.
If you like to snack, pack healthy options to take to school or work, so that you’re not tempted to buy items that are high in saturated fats. Apples with almond butter, carrots and hummus, grapes, and even popcorn (without the butter) are all healthy choices that are also good for your heart.
Related: Delicious Healthy Foods
3. Get Sleep
Life gets busy, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. For some people, this means sacrificing hours of sleep at night. While an occasional night of fewer hours of sleep is bound to happen, your standard for sleep as an adult should be a minimum of seven hours.
Anything less than six hours doubles your risk of CVD, including heart attacks and strokes. Sleep plays a critical role in your health and the biological processes that impact your blood pressure. The less sleep you get, the more at risk you become.
If you regularly experience sleeping difficulties, there are things you can do to help your body get ready for bed –– avoid heavy meals in the evening, develop nighttime routines to help you wind down for the evening, go to bed every night at the same time, consider whether you need to buy a new mattress, keep the temperature in your bedroom at around 67 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius), and limit alcohol intake.
4. Maintain Dental Hygiene
When you think about your heart health, probably the last thing that comes to mind is your teeth. The connection is that the risk of heart disease and periodontal disease are the same.
Bacteria from gum disease travels to the bloodstream and can raise the levels of C-reactive proteins, which causes inflammation to your blood vessels. By brushing regularly two to three times a day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist twice a year, you can lower your risk.
5. Turn Off Gadgets After 8 pm
Similar to getting more sleep, you should also try eliminating all gadgets and electronics after 8 pm. Studies have found that electronics — including your television and mobile devices — emit a soft blue light that stimulates brain activity.
If you go to bed around 9 pm, then turn off your electronics at 8 pm. A good rule of thumb is one hour before you try to go to sleep. Eliminating this distraction will help you fall asleep quicker and give you a deeper sleep, which lowers your chances of heart-related stress.
6. Remove Your Earphones
If you work in an office environment, then earphones can be a savior, but did you know that the loud noises are actually detrimental to your heart? That’s because loud noises from traffic or music cause your heartbeat to quicken and blood pressure to rise.
By investing in noise-canceling headphones that allow you to listen to music at a quieter volume, or by simply limiting your exposure to earphones, you can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Low tempo and soothing music can also have the opposite impact – slowing your heart rate ever so slightly and calming your mind.
7. Avoid Smoking/Smokers
By now, you’ve probably heard of the vast amount of conditions that can be caused by smoking – disorders like gum disease, cancer, and more. That also extends to CVD. Smoking yourself can extend your risk by 80% while even being around heavy smokers — like family members and friends — can raise your chances to 30%.
If you smoke, work towards quitting by limiting your tobacco intake gradually over time using patches or vapes, getting professional help, or stopping cold turkey. If you have loved ones that smoke, set boundaries for when and where they can smoke around you. It can be a difficult conversation, but your health is important, and your loved ones should be understanding.
Healthy Heart Services in Colorado Springs and Texas
If you’re experiencing chest pains or you think you’ve had a stroke or seizure, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.
Find the Complete Care location nearest you.