Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, around 17.9 million people die each year due to cardiovascular disease. However, many of these deaths could have been prevented by taking simple steps to improve heart health. Today, we’ll outline five healthy habits that can help improve your heart health.
Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to improve heart health. Exercise helps to strengthen the heart muscle, improve blood circulation, and reduce the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. This can include activities such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing. Resistance training two days a week is also beneficial. You can break it down into smaller increments in a day if you don’t have time to do it all at once. Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk during lunch break can help you reach this goal.
A healthy diet plays an essential role in keeping your heart healthy. A balanced diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and foods high in sodium and saturated fat. Introduce more plant-based foods into your diet and pay attention to portion sizes. Eating a variety of fresh ingredients ensures that you get all the necessary nutrients your body needs. If you need help with meal planning, you can consult a registered dietitian who can create a personalized nutrition plan to suit your lifestyle and dietary needs.
Stress is a common trigger for cardiovascular disease. When we are stressed, our bodies release stress hormones, which can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease. Finding effective ways to manage stress is, therefore, essential for maintaining a healthy heart. Some popular stress-reducing techniques include deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, engaging in creative activities such as painting or writing, or simply taking a break from work to do something that you enjoy.
Good Sleep Habits
Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal health, including heart health. During sleep, our bodies repair and regenerate, and this includes the heart and blood vessels. Poor sleep quality has been linked to an increased risk of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. To improve sleep quality, establish a consistent bedtime routine, avoid screen time before bed, keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet, and limit caffeine intake, especially in the evening. If you have trouble sleeping, consult your healthcare provider, who can identify underlying conditions that may be affecting your sleep, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
Avoiding Harmful Substances
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are two of the most significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Smoking damages the blood vessels, increases blood pressure and heart rate, and reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the heart. On the other hand, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and damage to the heart muscle. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Your healthcare provider can provide resources and support to help you quit smoking or reduce your alcohol consumption.
The Bottom Line
Making simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in improving your heart health. By incorporating regular exercise, a healthy diet, stress management, good sleep habits, and avoiding harmful substances into your daily routine, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Remember, small steps lead to big results. Start by making one or two changes and gradually incorporate more healthy habits into your lifestyle.