You protect your assets – your car, your house, your smartphone. But what are you doing to protect the most important asset in your body?
We all know it: a healthy heart is essential for a long and healthy life. Recent research has shown that simple lifestyle changes can significantly impact our heart health.
Here are seven easy, heart-healthy habits you can start today:
1. Find Healthy Ways To Manage Stress
Stress is unavoidable. The good news is you don’t need to avoid stress or even the negative emotions that often accompany it. What you do need to do is find healthy ways of managing the stress you’ll inevitably encounter.
A number of recent studies have found a connection between psychological well-being and coronary heart disease (CHD). Individuals suffering from depression are twice as likely than others to experience a heart attack. One study even found a strong link between emotions like anger expressed on social media and death due to cardiovascular disease. In fact, in that study, language used on social media outperformed well-known risk factors like diabetes and smoking in predicting death from heart disease.
Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and deep breathing have all been shown to induce physiological changes in the human body that allow us to handle our emotions more effectively. In case you’re experiencing more stress than you feel you can handle on your own, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a mental health professional who can help you learn strategies for managing stress or determine if you may be suffering from depression or anxiety. Make your mental health a priority today: your heart health depends on it.
2. Get Enough Sleep (But Not Too Much)
In today’s fast-paced world, sleep isn’t always easy to come by. Work deadlines, family responsibilities, and even digital distractions can all wreak havoc on your sleep hygiene. Maybe you think you can afford to lose a few hours of snooze time here and there, but those lost hours of sleep can take a major toll on your heart health.
Research has shown that skimping on sleep can increase hunger, which in turn can lead to unhealthy eating habits and an increased risk of diabetes, a risk factor for heart disease. Sleep deficits can also increase inflammation in the body, and inflammation can cause a number of health problems – including those that impact your heart. But be careful: getting too much sleep can cause inflammation, too. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. If you’re looking to protect your heart, you’ll want to ensure your routine includes aerobic exercise. Regular cardio training can improve your mood and reduce anxiety, which we’ve already said can help your heart, too. Aerobic exercise also gets your heart pumping and over time can lower your resting heart rate – a good reflection of your overall heart health.
The American Heart Association recommends either 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week or 25 minutes of high-intensity exercise three days a week. And don’t forget to work your muscles through strength training at least two days a week, too. Strength training has been shown to lower cholesterol and even help you sleep better.
4. Take A Hike
Your workout doesn’t always have to happen in the fitness center. In fact, research has shown that that spending time outdoors can benefit your heart. Since the 1980’s, “shinrin yoku” (forest bathing) has been practiced in Japan. The practice of shinrin yoku involves walking through the woods to reconnect with nature and acquire an improved sense of well-being. In the United States, the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs certifies guides who want to help others experiences the benefits of forest therapy.
The concept of “forest therapy” may sound odd, but there’s actually some science to support its use as a treatment for both psychological and physiologic conditions. The results of a 2008 study conducted in Japan suggest that walks in the woods can even lower your heart rate and your blood pressure. A walk outside is a two-for-one-deal for good health – you’ll get some exercise and the heart-healthy benefits of the outdoors at the same time.
5. Don’t Forget Regular Checkups
In case you haven’t been to the physician in a year or more, it’s time for a checkup. Your family doctor will monitor your blood pressure and heart rate and likely want you have routine blood work, too. These simple blood tests can check for risk factors like cholesterol levels and blood sugar that can affect your heart health.
If your doctor determines you may be suffering from heart-related conditions, he or she may recommend a referral to a cardiologist. Your doctor may also recommend heart-healthy lifestyle changes like regular exercise and dietary changes. Many medications are also available to keep your ticker in check, including Cialis. While Cialis was originally developed as a drug for erectile dysfunction, it can also be used to treat pulmonary hypertension, increased blood pressure in the heart and lungs. Ask your doctor if he or she has any cialis manufacturer coupons to save on costs.
6. Eat Like The Mediterraneans
No, you don’t need to fly across the world for a culinary tour of the Mediterranean (although that sure sounds nice!). You can eat Mediterranean foods right at home. The Mediterranean “diet” is less a diet and more of a general way of eating. So if you’re turned off by the claims of yet another trendy diet to cure, what ails you. You should know that the Mediterranean approach to eating is actually backed by some solid scientific research. In fact, participants in one randomized, controlled trial had a 30% decreased risk of cardiovascular disease when compared with a regular low-fat diet.
The Mediterranean diet includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fish and small portions of lean protein. The Mediterranean way of eating also includes lots of heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil. For snacks, you can enjoy whole grains, nuts, and seeds – and avoid sugary desserts and beverages.
7. Switch to Organic, Full-fat Dairy
Many of us have been taught to believe low-fat is the way to go when it comes to losing weight and protecting our hearts. However, recent research has shown that low-fat not be so healthy after all. One of the reasons you’re better off with whole milk is that it contains more omega-3 fatty acids, something most people eating a Western diet don’t consume enough of. Omega-3 fatty acids help lower blood pressure and triglycerides and can even prevents strokes and blood clots. In one study, organic whole milk contained 62% more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk. Note: If you are vegan, choose heart-healthy nut and seed milks such as almond or coconut milk.
Insure your house. Insure your car. But be sure to insure your heart, too – by making simple lifestyle changes that can protect your heart health. Your ticker will thank you with a long, vigorous life.
What are some other beneficial habits for overall health?
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