According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the entire world. That’s right, it’s the number one killer. Researchers link this high rate of heart disease to the fact that we are becoming more sedentary, eating poorly, and living high-risk lifestyles.
Establish a regular exercise program
No discussion of preventing heart disease excludes establishing a regular exercise program. This is because exercise is considered by most experts to be a key factor in maintaining a healthy heart.
Any kind of aerobic exercise, done for 40 minutes three to four times weekly, has a positive effect on heart health. Some of the benefits are:
- Lowering of bad cholesterol
- Increased stamina so you can increase workouts
- Burning calories to reduce or maintain a healthy weight
- Reducing blood pressure
You don’t need special equipment or to be in good health to get started. The fact of the matter is that even individuals who are in poor health can benefit from doing anything they can to get the heart rate up! This can include walking, upper-body only exercises, or climbing up and down the stairs of your home. Check in with your doctor for a quick physical and get a green-light.
Replace fatty diet options with lean protein
Our diets have become dependent on the drive-up window at the local burger barn. The result? A high-fat diet of cheeseburger and fries that are clogging our arteries and causing heart disease.
Skip those high-fat meal options that are dependent on red meats and deep-fried potatoes. Replace them with lean sources of protein, especially fish, shellfish, and chicken. Not only will your heart health improve, you’ll also see the following improvements:
- Lowering of high cholesterol
- Reduction in blood pressure
- Overall increase in energy level
- Better colon health
Increase your fiber intake
As you are decreasing your red meats and increasing your protein, take a look at your fiber intake. Making these better dietary choices all at once will have a significant and quick impact on your health.
The chances are great that you’re eating processed “white” foods such as flour, potatoes, and rice. Here are some alternatives to consider:
- Instead of white flour choose whole wheat flour, oat flour, coconut flour, brown rice flour
- Instead of potatoes choose sweet potatoes, mashed cauliflower
- Instead of semolina pasta choose zucchini noodles, whole grain pasta
- Instead of white rice choose wild rice, brown rice, quinoa
These new options are still tasty, but they ramp up the fiber intake in your diet which helps to flush fats from your cells to help you shed extra pounds and decrease your cholesterol.
In addition to swapping out those unhealthy carbs, you can also drastically increase your fiber intake by adding green vegetables and a variety of brightly-colored fruits to your diet each day. These will ramp up the fiber and provide you with natural sources of essential vitamins and minerals that support your heart health.
Get more sleep
As you sleep, your central nervous system is doing important work sending signals out to your cells to repair and rejuvenate themselves. Getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night is important because the brain doesn’t start sending these signals out until you are in the deeper states of sleep.
Once you reach those deeper sleep stages, amazing things happen! Your body restores your hormone levels, performs muscle and tissue repair, and slows your heartbeat down to give your heart a break from all its hard work. All your body’s systems, including your heart and arteries, benefit from solid sleeping habits!
Know your stress triggers and avoid them
It’s no wonder that stress is labeled “the silent killer.” It seems that everyone has heard a story of a seemingly healthy person, with a high-stress situation, who suffers a major coronary event such as a stroke or a heart attack.
Part of dealing with stress is knowing what causes your stress! Learn your stress triggers and avoid them whenever possible.
If your stress trigger is, for example, your ex- that might be easy. But what if it’s your job? Learn to take breaks during work to take a walk, eat lunch outside to get a break from the environments, or try visualization techniques.
Drink plenty of water
It seems that drinking water is a prescription issued by doctors for almost every ailment. That’s true. The human body is made up of about 60% water. It’s essential to all areas of wellness, and the heart is no exception.
Proper hydration is essential to keeping your blood vessels and arteries functioning efficiently to keep your blood circulating throughout your body. In addition, it helps to flush your body of excessive sodium which can raise your blood pressure. Keep on following the old advice about drinking 8 glasses a day.
Kick the nicotine habit
Are you still smoking cigarettes? Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as non-smokers. Smoking leads to atherosclerosis, a build-up that narrows the arteries and can lead to heart attack or stroke. It also harms your heart health in the following ways:
- Decreases in HDL (good cholesterol)
- Lessens your ability to exercise
- Increases arterial disease
- Increases risk of aneurysm
Learn your family history
It doesn’t take a very deep dive into the gene pool to start to see commonalities in your family. Whether it’s brown eyes, blonde hair, or males having heart attacks before age 55, your genetic makeup is out of your control. However, how you handle that information can save your life!
If you have a genetic predisposition to risk factors for heart attack, have an open discussion with your doctor. He will be able to help you take preventive measures right away that could change your fate! When you pair modern research and technology with healthy lifestyle changes, heart health is easier to attain now than ever. That adds up to a longer and more enjoyable life!