LITTLE CHANGES ADD UP TO BIG BENEFITS FOR HEART HEALTH
At this time of the year, many of us are focused on improving our health. While the main focus is often on weight loss (which is good for your heart), there are other things you can be doing to make sure your heart is healthy.
The good news is that you don’t have to overhaul your whole diet or start a strenuous workout plan in order to see results. By incorporating a few small changes and habits into your life, your results can be big. Try adding one of these steps every month for a healthier heart in 2022.
- Move throughout the day.
Sitting for long periods of time is linked with a number of conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and obesity. Even if you are not overweight and exercise regularly, it’s important to get up and moving during your day, especially if you have a desk job. Set a timer if you need a reminder. Take brisk walks around the office, do some gentle exercises or stretches, and consider a standing desk.
- Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.
Make a goal to add one serving of fruit or vegetable to every meal. It might not seem like it will make much difference, but that’s 1,095 extra servings of fruits and vegetables in a year!
- Cut out soda.
One 12-ounce can of soda can contain about 10 teaspoons of sugar. That’s more than the recommended daily intake, which is a maximum of 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women. Excess sugar consumption leads to fat accumulation, a risk for fatty liver, diabetes, increased blood pressure and inflammation: all contributors to heart disease. Cutting out soda completely (or limiting consumption to special occasions) can significantly improve your heart health.
- Snack smarter.
Snacks and sweets are the second biggest culprit when it comes to added sugars. Try to avoid processed foods. Opt for healthy alternatives like nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
- Take a breather.
One of the best things you can do for your heart is to incorporate some mindful breathing into your day. This is especially the case if you feel frequently stressed. Try to take five minutes every day to relax and take some slow breaths.
- Get a checkup.
Regular heart health checkups can go a long way in preventing heart disease through early detection. Make sure you have your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar checked regularly.
- Have fun.
Feeling happy can improve your heart health! Laughter, joy and feelings of well-being do a lot more than just make you feel good. Those chemical responses in the brain also affect the rest of your body, including improved blood flow. Plus, people who are generally happy in life tend to have less unmanaged stress and make healthier lifestyle choices.
- Be social.
A strong social connection with family or friends is one of the key contributors to a long life. Research undertaken on the world’s longest-living communities, known as blue zones, shows that the social aspect is an important part of lifelong health. Put spending quality time with your loved ones at the top of your list.
- Get outside.
Spending time in nature is shown to reduce stress, blood pressure and heart rate: all of which will improve heart health. Simple things like walking barefoot on the grass, sitting in a park or taking a stroll in a natural setting are great ways to reap the benefits of being outdoors.
- Eat less red meat.
Consuming too much red meat is well-known to increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. Limiting servings to one or two per week and eating more plant-based proteins can go a long way in reducing your risk for heart problems.
- Take care of your teeth.
Gum disease has been linked with increased risk of heart disease. Make sure to brush and floss daily, and see your dentist regularly for checkups.
- Find healthy ways to unwind.
While there’s no way to avoid stress completely, we can find better ways to manage it than eating something sugary, drinking alcohol or binge-watching television. Take some time to think of ways to unwind. You can even make a list. Listening to music, dancing around your kitchen, taking a walk after dinner, soaking in the bathtub, trying a new hobby or reading a good book are all great options for unwinding. Find what you truly enjoy, and make that your habit.
The team at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists consists of North Louisiana’s leading experts in cardiovascular care. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call our office at (318) 798-9400.