Known as the “silent killer,” heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and killing 1 in 4 Americans each year. But considering weight is a large risk factor to its development, and two-thirds of the American population are overweight and obese, the high statistics are not too surprising. Consistent research implies belly fat increases heart disease risk, though all over body fat causes a plethora of health concerns, too. But even if weight loss does not follow, managing blood sugar, pressure, and lipids through a complete healthy lifestyle can promote a healthier heart and life. And while you can create a healthier lifestyle at any time, there is no better time than now, during heart health month designated every February!
Heart Healthy Lifestyle
Diets are generally perceived as restricted, which can cause individuals to feel deprived. So rather than restricting foods in the diet, enhance the diet by adding color. (Fruits and veggies over colorful cereals…) Eating foods of the rainbow is implied to naturally provide the nutrients required for optimal body function, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Go Fish… and Go Nuts
Dive into the renowned heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in the fatty fish mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon. Evidence continually hooks between the relationship of omega-3s and heart disease, as the fatty acid has been shown to reduce heart attack and cardiac death in individuals with heart disease. Fish oils also appears to reduce triglyceride levels, a type of fat found in the blood, and lower blood pressure readings. Additional sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, walnuts, and vegetable oils. The American Heart Association recommends at least two fish servings per week with a liberal use of flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oils.
Spice It Up
The general public is suggested to limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (or one teaspoon) of salt each day, which can be achieved by going for whole foods and dismissing the salt shaker. To reduce the need or desire for salt, add flavor with other seasonings, herbs, and spices. Spice it up in the kitchen with these flavorful, all-natural inspirations!
Include Whole Grains
Unlike processed, refined products, whole grains are bursting at the seams with fiber and nutrients. Fiber not only promotes bowel regularity, but can facilitate weight loss and promote good heart health. In fact, individuals who consume a high-fiber diet are suggested to obtain and sustain a healthier body mass index (BMI). But aside from weight, fiber can reduce cholesterol levels, subsequently lessening the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Minimize Simple Sugars
Simple sugars and concentrated sweets essentially contributes nothing more than calories, whilst reducing their intake can assist in weight loss and promote good heart health. Limiting sweets can also assist in blood sugar regulation, which further lessens the risk of compromised heart health in the future.
Partake in Stress Management
Managing stress is often forgotten about, but a highly encouraged part of creating a healthier lifestyle. Relieve stress by listening to music, meditating, stretching, taking a walk, and practicing yoga. Formulating a weekly schedule and prepping meals can also help minimize stress by keeping tasks and other responsibilities in check.
Elevate Your Heart Rate
Working out not only burns calories and stimulates muscle growth, but improves cardiovascular health and improves blood flow. The American Heart Association recommends achieving at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Get active with family at the playground, bike with a friend, partake in a community exercise class, or any sort of activity to elevate your heart rate!
If you smoke, there is no better month or time than now to quit. Smoking has a plethora of consequences tied to its practice, with compromised heart health being just one of the many.
Schedule Annual Appointments
Encouraged annually, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider for a routine, physical exam. Identifying potential health concerns and knowing where your health stands offers the opportunity to prevent greater concerns later down the road.