Wondering how to improve heart health? Small yet significant habits can create heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
Although American Heart Health Month only occurs in February, the benefits of living a heart-healthy life can last a year. Read on for six tips to better heart health that you can start today.
Why Is Heart Health Important?
Most people have heard of “heart health” but don’t necessarily understand its importance. As the leading cause of death in the United States, cardiovascular disease (heart disease) threatens millions of men and women each year. Understanding your risk for heart disease is crucial to making positive (and lasting) changes from heart failure to heart attacks.
Many risk factors lead to heart disease, including poor diet and lack of exercise. Fortunately, choosing a heart-healthy lifestyle doesn’t just benefit your heart health. Preventative measures can also reduce the risk of developing other diseases and chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.
How to Improve Heart Health
Starting today, you can revolutionize your health habits with simple steps. Incorporate the following tips into your wellness routine for a stronger and healthier heart.
Eat a Variety Of Nutrient-Rich Foods
As you may have guessed, a healthy diet is crucial to staying heart healthy. Nutrient-rich foods make more sense for heart health since they contribute calories and nutrients to the diet. On the other hand, nutrient-poor foods contribute mainly calories and less healthy components—like unnecessary sugars, fats, or salts.
Now is the perfect time to start if you’re not already eating plenty of nutrient-rich foods! If this concept feels overwhelming, simply focus on adding more fruits and vegetables to the plate to create a delicious rainbow of colors.
Since colorful foods can indicate the presence of heart-healthy nutrients (like antioxidants or flavonoids), this is an easy way to eat various foods without making meal planning too stressful.
Looking for other quick tips to get you started? Try the following tactics to get more nutrients out of your meal:
•Make at least half of your grains whole (instead of refined grains)
•Limit added sugars, salts, and saturated fats whenever possible
•Swap simple carbohydrates for more complex carbs (preferably ones higher in fiber)
Switch to Healthy Fats
Eating a diet high in saturated fats significantly raises your heart disease risk. Since saturated fats contribute to plaque buildup in blood vessels, consuming too many “unhealthy” fats can cause a noticeable rise in high blood pressure.
On the other hand, healthy fats (the unsaturated kind) are crucial to maintaining heart and overall health. The following are heart-healthy foods that are also high in healthy fats:
•Fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, and tuna)
•Nuts and seeds
•Olives and olive oil
Swap Salt for Other Spices
Switching out salt for another spice is a subtle yet significant tip to improve your heart health. Too much salt can cause a sharp rise in blood pressure, harming the heart over time. Approximately 1 in 2 American adults are estimated to deal with high blood pressure daily, making it extremely important to watch your salt intake as you age.
The DASH diet may be a good fit for you if you want a formal heart-healthy diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and this diet is designed specifically to help manage high blood pressure. It emphasizes low-sodium or salt-free foods, cooking styles, and condiments.
Engage in Exercise You Enjoy
Exercise doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Instead of dreading physical activity, elevate your heart rate by doing an activity you genuinely enjoy. For example, you can try strengthening yoga exercises instead if you’re not a fan of lifting weights.
You’ll want to aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week, which works out to about 25-30 minutes daily. Try mixing it up with a good variety of activities, including both aerobic exercise and strength training.
Remember, more gentle kinds of exercise count, too. As long as physical activity requires you to move your body and burn more energy than you would at rest, you can reap the benefits of exercise. Consider incorporating the following activities into your routine:
Find Healthy Ways to Handle Stress
Unfortunately, stress is a normal part of life. Luckily, there are many ways to process stressful experiences healthily. For example, many people enjoy baking healthy foods when stressed because it involves all the senses.
Other options for healthily coping with stress include:
•Exercise, such as going on a walk or run
•Listening to music
•Starting a sleep hygiene routine
•Talk to someone you trust
•Take a social media break
•Yoga or meditation
Examine Unhealthy Habits
It may sound silly, but stopping “bad” habits in their tracks is crucial to heart health. Everything from staying up too late to smoking can influence health and may stress the heart unnecessaril.
Examining your health habits and identifying areas for improvement can help you make positive changes. A few common areas to address include:
•Substance use (such as alcohol or smoking)
Maintain Regular Check-Ups
You may feel especially empowered to take care of your “ticker” during American Heart Month. However, attending to one of your body’s most important muscles and organs year-round is important.
Regular check-ups and meeting with a cardiologist (as needed) is key to catching concerning risk factors. Some health markers you may want to request tests for include blood pressure and cholesterol. Tracking these markers over time can show trends, and may help motivate you to make necessary changes.
The Last Word on Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes
While there isn’t a magic pill for heart health, there are many ways you can start improving your heart health today while you wait for your next doctor’s appointment. Finding foods and exercise you enjoy can help motivate you to make positive changes. Addressing poor sleep habits, stress management, and substance use can also make a big difference.
How we reviewed this article
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