Sometimes we take the fact that our heart beats continually in our chest for granted.
We think (and hope) it will just keep on beating, because that is what a heart does. We don’t give consideration that the heart is a muscle, just like any other muscle in the body (yes, it is made from cardiac tissue), and it needs care in order to keep working, just like the rest of the muscles in our bodies.
Below are 6 key things you need to do every day to keep your heart working efficiently. Incorporate these habits into your lifestyle, and your heart health will be the best it can be for you.
Eat Healthy Fats, NOT Trans Fats
We need fat in our diet, including saturated, polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats. One fat we don’t need is trans fat, which is known to increase the risk of developing heart disease or stroke.
Trans fat clogs your arteries by raising your bad cholesterol levels. By cutting them from your diet, you improve the blood flow throughout your body. Trans fats are industry-produced fats often used in package processed foods such as:
- Deep fried Fast Foods
- Bakery products
- Margarine and shortening
- Crackers, chips, and cookies
- Package snack foods
TIP: If the nutrition label has the term “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated,” it means that product contains trans fat.
But don’t cut all fats out of your diet. Healthy fats from plant-based sources such as avocado, nuts, olives, coconut oil, and olive oil help your heart by lowering the bad type of cholesterol.
Eating two or more servings a week of certain fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines may decrease your risk of heart disease. Check out this easy and delicious Balsamic Glazed Salmon recipe!
Maintain a Healthy Weight
When you maintain a healthy weight it helps prevent your body from developing other diseases that put stress on the heart. Metabolic syndrome, a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides also increase the risk of heart disease.
TIP: Do you need to lose weight for a healthy heart? Waist circumference can be a useful tool to measure how much abdominal fat you have:
- Men are generally considered overweight if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches
- Women are generally overweight if their waist measurements is greater than 35 inches
Many studies have shown that bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum disease can move into the blood stream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. These changes may in turn increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
TIP: Floss and brush your teeth daily to ward off gum disease. You may be dealing with more than cavities when gum disease is present.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of keeping your heart healthy. If you don’t sleep enough, you may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease no matter your age or other health habits.
One study of 3,000 adults over the age of 45, found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Researchers believe sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes, including blood pressure and inflammation.
TIP: Make sleep a priority. If you have sleep apnea, you should be treated as this condition is linked to heart disease and arrhythmias.
Don’t Sit for Too Long – Move It
Research has suggested that staying seated for long periods of time is bad for your health no matter how much exercise your do. This is bad news for many people who sit at sedentary jobs all day.
Researchers found an 147% increase in cardiovascular events for those who are sedentary, and a 90% increase in death caused by these events. In addition, sitting for long periods of time (especially when traveling) increases your risk of blood clots.
TIP: Get up and move every hour. Set a reminder on your phone.
Avoid Smoking, Secondhand Smoke and Tobacco Products
The risk of developing heart disease is about 25% to 30% higher for people who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work. Exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to about 34,000 premature heart disease deaths an 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year.
Nonsmokers who have high blood pressure or high LDL have an even greater risk of developing heart disease when they’re exposed to secondhand smoke.
Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries due to plaque build up. Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood. This increases your blood pressure and heart rate by forcing your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen.
TIP: Be firm with smoker that you do not want to be around environmental smoke – keep children away from second hand smoke.