Kick These Habits for Better Heart Health
Every day, doctors see patients dealing with heart-related disorders stemming from conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. While some of these health issues are hereditary, many are controllable, and even preventable, with just a little extra effort. By kicking these bad habits and taking up some new, healthier ones, you can lower your risk of heart-related disorders and improve your overall health.
Damaging Diet Decisions
The quality and quantity of what you eat has a direct correlation to how healthy your body can be. Diets high in fat and sugar put you at greater risk of stroke or heart attack. Being overweight puts added strain on your body and increases blood pressure.
Limit fried foods, soft drinks and processed snacks. Instead, nourish your body with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. Both the DASH and Mediterranean diets are heart-healthy options that have been approved by the American Heart Association.
Reduce your sodium intake. While sodium is important in maintaining your body’s fluid balance, too much can actually increase water retention, leading to hypertension and weight gain. Reduce the amount of salt you use when cooking, and limit processed and frozen foods, which can contain high sodium levels.
Drink less alcohol. You don’t have to quit drinking altogether, but consuming one drink a day is considered moderation. Studies have shown that increased alcohol consumption can increase triglycerides, the fat that builds up on artery walls and causes high blood pressure and strokes.
Ignoring Warning Signs
You wouldn’t ignore the “check engine” light on your car, would you? Think of your heart the same way. Being proactive about your heart health can go a long way in warding off future issues.
Heart health is often a family affair. You might be genetically predisposed toward certain conditions or at risk because of lifestyle and diet habits picked up from your parents or community. If you don’t look at your family history, you are missing a very important piece of your own health’s puzzle.
Don’t skip yearly checkups. Along with annual blood pressure, weight and BMI checks, additional heart-screenings for cholesterol and blood glucose can send up early red flags so you can make immediate adjustments.
Monitor your blood pressure regularly. That cuff isn’t just for the doctor’s office, especially if you’re at risk for heart-related issues. Pharmacy kiosks and at-home portable monitoring systems are easy and accessible ways to track your blood pressure.
Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices
Even if you eat right and see the doctor regularly, your lifestyle choices can either help or hinder your heart’s function.
Get off the couch. Exercising as little as 30 minutes a day improves blood cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart muscle. It doesn’t matter what you do for exercise — walking running, dancing, cycling — just do it, and enjoy the benefits of a stronger heart.
Quit smoking now. Smoking is also directly linked to heart disease and stroke. Smoking can also lower your HDL cholesterol (the good kind), damage the cells lining your blood vessels and cause an increase in plaque buildup.
Find healthy stress relief. Stress can cause physical responses such as chest pain or heart palpitations. Increased cortisol levels (also known as “the stress hormone”) are linked to higher cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
By adopting healthy lifestyle habits, you’ll keep your heart strong and running at optimal levels.
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