8 Ways to Strengthen and Keep Your Heart Healthy
Living a heart-healthy life requires knowing the risks associated with unhealthy lifestyles and understanding your own individual risk factors for different heart diseases. Some individual risk factors can't be changed, such as your age, sex, or if you have a family history of previous heart disease. However, many habit-based lifestyle choices can be adjusted to decrease the chance of developing heart diseases like coronary heart disease, which is the most common heart condition that causes heart attacks.
It's important to start living a heart-friendly lifestyle before any signs of wear and tear begin to show. But how do you know if your heart healthy?
Here are some reliable signs that you have a healthy heart:
If you happen to have the opposite of the prior healthy heart signs, the following ten ways can help you as you look to becoming healthier and fitter.
1. Stay Hydrated
Did you know that if your heart beats on average 72 times a minute, it pumps approximately 7,600 liters per day?1. Because the heart is continually pumping blood, staying well hydrated helps relieve muscle strain by thinning out the blood. This makes it easier for the blood to move through your vessels and allows your heart to work more effectively.
If you are dehydrated, your heart tries to offset the lack of blood by beating faster. This increases your heart rate and ends up making your heart work harder than it has to.
2. Put down the cigarette
The swarm of chemicals that enter your body when you inhale in tobacco smoke damages and decreases your heart's ability to function properly. This damage that your heart takes from your smoking then increases your risk of atherosclerosis.2
Atherosclerosis is a condition when plaque, a waxy substance, has built up in the body's arteries. This happens over time. The more you smoke, the more the plaque accumulates and hardens. Your arteries become narrowed because of this plaque, which means your blood has a harder time reaching parts of your body. 2
TIP: Though difficult, with the proper support system and mindset, quitting smoking is possible. If you quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke, it can help reverse heart damage and reduce your risk of heart disease.
3. Skip the alcohol
Heavy drinking is linked to several health conditions, including heart disease. Most notably, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure. If your blood pressure stays high (a condition called hypertension) for an extended period, you increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, which could lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
4. Minimize your salt intake
A diet that's high in sodium isn't good for anyone. But excessive salt intake over time could potentially produce high blood pressure (a condition called hypertension). High blood pressure increases your risk of developing different types of heart diseases and other health conditions such as strokes or kidney failure3.
To reduce the risk of these diseases, it's important to eat a diet that's low in sodium as it will lower or even prevent high blood pressure.
5. Manage your stress
Can stress cause heart disease? Short answer, yes (but mostly chronic stress).
Stress is known to cause an increase in inflammation in the body. It's this inflammation that is more closely linked to heart damage and various heart diseases as it is connected to factors like high blood pressure.4
Chronic stress and anxiety can also harm your heart more indirectly. When you're concerned and your stress levels rise, many people tend to sleep poorly, choose to eat healthy foods, and skip working out. These lifestyle choices may be correlated to your anxiety and stress levels, leading to a higher risk of heart disease.4
6. Stay Active
The best exercise for heart health is aerobic exercise, also known as cardio. Running, walking, cycling, jump roping, and swimming are all great exercises to keep your fitness levels up and your heart pumping strong. Tracking your activities and metrics (such as your resting heart rate (RHR), Maximum Heart Rate, daily steps, and calories burned) is a great way to have an accurate view and understanding of where you are in your fitness journey. It can also help you understand how well your heart is working and if improvements are needed.
7. Control your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Getting your cholesterol and blood pressure checked by your family doctor is key to early prevention and reducing your risk for heart disease.
If you have high blood pressure or unhealthy cholesterol levels, your doctor could suggest that you make significant lifestyle changes and/or prescribe medication to help manage them. Understanding your body and having the numbers you need is the best start to getting your levels into a healthy range.
8. Eat heart-friendly foods
Your diet and what you choose to eat and drink can increase or decrease your risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure levels, harmful cholesterol levels, weight gain, and your risk for diabetes.5
Eating a heart-healthy diet doesn't take as much effort as you may think.
The best heart healthy food list includes foods such as5:
It's also important not to over-eat. How much food you eat is almost just as important as what you're putting in your body.
You don't have to change all of your unhealthy habits at once. But starting to gradually create a healthier lifestyle and make better decisions that center around your heart health will help you live happier and healthier for longer. Follow these tips to strengthen and keep your heart healthy for long-term success!