Keeping your heart in great shape is one of the most important things you can do for your overall wellbeing. Here are 5 tips for a healthy heart.
Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body, responsible for pumping blood and providing nutrients to all of your body parts. So keeping your heart healthy should be one of the primary concerns when it comes to your overall welling. And, as many of the common heart conditions are lifestyle-related, there are some simple steps you can take in your day-to-day life towards a healthy heart.
First, some basic anatomy. The heart has two sides, left and right, separated by a muscular wall. Each side has a upper and lower section; totaling four main chambers. Your blood vessels (arteries, capillaries and veins) are like elastic tubes, arranged in a complex network, that carry blood to every part of the body.
Your arteries are responsible for the transportation of oxygenated blood away from the heart (with the exception of the pulmonary artery). Capillaries are the smaller blood vessels in your body’s tissue, which provide oxygen and nutrients to the cells. They are also responsible for transporting waste from the cells via your veins. Your veins are one-way thoroughfares that carry deoxygenated blood from the body to the heart, where it can be sent to the lungs for replenishment.
Now, with the particulars out of the way, let’s take a look at some things you can do everyday to keep your heart healthy.
Be Wary Of Smoking, Even If You’re Not a Smoker
Smoking is extremely detrimental to your heart health. It is one of the leading causes of heart disease, and a major contributor to a plethora of other chronic conditions. But is it also one of the leading controllable risk factors associated with these diseases. And it is in your hands to quit. After a year of giving it up, your risk of a heart attack falls to roughly half that of a smoker.
If you’re a non-smoker, brilliant! However, it is still important to be diligent when it comes to secondhand smoke. Studies have found that those who are exposed to secondhand smoke either at home or in the workplace at a greater risk of developing heart disease – as much as 25 to 30 percent. If you are already at risk of developing heart disease, due to say high blood pressure or high cholesterol, then be extra wary of cigarette smoke!
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is a major contributor to your overall wellbeing, and a lack of sleep is closely linked with everything from poor mental health to heart disease.
As the National Sleep Foundation note, “one study that examined data from 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.”
Although it isn’t fully understood how sleep affects heart health it thought to be linked with such biological processes as metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation.
Studies have suggested that prolonged sedentary lifestyles are closely linked with cardiovascular disease in adults, regardless of how much physical activity you do. This means that even if you get enough exercise every day, sitting for prolonged periods while at work can be detrimental to your heart health.
If you work a sedentary job, implement a regime that keeps you moving throughout the day: walk or ride to work, park further away so that you have to walk to get to the office, set designated break periods where you take a short stroll, and go for a walk at lunch.
Of course it is very important to get into the habit of doing at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 times a week to promote good heart health. Try integrating this into your daily exercise routine. Cycle to work, play touch football at lunch, or go for a swim in the morning. Your heart will thank you for it.
Watch What Kind of Fats You Are Eating
Despite negative connotations, fat is an essential part of our diet. But some fats are better for you than others. Polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats are good, and saturated fat is tolerable in small amounts. But trans fats are very detrimental to your heart health. This is because they contribute significantly to high cholesterol, by raising your bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering your good cholesterol levels (HDL).
It is important for your heart health to cut trans fats out of your diet (and limit the amount of saturated fat you consume). Check the label of foods you buy, and be wary of fast food, processed foods, and frozen snacks. Trans fats are often listed as partially hydrogenated oils, so keep an eye out for these!
On the other hand, monounsaturated fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 are good for you in moderate amounts. These kinds of fats can be found in cold water fish like salmon and mackerel, avocados, olive oil and nuts.
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Eating a varied diet of fruit and vegetables everyday is one of the most important things you can do for your heart health. Fruit and vegetables are great for reducing weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, and they contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other nutrients that are crucial for a healthy heart.
As the Heart Foundation note, “choose a variety of types and colours of fruit and vegetables. The different colours offer different healthy nutrients.”
As a rule of thumb, aim to eat at least 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit every day. Examples of a serving include half a cup of fruit juice, a medium-sized apple or banana, or 1 cup of leafy green vegetables.
References avaliable on request.