February is best known for Valentines Day, a day when we share our love with the special people in our lives. To help improve our chances of living a long, healthy life so we can continue to share our love with friends and family, we need to to be sure we are keeping our heart healthy. According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease kills more men and woman than any other disease. The good news is there is a lot we can do to help keep our heart healthy.
A healthy lifestyle is the foundation to a healthy heart. Below are six simple tips to help you lead a healthier lifestyle.
- The number one thing you can do for your heart is exercise. Lack of exercise is bad for your entire cardiovascular system and can contribute to high blood pressure as well as high blood sugar. Plan to do some type of exercise or activity 3-5 times per week for at least 30 minutes. If you find this time commitment to be difficult, break it down into shorter time periods such as 10 minutes, three times a day. A brisk walk, a bike ride, weight lifting, playing a sport, or any physical activity you enjoy can all be beneficial.
- It is important to manage your diet and weight. Focus on eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, skinless chicken, fish, and nuts. Additionally, limiting your intake of sodium, sugar, and saturated fats will also help.
- Smoking can lead to heart disease as well as cancer, lung disease, and premature aging. Cutting down or quitting smoking will result in more oxygen circulating throughout the body. Your energy level can also improved greatly. Helping those around you to quit smoking will also be helpful to you as second hand smoke can be dangerous, too.
- Pay attention to cholesterol levels, as this is an important indicator for cardiac risk. Plan to eliminate trans fats as they can increase your LDL (bad cholesterol) and decrease your HDL (good cholesterol). Trans fats can be found in cookies, crackers, french fries, donuts, and pastries. To improve your cholesterol level, increase your consumption of foods rich in omega-3 such as salmon, mackerel, walnuts, almonds, and flaxseed oil.
- High blood pressure makes the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body and can also lead to hardening of the arteries. High blood pressure (or hypertension) can lead to heart attacks and strokes. All of the following can help lower blood pressure: losing extra weight, exercising, eating healthy, reducing sodium, limiting alcohol consumption and caffeine, and no smoking.
- High sugar levels can also lead to a hardening of the arteries, which can result in a heart attack or stroke. Ultimately, high sugar levels can lead to diabetes. To control sugar levels, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, eat regularly, don’t skip meals (especially breakfast), drink lots of water, and get adequate sleep.
Be sure to share this information with your loved ones this Valentine’s Day and let them know how important they are to you. Lead by example and start choosing to live a healthier lifestyle.
Note: Please consult with your doctor before starting any new nutrition or exercise program.