We all know the importance of keeping a healthy heart. You live longer, avoid cardiovascular diseases and have a better life, health-wise when compared to those who do not take care of their hearts.
But taking care of the heart can seem a huge undertaking. Thinking heart health can make some of us literarily break out in sweat. But this doesn’t have to be.
Starting now, you can adopt these 10 easy dos (rules) for a healthier heart:
- Play a lot: It’s not only children that need play; adults do too. If you are getting enough hours of play every day, you may very well throw your exercise regime out of the window because play actually equals exercise since it gets your heart rate up. So, for optimal heart health, make your playtime your exercise time. You can walk the dog, shoot the basketball hoop with your kids, play kickball with colleagues, or go hiking with your better half. For this play, as an exercise to be effective and have any positive effect on your heart health, aim for at least 30 minutes of play time per day. If you can’t cram the 30 minutes into one slot, break it up. Take a 10-minute brisk stroll in the morning. Take another walk with workmates to lunch in the afternoon. Play dodge ball in the evenings with your kids. The idea is to get your heart rate up so that you are somewhat breathless, but are still able to carry on a conversation.
2. Get rid of the stress: The same way you need to get your heart rate up every day to reap the benefits of exercise is the same way that you also need to schedule time daily to relax. This means getting rid of the stress that so easily besieges most of us in our everyday life and in our daily pursuits. Stress can wreak havoc on the human body, particularly the heart. So be purposeful about relaxing. Shut down your system and lay down your phone. Fill that hot tub with water and soak in. Unplug from all the things that make you stress out and focus instead on finding calm and energy daily.
3. Maintain a healthy body weight: Being overweight places an inordinate amount of stress on your heart, causing it to overwork. You don’t want to do this, so you should work towards maintaining healthy body weight. Extra weight increases your risk of having a heart attack and a stroke and of developing high blood pressure. Meanwhile, losing a few pounds lessens the pressure on your heart, and you are likely to have more energy when you are an ideal body weight. Take note however that maintaining a healthy body weight will require you to go for good nutrition rather than food that are high in empty calories. You will also need to get a good balance between the calories you consume and the calories your body needs. Finally, you will need to get physically active to keep the weight off.
4. If you smoke, find a way to stop: We all know the risks involved when you smoke, so much so that even the cigarette company puts a warning on the packet. Well, if you didn’t know before now, smoking increases your risk of having a heart attack alongside the better-known risks of lung disease and cancer. So, if you want your heart to serve you for better and for longer, quit smoking. There is no easy way to do so, so find what works for you. This may be through medicine, through support groups, going cold turkey or through counselling. Whatever works, do, but try by all means to quit.
5. Never skip on your medical checkup: The basic reason for going for medical checkups is to catch problems at their infancy and nip them in the bud. When you don’t go for regular checkups, you are not likely to catch heart problems when they are still easily solvable. Don’t wait for that problem to become huge and life-threatening. So never skip on your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol checks, as well as your physical exams.
6. Have as much sex as you can: It is said that having sex is good for the heart, helping to lower blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. So, go on, get in between the sheets. Your heart will thank you.
7. Reduce your salt intake: Cutting your intake of salt cuts the risk of developing coronary heart disease, research says. And understand that cutting your salt intake will require much more than reducing the spoons of salt you put into your homemade food. It will also require you to eat less of processed and restaurant-prepared foods, as they are especially high in salt.
8. Eat more fish than meat: A diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids is extremely helpful when it comes to warding off heart disease, and many fish, such as tuna, sardines, salmon, and herring, are brilliant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. So, go the fish route instead of meat as much as you can. If you are not a fish lover, try supplements.
9. Eat breakfast no matter what: The first meal of the day is a very important one, and feasting on a nutritious breakfast helps to maintain a healthy diet and weight, which will eventually tell on your heart health. To maximize the benefits of breakfast, go for food categories like whole grains (oatmeal or whole-grain cereals), lean protein sources, low-fat dairy products, and fruits and vegetables.
10. Eat healthy fats: Concentrate on eating healthy fats and no trans fats. While we all need fats in our diet (saturated, polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats), what we don’t need is trans fat, which increases the risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke over a lifetime. Cutting trans fats from your diet also means that you improve blood flow throughout your body.