5 Things You Can Do Every Day to Keep Your Heart Healthy
by Brenda Barnes, PharmD, MS
Heart disease prevention can start at any age; fortunately, many families have begun to teach their children about healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating healthy and exercising, at an early age.
Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have helpful and realistic tips for lowering your risk of developing heart disease. Here are five everyday recommendations to keep your heart healthy:
Eat healthy foods
Focus on consuming heart healthy foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol. These foods can help prevent high cholesterol.
Utilize a meal plan that helps to reduce the amount of salt (sodium) and limits the amount of added sugar in your diet.
Minimize your alcohol consumption; increased alcohol consumption can lead to increases in your blood pressure. It is recommended that men should have no more than 2 drinks per day and women no more than 1 drink per day.
Staying physically active can help maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. If you are not currently active, start by sitting less and moving more. This can be as simple as parking your car in a spot farthest from the entrance of the building, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or setting a timer to get up from your desk once an hour.
Current research recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day five times per week for adults. The recommendation for children is 60 minutes every day. Examples of moderate intensity workouts include brisk walking (at least 2.5 miles per hour), water aerobics, dancing, gardening, tennis (doubles) and biking slower than 10 miles per hour.
Control your cholesterol and blood pressure
Knowing your cholesterol levels and maintaining a healthy diet can help arteries remain free of blockages. High levels of “bad cholesterol,” known as LDL, can lead to plaque forming in veins and arteries. This build up can result in heart disease and stroke. To reduce your risk, control your cholesterol through exercise and reducing intake of animal products high in saturated fat, such as beef, pork, cream and butter.
There are usually no signs or symptoms when you have high blood pressure, so it is important to have it checked on a regular basis. If you have high blood pressure, your health care team will recommend lifestyle changes, and how frequently you should check your blood pressure.
Looking for a natural supplement to help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels? Green tea extract, when taken in addition to a low saturated fat diet, can decrease LDL and total cholesterol levels. Flaxseed, a grain that contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, has been shown to slightly reduce both blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Check with your pharmacist before starting anything new to make sure it is right for you and fits with any current medications.
Live tobacco free
Use of tobacco products or secondhand smoke can greatly increase your risk of heart disease. If you do not currently use tobacco products, don’t start! If you currently smoke and need help quitting, reach out to your healthcare team and they can discuss different methods.
Avoid secondhand smoke when possible. Nonsmokers are 30 percent more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer from exposure at home or work, according to a U.S. Surgeon General report.
While stress has not been directly linked to causing heart disease, it may lead to other behaviors or factors that increase your risk, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, overeating or physical inactivity.
Learning techniques to manage stress will not only benefit your body, but also improve your quality of life. Techniques to manage stress include taking deep breaths, meditating, listening to calming music, walking, exercising and breaking down big problems into smaller, more manageable parts.
Living a healthy lifestyle is the best way you can prevent or delay the development of heart disease or stroke. It’s never too early, but also never too late, to start healthy habits.
If these techniques are not enough, you can talk with your pharmacist about the possibility of adding supplements, such as Ashwagandha or Vitamin B to help manage your stress. Ashwagandha, commonly known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry, can help improve your ability to cope with stress by decreasing levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. Are you experiencing any stress at work? Individuals taking Vitamin B complex have reported reduced personal strain in their workplace.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.
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