7 Ways to Boost Your Heart Health, According to Experts
A FEW SIMPLE LIFESTYLE HABITS CAN HELP KEEP YOUR TICKER IN TIP-TOP SHAPE.
Watching out for warning signs about your heart health—as well as making sure to ask your doctor the right questions about heart disease—should be a key component of your wellness routine. But equally important is incorporating heart-healthy practices into your daily life.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And despite the fact that most heart disease can be effectively addressed through healthy lifestyle choices, the mortality rate of people with heart problems continues to rise, reports the American College of Cardiology. Read on to find out which choices will benefit your heart health, so you can put them into practice.
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Are you still smoking despite the potential repercussions, like cancer? Here's another reason to stop: "[Smoking] is one of the biggest reasons for heart disease," warns Madathupalayam Madhankumar, MBBS, MS. That includes vaping: Nicotine, whether smoked, vaped, or chewed, "raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack," says Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Cut down on salt
"Excess sodium intake can cause high blood pressure," advises Madhankumar. The Heart Foundation notes that "processed and packaged foods are responsible for most of the salt people eat." They recommend eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables in order to safeguard your heart.
Eat a healthy diet
What you eat has a huge effect on your heart, and it's not just about salt. A heart-healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease by 31 percent, diabetes by 33 percent, and stroke by 20 percent, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
"The best diet for preventing heart disease is one that is full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry, and vegetable oils," says the site, adding that a healthy diet "goes easy on red and processed meats, refined carbohydrates, foods and beverages with added sugar, sodium, and foods with trans fat."
Limit your alcohol intake—or give it up altogether
"There are many news reports that moderate drinking, especially red wine, is beneficial for heart health, but there is no proof," notes Madhankumar. "Drinking too much alcohol can lead to abnormal heart rhythms, damage to the heart muscle, high blood pressure, and other diseases."
In addition, "alcohol can contribute to obesity and the long list of health problems that can go along with it," reports Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Alcohol is a source of excess calories and a cause of weight gain that can be harmful in the long term," their experts write.
The site notes that if you do choose to consume alcohol, it's best to make sure it's in moderate amounts. "Moderate drinking is defined as an average of one drink per day for women and one or two for men," says the site, warning that "a drink might be less than you think: 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits."
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Watch your weight
Now more than ever, it's understood that maintaining a healthy weight goes hand-in-hand with a healthy diet. "[B]eing obese seems to be a 'solo player' associated with heart injury—that is, regardless of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and diabetes," Chiadi Ndumele, MD, MHS, explained to Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Down the road, this can lead to heart failure."
Try to de-stress
It's easier said than done, but reducing your stress level does have an effect on your heart health. "Stress can increase blood pressure [and] heart rate, so it is important to manage stress," says Madhankumar, who adds that "studies have proved that doing meditation for just 15 minutes a day can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke." And don't forget that stress is harmful to your health in many other ways, too—which is just another reason to explore ways to calm yourself down.
Get regular exercise
Not only does physical exercise help you maintain a healthy weight, it's good for your heart in many other ways. Harvard Health lists some of these, which include helping to reduce blood pressure and bad cholesterol, as well as regulating your blood sugar and "encouraging the heart's arteries to dilate more readily [and helping] your sympathetic nervous system (which controls your heart rate and blood pressure) to be less reactive." The site notes that some of these changes take place over a period of weeks, months, or years, but that "even a single bout of exercise may protect your heart right away."