Living A Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
When you think about a heart-healthy lifestyle, you may think of a balanced, nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight, or exercising. These are all great ways to keep your heart as healthy as possible, and there are a few others that will help you keep your heart in maximum health. With any of the below tips, speak with your trusted physician before implementing it. He or she can help you design a plan best suited for your individual needs.
Most people have a goal of eating well. So why is healthy eating so difficult? Some people don’t realize what constitutes a healthy diet. Foods that are an important part of a heart-healthy diet include, but aren’t limited to, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish high in Omega 3s and fatty acids, nuts, and seed butters, avocados, and tofu. A plan can chart out how much to eat and how often to eat each of these foods. A heart-healthy diet limits sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup, and alcoholic beverages.
How much physical activity do you need to do in order to be heart healthy? Hint: It may be less than you think. It takes just two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or one hour and 15 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic exercise. Any exercise that increases your heart rate and uses additional oxygen (like brisk walking or riding a bike) is considered aerobic exercise. You need to do aerobic exercise in ten-minute increments to for it to be most beneficial.
Reaching Your Goal Weight:
It isn’t easy for people to reach and maintain a goal weight. But it’s important to work towards a healthy weight. Increased body fat can lead to ischemic heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, and certain cancers. If you want to lose weight, a great first goal is 5%-10% of your current weight. Even a loss of just 3%-5% of your current weight can lower triglycerides and glucose levels in your blood, as well as your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It can improve blood pressure readings, lower bad LDL cholesterol, and increase good HDL cholesterol.
Managing stress is one of those things that’s easier said than done. However, it’s an important skill to learn. Becoming upset and angry can precipitate a heart attack and cause high blood pressure. Some choose to combat stress by drinking alcohol, using legal or illegal drugs, smoking, or overeating. However, these are not healthy habits to form and may cause more stress. Instead, learn how to manage stress in healthy ways, like exercise, therapy, massage, meditation, focused relaxation, or joining a support group.
Smoking strains every part of your body, and the heart is one of the most impacted. Even secondhand smoke can be dangerous to your health. If you’re a smoker, talk with your doctor about different methods to help you quit. If quitting smoking on your own is too challenging, consider joining a support group. Check out the information on UNC Lenoir’s Smoking Cessation Class.