Practical reminders, common sense approaches and clever solutions to avoid everyday challenges and live your best life.
You feel good, you look after your health, and you get regular medical checkups. So, it makes sense that you think you're taking good care of your heart. But there's an insidious danger lurking in our lifestyles.
According to the CDC, every year, heart disease causes almost 25 percent of deaths -- that's one in every four -- in the United States. And a lot of the risk factors are associated with how we live. Don't become a statistic. Learn what a few simple lifestyle changes can do to keep your heart healthy and strong.
Watch What You Eat
Something you have almost complete control over is your diet. We know that certain foods help our heart while others harm it. On the "bad" list are saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium. Unfortunately, many of our favorite quick-and-easy meals and snacks are loaded with all three.
Foods good for your heart are high in fiber, for example, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and foods with healthy fats, often found in vegetable oils and fatty fish oils. It may seem like a pain, but when you start reading the labels on food, you'll be able to make much better food choices.
Also, when you eat heart-healthy foods, it's easier to maintain a healthy weight. People who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
This is another healthy-heart factor you can control. It only takes 20 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity to keep your heart in good health, so make it a priority to find those 20 minutes in your schedule. Also, according to the Mayo Clinic, sitting for too long at one time is associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular events. Set a timer when you're doing desk work, and get up and move around when it goes off.
Manage Your Vices
We're not talking about criminal activities here; we're talking about smoking and drinking. If you smoke, you know you should quit -- so just do it. Also, avoid secondhand smoke; it's almost as harmful as smoking.
If you drink, make sure it's in moderation -- that means one drink a day for women and two for men.
Keep an Eye on Your Cholesterol Level and Blood Pressure
This is where those regular medical check-ups come in. Your doctor can alert you of any troubling changes to your cholesterol or blood pressure levels and advise you on how to help lower them. Also, let your doctor know of any family history of heart disease; this may put you at increased risk.
One of the things that hurts your heart is stress. While we can't completely eliminate stress from our lives, we can keep it in check by paying attention to our stressors and learning how to alleviate them. Spend more time doing the things you love and less on the "shoulds." Manage stress by balancing it with periods of calm, whether through yoga, meditation or exercise.
Also, make sure you get enough rest. When you don't sleep enough -- at least seven or eight hours a night -- your body doesn't have time to repair and restore itself from the day's assault on your health. And if you suffer from sleep apnea, be sure to have the condition treated. It's especially hard on your heart.
That's really just how simple it is. By reinforcing a few good lifestyle habits, you can keep that heart of yours ticking along flawlessly for many years to come.