A healthy heart is key to overall health and longevity. Unfortunately, though, the average lifestyle isn’t exactly conducive to heart health. Poor nutrition, being sedentary and inactive, and unhealthy choices like smoking can affect the heart in a number of ways, and can even result in heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and other life-threatening complications.
However, you can protect your cardiovascular health and, in the process, live a longer, healthier life. Keep reading to discover the essential steps in reducing your risk of heart disease, and enhancing overall health and quality of life.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Certain lifestyle choices can severely impact heart function and overall health. For example, in the interest of heart health and longevity, the following behaviors should be avoided:
- Smoking. Smoking is one of the primary causes of cardiovascular disease. Stop now, and experience benefits like healthier heart and lung function, enhanced energy and more.
- Drinking in excess. In moderation, alcohol (especially red wine) can have positive effects on cardiovascular health. However, excess drinking can lead to complications of the liver, kidneys and heart, and can contribute to heart attack and cardiovascular disease.
- Using drugs. Substance abuse can have numerous effects on the cardiovascular system, including an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack and hypertension.
- Stress. The way you handle stress can either help or hurt your heart. For example, if you de-stress with alcohol, smoking or other unhealthy methods, you’re setting yourself up for a number of problems. On the other hand, if you take a mindful approach to reducing stress – exercising, meditating, deep breathing, etc. – your heart, and overall health, will thank you.
If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, your risk of heart disease is significant. However, by getting active now, you can reduce the risks associated with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and a host of other conditions, not to mention look and feel your absolute best. Start with at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise, at least three days a week; over time, you can build up to one hour of activity, five or six days per week. And if you’re a total beginner, start slow, be careful not to overexert, and speak to your healthcare provider before beginning a fitness regimen.
Eat for Heart Health
Like regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease and other illnesses. To enhance heart health, incorporate foods like the following into your diet:
- Fruits and vegetables. Choose a wide variety of produce, and look for bright colors and different textures.
- Whole grains. Healthy carbs like barley, oats and quinoa can enhance heart function by providing clean, long-lasting energy, and helping the body rid itself of waste.
- Lean proteins. Fish, chicken and vegetarian protein (soy, beans, nuts, etc.) can reduce the risk of heart disease, and can also aid in weight loss and the management of diabetes.
In addition to adding heart-healthy foods to your meal plan, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by avoiding foods like the following:
- Fatty and processed meats. Red meat, pork and other fatty or processed meats can clog the arteries and increase cholesterol, and should be limited or avoided, altogether.
- Simple carbohydrates. White bread, potatoes, pastas refined sugar and other simple carbs are associated with weight gain, the development of type 2 diabetes and other complications.
- Processed meals and snacks. Processed, prepackaged meals and snacks are usually loaded with excess fat, sodium, sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Skip the packaging and opt for fresh meals with whole ingredients.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. And though the average American lifestyle can have a severe impact on cardiovascular function, a few simple changes can have a dramatic effect on heart function and health. With the tips provided here, you can enhance the health of your heart, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and experience better overall health and quality of life.