Your heart is probably the second most important organ in your body, after your brain. It’s the organ that keeps the blood pumping, sending nutrients and oxygen to every cell in your body. And yet, cardiac disorders are the #1 killer in the world today! That says something about the state of our health, specifically heart health. If you want to know how to have a healthier heart, here’s what you need to do:
Exercise eliminates excess water from your circulatory system, prevents the build-up of fat in your arteries, and strengthens the muscles of your heart. Essentially, it will help your heart be more efficient at transporting oxygen and nutrients. You don’t have to kill yourself at the gym for hours every day, but just 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise is enough to keep your heart in great shape.
Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for a healthy heart. Not only will it help to reduce fat and cholesterol in the body, but it also eliminates sugar and excess water. High blood sugar levels and water retention can both contribute to heart problems. Fruits and veggies are also packed with antioxidants, which can deal with the free radicals floating around in your body.
Smoking may help you to relax, but it’s one of the worst things you can do! Not only does it affect your lungs, but it can seriously strain your heart as well. Smoking raises your blood pressure, weakens your blood vessels, and increases the risk of arterial plaque. It all but guarantees heart problems in the not-so-distant future! But within a year of quitting, your risk of coronary disease will be cut in half. Over time, you’ll return to full heart health, and your lungs and cardiovascular system will work normally again.
Limit Salt Intake
A bit of salt makes your food much tastier, but it’s easy to pass into the realm of “too much”. Salt causes your body to retain water, which in turn raises your blood pressure and strains the walls of your blood vessels. If they are weakened (courtesy of smoking, arterial plaque, or other coronary problems), the risk of heart attacks and strokes is much higher. Try to limit the amount of extra salt you sprinkle on your food, and cut back on the salt you use in your cooking. You can always add other kinds of flavors!
Understand Your History
Do you have a family history of heart disease? Do you have any uncles, aunts, parents, grandparents, cousins, or distant relatives who also suffered heart problems? If so, you are at risk as well. Heart problems can be passed down through the family. If you have a family history of heart problems, it’s vital you take EXTRA care to protect your heart.
Want to be sure your heart is in good shape? Get it tested! You can find blood pressure tests at most pharmacies, or you can ask your doctor to measure your cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure at your annual check-up. Both high cholesterol and high blood sugar can lead to serious problems, and high blood pressure can strain your cardiovascular system. Get tested, and deal with any health problems ASAP!
Did you know that stress is one of the primary causes of cardiac disease? Stress raises the levels of “fight or flight” hormone and over-works your heart. Find ways to relax and reduce the stress in your life. Your heart will thank you, and it will work better for many more years as a result!