Matters of the Heart
6 Ways to Take Care of Your Heart
The following statistics are provided by the Center for Disease Control: 715,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. Approximately 600,000 people die from heart disease during the same period. This accounts for 1 out of every 4 deaths in the U.S. Heart disease is considered the leading cause of death for both men and women. The costs associated with heart disease in America total $312.6 billion per year.
While these statistics are certainly alarming, the good news is that heart disease is preventable to begin with, and treatable if it does occur. Whether you are looking to prevent heart disease or to improve your condition if you already have a diagnosis, there are many things you can do to take charge. Here are six of the top actions you can take:
- Have a healthy diet. Whatever you put into your body has an impact on your health. To maximize cardiac health, eat a balanced diet that focuses on vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. Our previous blog provided six benefits of eating veggies, and just as many benefits can be found from eating fruit and protein. Learn about portion sizes and the importance of choosing healthy snacks throughout the day. Eating foods close to their natural form, avoiding highly processed items, and limiting fats along with decreasing simple starches and sugars has a significant impact on maintaining cardiac health.
- Don’t smoke, and limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Both increase blood pressure, which causes stress to your heart. Smoking is also a leading cause of heart damage and disease, and it impacts every major organ in your body. It contributes to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, atherosclerosis, lung cancer, peripheral artery disease, and early death.
- Know your current weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. This knowledge will help you set goals and monitor your progress over time. Keeping these three things under control is your best bet toward maintaining cardiac health.
- Exercise regularly. Current recommendations are to exercise 30 minutes per day, most days of the week. Combine aerobic, cardio, and strength training exercises to get the biggest bang for your buck. The heart is a muscle, and like all muscles, gets stronger with exercise. Exercise will lower your cholesterol, reduce inflammation in the arteries, help control weight, and help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Don’t forget the emotional benefits of exercise! It reduces stress, encourages endorphin release, and helps boost your energy and feeling of well-being. Exercise can make you happy!
- Monitor your hunger, energy, and cravings, and work toward a balance that allows you to feel your best. When these things are in check, you are far more likely to make food and lifestyle choices that will improve your heart health.
- Remember the basics. Drink lots of water; at least 64 ounces per day. Get enough sleep; 6-8 hours per night is the average. Take care of your emotional well-being by having a balanced schedule, spending time with people who support you, and having time for yourself to relax or pursue the things that bring you joy.
The heart is the center of our being. Many people also consider it to be the home of the mind and spirit. Western thought tends to associate the heart with love. If this is the case, it is yet another reason to take care of yourself and your heart. We have been talking about the importance of self-care, and making progress toward your health goals. The more you continue to take care of yourself, the further along you will be on the road toward loving yourself and your body. You are worth it! Keep up the awesome work.
Next time we will look more closely at the impact of exercise on the heart, and will offer suggestions on ways to mix up your cardiac routine. You only are given one heart so take good care of its physical and emotional parts. Make sure to laugh many times throughout the day. Laughter can bring you great joy and happiness and send healing signals to the body! Laughter is the best medicine.
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