Heart health isn’t a new topic, but is improving your heart health something you’re actively working on? When it comes to heart health, it’s vital to start taking steps to take care of your heart before health concerns arise. Heart disease is more prevalent than most people realize (it’s the number-one leading cause of death in the United States), but it doesn't have to be that way. Let's learn about heart health and how to lower the risk factors for heart disease:
What Increases Your Risk for Heart Disease?
Heart disease is any condition that harms or strains the heart. While some heart conditions are congenital (existing since birth), unhealthy lifestyles also contribute to many heart conditions. Unhealthy lifestyle choices include an improper diet, a lack of physical activity, drug abuse, smoking, high cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure.
In most cases, cholesterol plaque buildup (especially in the arteries) causes poor heart health. When plaque builds up in the blood vessels, blood flow becomes restricted; in severe cases, blood flow can become blocked completely. When untreated, this can lead to heart attacks.
But heart conditions don't develop overnight, which is why it’s important to start prioritizing heart health before concerns arise. Fortunately, you can implement simple lifestyle changes to prevent plaque buildup and decrease the risk of heart disease. Boost your heart health with these seven easy tips:
7 Ways to Improve Heart Health
1. Go Mediterranean
One of the most significant ways to improve heart health is to optimize your intake of beneficial nutrients. Just as the name suggests, the Mediterranean diet describes the eating styles of people who live in the Mediterranean region of the world. You may have heard of this diet — the U.S. News and World Report have ranked the Mediterranean diet as the best diet for years. Plus, the American Heart Association recommends this diet to help reduce high cholesterol.
The Mediterranean diet has three key emphases:
- Basing meals on non-processed foods, including fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains
- Utilizing olive oil, a known antioxidant, as the primary fat intake
- Consuming fish and poultry as a protein source, rather than red meat
And the best part about following the Mediterranean diet? There are thousands of recipes that you can try. Any country that borders the Mediterranean Sea has its own approach to this diet style. Try recipes from France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and more to improve your heart health!
2. Dance Your Heart Out
The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week for a healthy heart. Across the week, that’s 30 minutes of movement for at least five days. And what better way to exercise than to dance? Blast some music and follow an online tutorial to learn a new routine, or dance any way you'd like. Exercising at a moderate intensity level means you are slightly out of breath but still able to hold a conversation.
If dancing isn’t your preferred form of movement, there’s no shortage of ways to get your heart rate up for a refreshing workout. You can also try the following:
- Walking at least 2.5 miles per hour
- Incorporating a Pilates or yoga workout that raises your heart rate
- Bicycling at a moderate pace
- Hiking on a trail with gentle inclines and declines
It’s more important to stay consistent in your exercise routine than exert all of your energy in one session. Working out doesn’t have to mean a visit to the gym, and making exercise enjoyable for yourself will help with consistency.
3. De-stress Regularly
At first glance, the connection between stress and heart health might not be obvious. However, stress is associated with high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. Additionally, stress can promote unhealthy coping mechanisms that increase the risk for heart disease, like drinking and unhealthy food patterns.
Meditation is one of the most accessible ways to incorporate stress relief into your day. Because meditation is so popular as a stress reliever, there are many resources, like podcasts and apps, that offer guided meditations of various lengths that you can fit in whenever you have pockets of free time during the day.
Supplement meditation with other things that bring you joy, like spending time with friends and working on your hobbies, and your heart will thank you for it!
4. Regulate Your Sleep
As much as your body needs movement, it also needs plenty of rest. A lack of restorative sleep is linked to risk factors for heart health, including high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. More severe outcomes include stroke.
If you’re not getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night, you may want to rethink your daily routine. Fortunately, some of the other tips for improving your heart health may also facilitate better sleep at night. Regular exercise and decreased stress levels can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
For more ways to get better sleep at night, read our article on sleep here.
5. Monitor Your Drinking Habits
Have you heard that a glass of red wine can be healthy for you? In today’s modern culture, this is a commonly circulated concept. While research suggests that an occasional glass of red wine may provide antioxidants and help protect against heart disease, this isn’t a green light for drinking a whole bottle in a sitting. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure, and added sugars from cocktails and beer can contribute to an unhealthy diet.
A well-known adage applies here: moderation is key. Monitoring your drinking habits and being mindful of the added sugars in your drinks can support a healthier lifestyle and reduce the risk of heart disease.
6. Cut Cigarettes Completely
Smoking is a serious threat to heart health. In fact, cigarette smoking causes nearly 20% of the deaths associated with heart disease. Smoking makes blood more likely to clot and increases plaque buildup in the arteries. For these reasons and more, cigarette smoking can double someone’s risk of stroke and contribute to long-lasting health complications in the heart.
The first step in the cessation of smoking is to talk to a health professional. They can provide detailed information about the effects of smoking on your body and offer quitting techniques like support groups and other resources.
7. Keep Your Nutrient Levels Up
Many people don’t think twice about their nutrient levels, but maintaining adequate levels of key heart-supporting nutrients is a must for improving heart health. For example, omega-3 fatty acids are substances shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, magnesium is an essential mineral that can promote a lower risk of heart disease.
You can make sure you’re getting enough of these vital nutrients by tracking the nutritional makeup of the food you eat. Luckily, this won’t require too much effort if you’re following the Mediterranean diet, as mentioned above.
You can also try NatureWise supplements to support your intake of crucial nutrients:
- Magnesium: This supplement provides magnesium emulsified in olive oil to promote absorption and support cardiovascular health, balanced stress levels, and normal blood pressure.
- Omega-3 Alaskan Fish Oil: Carefully sourced and chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, this supplement provides support for overall heart health without additives or impurities.
- Organic Flaxseed Oil: Flaxseed oil is a plant-based alternative to fish oil with its high concentration of ALA omega-3s.
Start Improving Your Heart Health Today
Changing your lifestyle can be challenging. However, heart health is one of the most compelling reasons to make this change — neglecting your heart health can have fatal outcomes. Give yourself time to adjust to one change at a time, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier heart in no time.