Six Ways You Can Create a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
February is American Heart Month. This is the perfect opportunity to focus our attention on ways to promote and maintain our heart health. Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the world. And many of these deaths are preventable – at least 200,000 cardiac deaths in the United States could have been avoided each year with proper preventative care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Even if you’re currently living with heart disease, there are many things you can do to improve your odds of living a long and healthful life. First of all, if you smoke, quit. According to the National Institutes of Health, doing so may reduce your risk of heart disease by 50 percent. Here are some other ways to get heart healthy.
Shed those unwanted pounds
According to the National Institutes of Health, being overweight can greatly raise your risk of coronary heart disease. Even losing as little as five to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce your risk of both heart attack and stroke. Don’t worry about finding the right type of diet – a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that it’s cutting calories that is the key to losing weight.
Physical activity is one of the best ways to improve heart health. It helps in a number of ways. First, it strengthens the heart, so it can more easily pump blood through the body with less strain. It also helps to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise can also reduce cholesterol, another risk factor. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise.
Pay attention to nutrition
A healthy diet can go a long way in reducing your risk for heart disease. According to a study conducted by the American College of Cardiology, people who followed the Mediterranean diet were 47 percent less likely to develop heart disease. A Mediterranean diet focuses on eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish and seafood instead of red and processed meats. This healthy diet also calls for using healthy fats like olive oil (avoid trans fats at all costs) and herbs and spices instead of salt.
Get more sleep
Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of heart disease in a number of ways. First, it can lead to weight gain. A lack of sleep can hinder the ability of the frontal lobe of your brain – which governs decision-making and impulse control – to perform at its best. Additionally, when you’re tired, the brain starts seeking out something to make it feel better, making it harder to resist food cravings. Also, a South Korean study discovered that adults who sleep five or fewer hours a day have 50 percent more calcium in their coronary arteries than those who slept seven hours a day. Calcium buildup is a warning sign for potential heart disease.
Reduce your stress
According to Harvard Health Publications, constant stress can increase risk factors such as high blood pressure and the formation of arterial plaque that can force the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Stress can also lead to overeating, smoking and other habits that increase your risk. Some great stress relievers include meditation, getting a pet, and deep breathing.
Keep a positive attitude
As we discussed in this post, a positive attitude can go a long way in helping many aspects of health and well-being, including heart health. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted an exhaustive review of numerous studies on the association between positive psychological well-being and cardiovascular health. They discovered that people who express optimism and generally exude positive psychological well-being have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to helping your heart, according to the Mayo Clinic, a positive attitude can also increase your lifespan, decease depression and increase your psychological and physical well-being.