Tips For a Healthy Heart
Love is in the air! Valentine is fast approaching and many hearts are already racing for that special person. As you visit gift shops and plan those special dinners, it is important that you maintain the one thing that lets you love – your heart. The best way to look after your heart is to practice a healthy lifestyle. Here are seven habits you should imbibe if you want to keep your heart healthy and happy.
Tip 1: Quit Smoking
Being smoke-free is one of the best things you can do to protect your heart . Tobacco smoke is your heart’s enemy. Smoking causes more than two hundred and thirty thousand deaths from heart and blood vessel diseases every year in the United States . If you smoke, you are four times more likely to die of a heart disease and three times at risk of dying of a cardiac arrest .
What Does Smoking Have To Do With Your Heart?
Research has shown that the nicotine present in smoke increases your heart rate, tightens major arteries, and can cause an irregular heart rhythm, all of which make your heart work harder .
Smoking affects, outright negatively, of course, the vessels that supply blood to your heart and other parts of your body. It also damages the walls of your blood vessels and slows down the circulation of oxygen in your blood . This is caused by a condition known as atherosclerosis which occurs when there is a narrowing or clogging of the arteries.
Smoking also brings about sudden changes in your body by preventing the expansion and contraction of your blood vessels. This makes your blood vessels split and increases your risks of having a stroke, a heart attack and angina.
What About Passive Smoking?
You do not smoke but you stay with your friends when they smoke—News flash: You are still hurting your heart! Research shows that inhaling second-hand smoke puts the non-smoker at the same risks as the smoker. Secondhand smoke can cause chronic respiratory conditions, cancer, and heart disease. It is estimated that around 35,000 non-smokers die from heart diseases every year in America as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (second-hand smoke).
This is because breathing in second-hand smoke damages your arteries. The platelets in your blood may get sticky and clot; just like the smoker’s .
How Can Quitting Help?
If you are a chronic smoker, making up your mind to quit may be the best decision you will ever make. This is because, barely a year after quitting, your risks of heart attack and stroke will be reduced by half. Five to fifteen years down the line, your heart and other vital organs will return to normal, just like you have never lit a stick of cigarette.
Tip 2: Watch Your Weight
Excess pounds do not just increase your weight, they also put your heart at risk. Being overweight puts a strain on your heart and makes it hard for you to be active. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of heart diseases and other health-related problems. According to the American Heart Association, obesity is a major factor that determines if you will develop a heart disease.
Some of the most common problems seen in people who have excess weight, such as high blood pressure and unhealthy levels of cholesterol and other fats in the blood, tend to occur together. These can lead to concurrent health problems like heart diseases and stroke .
A 2007 study in Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that being overweight boosts the risk of having a heart disease by 32%. Also, obesity increases the risk by 81% . Carrying extra dead weight in the form of fat increases your muscles’ workload, causing increased heart rates whenever you do physical activity.
No matter how much you weigh, sitting for long periods of time could shorten your lifespan, warn researchers in the Archives of Internal Medicine and the American Heart Association. Couch potato and desk jockey lifestyles seem to have an unhealthy effect on blood fats and blood sugar. If you work at a desk, remember to take regular breaks to move around. Go for a stroll on your lunch break, and enjoy regular exercise in your leisure time.
How Do I know If I`m overweight?
To determine if you need to start getting rid of those extra calories, it is important that you know your body mass index. The appropriate way to find your healthy range is by using a weight – height chart or by calculating your Body Mass Index [BMI]. This is a vital tool to determine obesity and assess the risk of diseases. Usually, you are within the healthy range if your weight is in proportion to your height.
Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is the measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height and applies to most adult men and women aged 20 and above . You can determine your Body Mass Index by visiting any health care center close to you.
I Am Overweight, What Do I Do?
Changing your diet and exercising are the most common solutions for persons who are overweight and need to shed a few calories.
There are a number of weight reducing exercises you could engage in. Push-ups and squats are among the highly recommended exercises for weight loss. Other exercises include curls and jogging.
Low-fat diets containing fruits and vegetables are also recommended.
Tip 3: Be active
Getting and staying active can reduce your risk of developing a heart disease. You do not need to be a hard-core athlete to boost your heart health. Regular and moderate physical activity is great for your heart’s health . People who do not exercise are almost twice as likely to get heart disease as people who are active.
Exercising regularly can help you burn off excess calories, lower your blood pressure and burn off bad calories.
Aerobic exercises are often recommended as the best exercises for the heart. Aerobic or cardiovascular exercises are exercises that improve your respiratory and heart health. They essentially challenge your heart to work harder and become stronger . They also improve the way your body uses oxygen. Experts recommend that you engage in moderate aerobic activity for about a hundred and fifty minutes or vigorous aerobic activity for seventy-five minutes. Aerobic activities lower your resting heart rate and this makes your heart pump blood more efficiently.
You can engage in aerobic activities such as brisk walking, running, jogging and swimming.
Tip 4: Reduce The Alcohol
Heavy drinking weakens the heart muscles and this causes the heart not to pump blood efficiently. This condition is known as Cardiomyopathy and can cause premature death, usually through heart failure.
Excessive alcohol intake can also cause high blood pressure (hypertension), and this puts extra strain on the heart as well as other body organs.
Excessive drinking increases the amount of fat circulating around in the bloodstream. This raises the body’s triglyceride level and ultimately increases the risk of developing diabetes, which can impact cardiovascular health negatively.
People who drink too much also increase their risk of having a stroke. It can lead to increased heart rates, high blood pressure, weakened heart muscle and irregular heartbeat.
Tip 5: Eat Healthily
A healthy diet makes a happy heart. You may not know that eating certain foods can put your heart at risk. This is true for foods that contain high cholesterol. Once you know which foods to eat more of and which foods to limit, you’ll be on your way toward a heart-healthy diet.
It is recommended that you eat more fruits and vegetables. Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. Vegetables and fruits contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular diseases. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods .
It is also necessary that you limit the intake of unhealthy fat. The best way to reduce saturated and trans fats in your diet is to limit the quantity of solid fat — butter, margarine, and shortening — you add to food when cooking and serving. You can also reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet by trimming fat off your meat or choosing lean meats with less than 10 percent fat . Eating fibers is also highly recommended. You can also use low-fat substitutions when possible for a heart-healthy diet. For example, top your baked potato with low-sodium salsa or low-fat yogurt rather than butter, or use sliced whole fruit or low-sugar fruit spread on your toast instead of margarine .
Tip 6: Get Enough Rest
Rest and relaxation help the heart function better. You are no machine. Take out time to indulge yourself in activities that ease stress. You could go hiking with your family or visit the beach. Sleeping well is also key to helping your heart function better. Good quality sleep decreases the work of your heart, as blood pressure and heart rate go down at night. Sleep is essential for a healthy heart. People who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits. According to a 2011 study by the American Heart Association, poor sleep quality is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, a potential cause of heart disease.
Tip 7: Proper Hygiene
Personal hygiene habits such as washing your hands and brushing and flossing your teeth will help keep bacteria, viruses, and illnesses at bay. Practicing good dental hygiene, especially flossing your teeth daily can help your heart. This is because those who have periodontal (gum) disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease.
Also, good personal hygiene helps to reduce the influx of bacteria into your body as these bacteria often affect the heart negatively.
Remember, a healthy heart is a happy heart. If you really want that special person to live in your heart, then you must keep it healthy enough. After all, you cannot love from a heart you do not love.
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 ‘ How Tobacco affects the heart and blood vessels.’ Available: http://www.impella.com/blog/how-tobacco-affects-the-heart-and-blood-vessels/
 ‘ Diabetes, heart disease and stroke.’ Available: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/heart-disease-stroke
 ‘What is Body Mass Index?’ Available: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/obesity/what-is-bmi.php
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