Easy Ways to Improve Heart Health

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in men as well as women, and there are many factors that can contribute to poor heart health. Check out these heart health tips that can help prevent or reverse heart disease.

Change Your Eating Habits

Diet plays a huge role in your overall heart health. Regardless of what fad diets recommend, fresh fruits and vegetables never go out of style. Stick to lean meats and fish, whole grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables.

Try and limit your alcohol intake, and avoid “liquid calories,” like sodas and juices. These beverages are chock-full of sugar, and have no nutritional benefits. Cutting out drinks like lattes and sodas can lead to long-term weight loss, and a healthier heart.

Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, is one of the leading causes of heart attack and stroke. Limiting your salt intake is a sure-fire way to lower your blood pressure. To that end, try to avoid foods that are high in sodium, like potato chips or fast food.

Making healthy changes to your diet is not only good for your heart, but often leads to weight loss, as well. Obesity is a major contributor to cardiovascular diseases like hypertension and strokes, so making dietary changes can prove highly beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing.

ARcare has a dedicated network of primary care physicians throughout Arkansas. Our primary care physicians can recommend heart disease screenings, and discuss steps you can take toward living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Get Up and Move!

Maintaining a sedentary lifestyle can be incredibly detrimental to your heart. Regular moderate or vigorous exercise will, among other things, strengthen your heart muscles, and help improve blood circulation.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. “Moderate exercise” means anything that keeps your heart rate elevated. You may break a small sweat, but your heart will thank you for it.

High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are both common causes of heart disease; 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise several times a week can combat these issues.

Aerobic activity is great for your heart, but if you are new to aerobic exercise, start slowly and work your way up to more rigorous movement. It is not just good for your heart—exercise can help boost your mood and strengthen your immune system. Different types of aerobic activities include the following:

  • Brisk walking/jogging
  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Sports like basketball or tennis

In addition to strengthening your heart and immune system, exercise in the form of strength training can help you avoid injury and lose weight.

If you are already moderately active, it will only help you to get even more exercise! Opt to take the stairs when available, park farther away from your office or local grocery store, and take every opportunity you can find to keep moving.

Regular Sleep Habits

Nothing feels better than a good night’s rest, but that does not always come easy for people. Work or family obligations can sometimes keep you from getting a full night’s sleep, but if it only happens once in a while, it is probably not too detrimental to your health.

Adults should strive for seven to nine hours of sleep every night, but conditions like sleep apnea and insomnia can make that amount difficult to attain. Believe it or not, irregular sleep patterns are closely connected to cardiovascular-related problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Research shows that people who get irregular sleep, particularly those who sleep less than six hours a night, have higher stress levels and inflammation than those who get consistent sleep. There is also a theory that insomnia may have a connection to high blood pressure.

If you have trouble sleeping, experts recommend keeping the bedroom set to a cooler temperature, and making sure your bedroom is completely dark. Avoid eating a huge meal just before bed, but also try not to go to bed hungry. Consuming alcohol right before bedtime can also lead to irregular sleeping.

Manage Your Stress

We all handle stress differently, whether by not sleeping, irritation, stress eating, or other behaviors. Stress is a normal part of life, and our bodies are equipped to handle normal levels of stress. But when it gets to be too much, stress can start to have a negative impact on your body.

Elevated stress levels can lead to hypertension, and can trigger conditions like asthma or irritable bowel disease. Stress hormones can build up in your body quickly, so it is important for your health to take time to relax and decompress.

Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques can help lower your stress and anxiety, which may help lower your blood pressure. Physical exercise can help reduce stress, as can avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

Quit Smoking

There is a very strong correlation between smoking tobacco and cardiovascular/heart disease. In fact, 1 in 5 individuals with cardiovascular disease are smokers. Smokers often struggle with high blood pressure, and are at high risk for stroke and heart attacks.

Tobacco smoke does immediate damage to your blood vessels and arteries, which prevents oxygen from flowing through your body effectively. The more you smoke, the more it damages your body over time. Additionally, smoking can cause plaque to build up and harden in your arteries, which causes them to narrow, and allows less blood to flow through them.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to get heart disease than people who do not smoke. In addition, people regularly exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher chance of heart disease than those not exposed to it.

Many people have recently switched from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes, but those still contain addictive nicotine and other chemicals. E-cigarette users are simply exchanging one unhealthy choice for a slightly less unhealthy choice.

To schedule an appointment at a wellness center near you in Arkansas, contact ARcare at 866-550-4719. A wellness visit with a primary care physician can help you take steps towards a healthier heart.

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