"Heart health" is a term you may hear often. It's made its way into popular culture and grocery store aisles. Every food from cereals to salmon purport to support "heart healthy" living.
But with all the advertorial noise, it can be easy to lose sight of what genuinely helps this vital organ perform at its best. Here we suggest some methods you can incorporate into your daily life to keep your ticker ticking along.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Heart Health
Food is a wonderful part of life. It can bring families together for the holidays, bridge cultural differences, and renew relationships. Food even has the power to improve heart health. Not everything we eat is created equal. Processed foods and others high in calories, hydrogenated oils, and trans fats create inflammation within the body. That’s a big problem, says Dr. Fatima Hussain of EHE, because chronic inflammation can play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease.
Anti-inflammatory foods are what Dr. Hussain recommends to improve heart health. “Certain foods that are rich in omega 3 acids, minerals and known for the antioxidant benefit, such as berries, almonds, fatty fish, green leafy vegetables, and nuts, these fight inflammation and restore our health at a cellular level,” she explains.
As for what to stay away from when choosing your food, Dr. Hussain recommends limiting saturated fats, trans fats, and sugar as they each contribute to the development of metabolic diseases, such as coronary artery disease or diabetes. Therefore, explains Dr. Hussain, “It is better to try to eat a diet that is moderately rich in unsaturated fats, such as avocados, olives, nuts and fatty fish which can help improve your cholesterol levels.”
Heart Smart Exercise
Physical activity is another major component of your heart health. Just like your bicep, your heart is a muscle and therefore needs to be exercised to stay in optimal condition. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily need to slog away on a treadmill or lifting weight for an hour in order to reap benefits. On the contrary, studies show that as little as 15 minutes a day of physical activity can create dramatic improvements in your overall cardiovascular health. Regular exercise works to lessen LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure and can help you maintain a healthy weight.
If you’re new to working out, aerobic exercise is the best method to get started. Things like hiking, dance classes, playing tennis, jogging, skiing, and cycling all count as aerobic fitness. Other low-impact choices include walking and swimming.
Once you’re comfortable with your cardio routine, try increasing your speed, incline or duration as ways to make cardio training more challenging and less mundane. Keep in mind any changes to your routine should be made gradually so you can watch for signs of pain and allow your body time to adjust. Having well-defined biceps might look good, but a fit heart will help you live longer.
Meditation to Stave Off Stress
Stress is a normal and even useful part of life. It can temporarily boost brainpower, increase productivity, and fortify your immune system. But if stress becomes a constant, the impact on your heart can be devastating. Stay in a high state of stress for too long, and the flood of chemicals and hormones released can weaken your immune system, increase inflammation, and heighten blood pressure.
So how can you deal with stress while keeping your heart in good shape? More and more people are turning toward meditation. Even ten minutes of meditation a day has been shown to have a significant impact on reducing stress while lowering heart rate, blood pressure, and destructive hormones within the body. Stress reduction along with a lessening of the other factors listed has been proven to reduce one’s risk of having a heart attack. So, give meditation a try. Slow your day down, calm your mind and take some deep, filling breaths. Your heart will thank you for it.