Your heart is the muscle that never sleeps. Day and night, the fist-size organ acts as an engine, pumping blood filled with oxygen and nutrients throughout your body so you can perform your best.
For all your heart does, it’s important to take care of it. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But there’s good news: with a little education and a healthy lifestyle, 80 percent of cardiovascular cases, including heart attack, stroke, heart disease and heart failure—can be prevented. Ready to put your heart first? Here’s how to get started.
In the United States, smoking is the leading preventable cause of death. Further, smoking raises the risk of heart disease, and one out of every four deaths from cardiovascular disease can be attributed to smoking tobacco products.
If you currently smoke, ask your doctor for advice on smoking cessation. And if you don’t smoke? Don’t start now!
A number of cardiac benefits can come from routine workouts. First of all, exercise strengthens the heart muscle itself, along with other muscles. Plus, working out helps keep weight under control and lower blood pressure—both of which are considered to be risk factors for heart disease.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Of course, the key to making that a habit is finding a workout you enjoy. Check out YouTube for a wide variety of new fun workouts you can try at home, or arrange for a socially distanced meet-up with a friend to walk, bike, or jog as you catch up. Laughter can help relieve stress, and that may also be good for your heart!
Eat a balanced diet
Nutrient-packed foods are a key part of the healthy-heart toolkit! The AHA recommends a variety of healthy foods from all food groups, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils.
Also, try and limit how much you consume when it comes to fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, and sugary beverages. One easy way to monitor whether you’re getting enough of the right foods in each day is to follow the USDA’s MyPlate model: during each meal, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, half with protein and grains, and add a serving of low-fat or fat-free dairy.
Drink alcohol only in moderation
You may have heard for years that a glass of wine is good for the heart. In truth, the link between wine and reduced heart attacks isn’t fully understood. Scientists do understand, however, that alcohol has the potential to negatively impact heart health by raising triglycerides in the blood.
The key lies in moderation, which means limiting alcohol consumption to one or two drinks a day if you’re male, and one drink a day if you’re female. Looking for a bubbly alternative, try different flavors of sparkling water, and add your favorite fruits for a healthy bonus.
Know your numbers
Commit to making regular wellness check-ups with your doctor. He or she will be able to glean the best insights into your heart health by testing your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight, and determining whether you may be at risk for any cardiovascular conditions. With those insights tailored to your own wellness, you can create a personalized heart-health plan.
Care for your heart so your heart can care for you
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the heart, which works overtime to keep entire systems running smoothly. By committing to a healthier lifestyle, filled with exercise, healthy foods, and regular check-ups with your doctor, you’re being proactive about keeping your heart strong.