Your heart works vigorously to regulate blood flow and ensure the body dispels waste, regulates oxygen and carbon dioxide, and provides nutrients vital to the success of all other organs. Heart health is paramount to overall body health, so what habits can you start TODAY to ensure a happy heart?
1. Stay physically active.
One key to a healthy heart is to make it work harder through physical activity. Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, ranging anywhere from rigorous biking to brisk walking. Any activity that increases your breathing and heart rate encourages a healthy heart, and repetition is key once you begin developing better exercise habits. Start by dedicating an increment of time for a designated workout or by simply replacing an old habit with a new one. An easy way to reach the 150-minute goal is by walking 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
2. Avoid trans fats.
Trans fats are a type of artificial fat used to add a desirable texture and taste to processed foods, such as frozen pizzas, cookies and stick margarines. Although tastier, trans fat consumption leads to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and clogged arteries. By decreasing the amount of trans fat you consume, you are actively improving your body’s blood flow and lowering dietary risks to your heart’s health. An easy way to decrease trans fat consumption is by choosing vegetable oils with natural occurring alternatives – think canola, safflower, sunflower or olive. Monitor your daily intake by being mindful of the nutrition labels on products you regularly consume.
3. Quit smoking.
Smoking makes an individual four times more likely to die of heart attack or stroke. It damages the blood vessels leading to your heart, and even secondhand smoke makes those around you 30% more likely to suffer from heart disease. Cutting back on the amount of nicotine you consume can improve your blood circulation and reduce the health risks associated with the habit. Better yet, quitting altogether gives your heart and blood vessels an opportunity to repair themselves! If you’re ready to quit, CHI Memorial offers a free virtual Freedom from Smoking class, developed by the American Lung Association. For more information, call (423) 495-7778.
4. Say no to vaping.
Similar to smoking, studies show that vaping maintains similar adverse effects on the heart and blood vessels. E-cigarettes make artery walls stiffer, damage the lining of blood vessels, and raise blood pressure and heart rate. Prolonged vaping may lead to blood clots and excess fatty build-up, which can cause heart attacks. Lowering the nicotine percentages in your e-cigarettes reduces these risks, while eradicating the habit increases your cardiovascular health in as little as 20 minutes.
5. Drink more water.
Water comprises roughly 60 percent of your body weight, acts as a natural detox, and is critical in maintaining a healthy heart. When you are dehydrated, the amount of blood circulating through your body decreases while sodium retention increases. This triggers your heart to work harder to circulate thickened blood. Drinking more water is an easy way to improve circulation and take unnecessary stress off of the heart. The recommended amount of daily intake is about 11 cups for females and 15.5 cups for males, including all beverages and water-containing foods.
Start taking these steps today to work towards a healthier heart and be mindful of how your daily choices may affect one of the most important organs in your body.