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by Lori Herren February 12, 2021 5 min read

February is recognized as American Heart Month with great reason. Heart disease is the number one cause of death, not just in the United States, but all over the world. The CDC reports that in 2018, 30.3 million people were diagnosed with heart disease, which accounts for a staggering 12.1% of adults. There are great advances in research and study that shows there are plenty of things WE can do to help improve the quality of our heart health. From the foods we eat to the activities we take part in, from reversing bad habits to reducing our stress, we can be proactive in our own heart health journey. 

Get Your Body Moving - Exercise!

It’s no secret that our heart is a muscle and, just like all the muscles in our bodies, we have to keep it moving to strengthen it and increase its longevity. Know you need to be moving and exercising more but not really sure where to start? Think about these suggestions:

  • Start small. Take a 10 minute walk around your block, then as that gets easier increase it to 15 minutes, then 20 and up to 30 minutes. You want to build up to brisk walking so you notice that your heart is pumping faster and breathing becomes deeper.
  • With a smartphone you can utilise step counters or download a walking tracker app that will tell you how far you’ve walked in what amount of time.
  • Bicycling and swimming are also great activities for improving your heart health.
  • Walk or do your physical exercise at least 30 minutes a day for optimal benefit.
  • Add some resistance exercises in with your aerobic activities. These can include, barbells, dumbbells, hand weights, or resistance bands used with activities like squats, pushups, etc.
  • As always, discuss any and all exercise and activity with your doctor first and make sure you get medical  approval of your fitness plans before beginning a workout regimen.

 

Reboot Your Eating Habits

I know, one more thing telling you how important it is to eat healthy foods. Thetruth of it is so very important. The foods we put into our bodies can mean the difference in a healthy life, or a hard one riddled with disease and numerous health conditions. It couldn't be more important!

  • Eating  healthy foods will improve your heart health. Foods included in a healthy diet are vegetables and fruits, fish, poultry, whole grains, low fat dairy, beans and nuts.   
  • Salmon and guacamole are excellent foods that have heart healthy fats.
  • Eating foods that are heart healthy can help you lose weight which is good for you and can help lower cholesterol.
  • Staying away from red meats and sugary foods and drinks are recommended.
  • Make sure your diet contains plenty of fiber.
  • Don’t allow yourself to overeat. The best way to navigate this is following a calorie regimented plan that your doctor can suggest. There are apps that you can download and plug in your food for the day and keep track of your calories.
  • Try to avoid pre-packaged meals and frozen meals because they have a high sodium content.

 

Wipeout Stress

When you hear medical experts say stress is bad for you, take them seriously! Stress affects your body in many ways, try 1,400 biochemical response ways, and they aren’t good. Stress can cause the following:

  • Faster heart rate
  • Rise in blood pressure
  • Causes your heart to labor at a more intense pace for a long period of time

You know you better than anyone. You know the things that calm you down, that bring you peace and joy, and that set your focus on good things and gratitude. Find your “happy places” and make time to enjoy life and do the things that bring you joy and peace. We all know ways to reduce our stress, we just have to make ourselves do them!

Cholesterol Truths

Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that is found in the cells of your body. Some cholesterol is necessary because it helps create hormones, vitamin D and and the other compounds that help your body properly digest foods. There are two types of cholesterol:

  • High density lipoprotein (HDL) which is commonly referred to as the “good” cholesterol. HDL helps your heart by helping to remove the bad plaque from your arteries.
  • Low density lipoprotein (LDL) which is usually known as the “bad” cholesterol. LDL can contribute to the plaque that can clog your arteries. 

Having too much LDL cholesterol and not enough HDL cholesterol can lead to high cholesterol which can cause heart disease. There are many prescription drugs on the market today that help fight the bad cholesterol for those diagnosed with high cholesterol numbers needing medical help.. Your doctor is the best source to find out your cholesterol levels and to counsel you for the best way to prevent and combat the issue of high cholesterol in your heart health journey.

High Blood Pressure

A common problem, high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is the strong force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels in a rapid manner. Blood pressure itself is measured by 2 forces:

  • Systolic pressure happens as blood is pumped from the heart and delivered into arteries that make up the circulatory system. In a blood pressure reading, systolic is the top number measured.
  • Diastolic pressure is measured in how the heart takes breaks in between heart beats. In a blood pressure reading, diastolic is the bottom number measured.

High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart issues and can cause numerous, serious medical conditions:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • VIsion loss
  • Kidney disease/kidney failure

It’s imperative that you have regular checkups so your doctor can monitor your blood pressure, and you can be proactive by keeping a close eye on your own blood pressure. You can purchase your own blood pressure monitor to use at home or take advantage of the blood pressure monitors at your local pharmacy or grocery store.

Ways You Can Help

Some heart health issues are hereditary and come from family history and some conditions develop before or after birth. Some heart health issues come from bad lifestyle choices. There are ways that you can help lower your risk of heart disease. We’ve talked about eating healthy, exercise, and reducing stress. Some other helpful things you can do to improve your heart health are:

  • Quit smoking and distance yourself from secondhand smoke, both can raise the risk of heart disease.
  • Put a limit on how much alcohol you drink.
  • Cut down your sodium intake.
  • See your doctor for regular check-ups, blood pressure, and cholesterol screenings.

 

Choose The Healthy Journey

Think of your body like a car, your heart is the engine. The car has to function property for you to be able to drive it somewhere. Bad engine - you aren’t going far. Strong engine, properly maintained and taken care of, your travel possibilities are endless!! You always want to be a careful cautious driver on the road, be that driver in control of your heart and health!

 

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This article is intended to provide an understanding of and knowledge about “health topics” as expressed through the perspective and research of the author. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice or counsel, including the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Always seek the advice of your qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, illness or treatment of any listed or non listed situation above. By using this site, you signify your assent to our Terms and Conditions.

Sources:

https://www.ucihealth.org/blog/2017/02/how-to-strengthen-heart

https://www.webmd.com/heart/heart-health-tips#1

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/3-kinds-of-exercise-that-boost-heart-health

https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/10-small-steps-for-better-heart-health

https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body#1

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/what-is-high-blood-pressure

 

Lori Herren
Lori Herren

Lori D. Herren is a graduate of the University of West Georgia where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications for Broadcast Journalism and Public Relations, with minors in Marketing and Music. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and pursuing her love of music.


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