You only have one heart, and it works hard day in and day out to keep your blood flowing. This vital organ is directly impacted by your lifestyle choices, and taking charge of your health often starts with making changes that support a healthy heart. If you're wondering how to keep your heart healthy and strong, here are some good tips that may help.
The importance of heart health
The heart takes your blood to all the other organs and systems in your body. That blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and systems, ensuring they can function. It also plays a role in your immune and endocrine systems. These roles show why heart health is so vital to your overall health.
Sadly, heart disease is becoming a serious problem across the U.S. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, it’s the top cause of death for adults in the country, and every day, over 2,300 people die due to cardiovascular diseases. These sobering statistics become even more alarming when you realize that 80% of these deaths could be prevented through lifestyle change. Heart health is more than just a modern buzzword. It’s a life-or-death situation.
Heart disease risk factors
While anyone can suffer from heart disease, certain conditions or lifestyles put an individual at higher risk for these conditions. Some common risk factors include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Too much alcohol use
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Poor sleep
In addition to these universal risk factors, men and women have different risk factors worth noting.
Heart disease factors for men
Men and people who were assigned male at birth have specific risk factors, as identified by Johns Hopkins University. These include:
- Low testosterone levels
- Metabolic syndrome, which is a condition with high blood sugars, unhealthy cholesterol, and increased weight around the abdomen
- Consistent problems with erectile dysfunction
Heart disease risk factors in women
Like men, women and people assigned female at birthcan have specific risk factors that indicate heart disease is likely. The CDC warns that many women have no symptoms of their heart disease, so noting risk factors is vital. These risk factors include:
- Untreated high blood pressure
- Ethnicity, with Black women being more likely to have issues than Caucasian women
- Stress and depression
- Reproductive health issues, such as PCOS or early menopause
Daily habits for a healthy heart
Whether you have risk factors already or simply want to take better control of your heart health, there are some things you can do daily that will make a big difference.
1. Maintain a heart-healthy diet
The food you eat can impact your heart health. Mayo Clinic recommends a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. Protein is also important, but low-fat protein trumps high-fat sources. Also, work to avoid unhealthy trans fats, swapping them for healthy unsaturated fats instead. The American Heart Association also recommends limiting salt intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams daily for healthy adults, or 1,500 milligrams if you’re at risk for heart conditions.
2. Get regular physical activity
Lack of physical activity may contribute to poor heart health, but increasing physical activity can reverse this. You don’t need to start big here, either. CanoHealth recommends a 45-60 minute daily brisk walk as a good starting point. Consistency is critical here, and Evidation may help motivate you to do what’s good for heart health and start moving.
3. Manage stress and mental health
When your body feels stressed, you may have higher levels of the hormone cortisol in the bloodstream. The University of Rochester Medical Center warns that cortisol levels can increase blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. In addition, chronic stress can lead to mental health issues, and mental health issues are tied directly to heart disease concerns, according to the American Heart Association. Stress may also raise your resting heart rate.
4. Get adequate sleep
Most adults benefit from 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Cano Health warns that getting too little sleep, or sleeping in small chunks instead of one long period of nighttime sleep, disrupts the hormonal balance. When hormonal balance is off, the rest of the body’s organs also struggle. To improve your sleep, consider removing electronics from your room and setting up a stable getting ready for bed routine, both of which may encourage better sleep habits.
5. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use
Smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol are both connected to an increased risk of heart disease. Nicotine narrows the blood vessels, which reduces the amount of oxygen coming to the heart. Alcohol in large amounts can damage the heart muscle and increase blood pressure. Quitting smoking altogether and reducing the amount of alcohol you consume may help improve your heart health.
How to incorporate these strategies into daily life
These strategies all sound good, but if they were easy to implement, you’d probably already have them in place. Some strategies to make it easier to add them to your life include:
- Start small: Set small goals, such as going to bed 30 minutes earlier for a week, that add up to bigger changes.
- Celebrate success: When you stick to one of your goals, celebrate your success, and Evidation can be part of that with positive reinforcement through rewards and an uplifting community.
- Take the stairs: Taking the stairs or parking farther away from the door of your location can increase your physical activity without adding anything to your “to do” list.
- Make swaps: Instead of stopping your afternoon snacking habit, swap out the crunch of chips for the crunch of an apple for a healthier alternative.
Tips for heart disease prevention
While the five daily changes mentioned above are great steps to take, there are additional things you may want to consider to help prevent heart disease from developing in the first place. Some strategies recommended by Mayo Clinic include:
- Strive for a healthy weight: If you’re carrying around some excess pounds, reducing your weight by just 3 to 5% can make a difference in your heart health.
- Practice stress reduction techniques: Use mindfulness, yoga, meditation, or relaxation exercises to reduce your overall stress level.
- Have your health screened: An annual physical that includes blood pressure and cholesterol checks may help you stop heart disease before it starts.
Lifestyle changes for your heart health
If you’re ready to take heart health seriously, it may be time to make some lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes have a bigger impact on your overall health than temporary fixes. For example, instead of viewing your heart-healthy eating as a temporary diet, view it as a new way of life. Consider making physical activity part of your recreation time, like taking a walk in your free time instead of watching TV. Then, add in tools like Evidation and your favorite fitness tracker to keep tabs on your heart rate and activity level so you can be proactive in protecting your health. Evidation will reward and motivate these positive changes, so you’ll be on track for a lifetime of healthier habits.
If you’re ready to keep track of your health, download the Evidation app today.