Your heart is the most important muscle in your body.
It constantly pumps blood to all your body parts.
The bad news:
Heart disease is by far the leading cause of death.
As we age our hearts naturally fail.
The good news:
The changes of your heart aging can be slowed down with the right lifestyle and medical management.
Here are 13 effective ways to take care of your heart health.
1. Regular exercise
Your exercise level is the greatest risk factor for heart disease.
People who do not exercise are twice as likely to get heart disease than people who do exercise.
How much exercise is enough for a healthy heart?
The American Heart Association recommends for a healthy heart to include a minimum of 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week.
Additionally, if you exercise vigorously for around 75 minutes per week you will gain heart pumping benefits.
Exercising helps take care of your heart by:
The American Heart Association recommends for a healthy heart to include a minimum of 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week. #healthyheart
2. Yearly checkup appointment with a doctor
Seeing a doctor for a yearly checkup is essential for heart health. A doctor will check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels.
Also, a doctor will listen to your heart with a stethoscope and be able to tell if you have any heart murmurs. A heart murmur is an irregular sound coming from the heart.
A stethoscope test is critical for everyone. Even for younger people who can have rare genetic heart problems.
If a doctor does suspect an issue they may send you to a cardiologist for more testing.
Share this heart health infographic on your website
3. Stay away from smoking and secondhand smoke
Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to people who don’t smoke.
According to the British heart foundation, if you smoke, the single most important thing you can do to help your heart is to stop.
Here is how smoking affects your heart health:
Studies have shown that secondhand smoke at home or work increases the risk of getting heart disease by 25-30%.
Secondhand smoke at home or work increases the risk of getting heart disease by 25-30%. #Secondhandsmoke
This is due to the chemicals from secondhand smoke which promotes plaque buildup in arteries.
Secondhand smoke may seem like a little thing but staying away from smokers is vital for your heart health.
4. Drink plenty of water
The average heart pumps about 2000 gallons of blood per day!
A hydrated heart can pump blood easier which allows muscles in your body to work better.
If you do not have enough water in your body, you may become dehydrated.
Dehydration causes your heart to beat faster and makes you retain more sodium which can bad for your heart.
A person’s water intake can vary depending on the level of activity and other health problems.
For the average person, around 1 gallon of water per day will help take care of your heart.
5. Control how much sugar you eat
A diet with a lot of sugar even if you are not overweight puts your heart health at risk.
A 15 year long study from Harvard University found that people who took in 25% of their daily calories from sugar are twice as likely to die from heart disease than people who took in 10% of their calories from sugar.
The biggest sources of added sugar in the average American’s diet are sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and juices. Some juices have more sugar than Coke!
Sugar is known to cause weight gain which is related to heart problems.
Many foods nowadays have added sugar. It is helpful for me to read the labels of foods that I buy. I stay away from foods that a lot of added sugars and processed foods in general.
6. Control how much salt you eat
Eating a high amount of salt is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Extra salt (sodium) in your bloodstream takes water out of blood vessels which can cause your blood pressure to increase. The added pressure will force the heart to work harder to pump blood.
Blood pressure is a major problem. According to the American Heart Association, one third of American adults have high blood pressure. 90% of American adults are expected to have high blood pressure in their lives.
Also, increase sodium will damage blood vessel walls and speed up plaque formation. This can lead to a greater risk of heart attack.
Even if someone does not have high blood pressure less sodium will reduce the chance of heart disease.
The bottom line:
Blood pressure naturally rises with age. If you eat less sodium now it will slow the rise of blood pressure and help take care of your heart health.
7. Avoid trans fat
Fat is an essential part of our diets. However, we do not need a type of fat called trans fats.
Trans fats are not natural. They are made from food processing and do not occur in nature. Trans fats are often included in foods like baked goods, snacks, margarine and fast foods.
Trans fats can clog arteries by raising bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering good cholesterol (HDL). Clogged arteries increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
You can stay away from trans fats by checking food labels to make sure they have 0% trans fat.
Also, healthy fats are great for heart health.
An example of a food that contain healthy fats is coconut oil, I talk about in my post about raw coconut.
8. Avoid processed foods
It is no secret that processed foods are terrible for our health.
But why are processed foods bad for you?
On top of bad nutrition, many processed foods are engineered to be addictive. A lifetime of unnatural processed foods can wreak havoc on a person's heart health.
9. Get enough sleep, but not too much!
Studies show that less than six hours of sleep can increase your risk of heart disease.
A study by the European heart Journal with 475,000 people found that people who did not get six hours of sleep had a 48% risk of heart disease and 15% risk of a stroke.
But don’t sleep too much!
People who slept nine or more hours at night where shown to have a 38% chance of dying from heart disease and 65% risk of a stroke.
Researchers do not exactly know what the science behind the problems of shortened and prolonged sleep. Some doctors believe that it has to do with a change in blood pressure.
Try to sleep 6 to 8.5 hours per day for optimum heart health.
10. Do not sit too much
Medical researchers looked at the results of 41 studies and concluded that prolonged time sitting puts you at higher risk of heart disease.
Why is sitting unhealthy for the heart?
Researchers from the Dallas Heart Study found that people who sit more than 10 hours a day above-normal troponin levels. Troponins are released into the bloodstream when heart muscle cells are damaged.
A high level of troponins in the blood is suggestive of heart damage from a heart attack. For the people sitting the troponin numbers weren't high enough to qualify for a heart attack, but still higher than normal levels.
If you sit too much, you will have higher troponin levels for a long period of time and it contributes to heart damage over time.
Even if you exercise, sitting too long increases the risk of heart disease.
If I must sit for long periods of time I will take breaks to walk around. Many jobs require long hours sitting but breaking up the time with small breaks can help to take care of your heart.
11. Take care of your dental hygiene
People who have gum disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease.
Some studies have shown that bacteria in the mouth involved with gum disease can move into the bloodstream and increase your risk of heart disease.
Also, weak gums can be at risk for a rare fatal heart problem called endocarditis.
When your gums bleed, bacteria can enter the bloodstream. With endocarditis, these bacteria can destructively affect the heart valves.
Tip: Flossing and brushing your teeth daily is essential to help stop gum disease. Also reducing sugar intake is helpful for dental hygiene.
12. Know your family's medical history
Many heart problems are genetic.
If you know your family’s medical history relating to heart problems, you will be able to predict possible problems and talk about it with your doctor.
If you have three grandparents who all died of heart attacks. You should consider strictly following other steps for a healthy heart listed here and consulting your doctor.
A study from the European Heart Journal found that if you’re happy then you will be less likely to suffer from heart disease.
Also, depression and stress increase your risk of developing heart disease.
Dr. Davidson who was a part of the study thinks that positive people are better rested and recover from stress faster.
The study shows the link between heart disease and a person’s mood, but the science of why this is true is a mystery.
From my own experience, the oldest people I know are some of the happiest people I know. I think there is a strong link between happiness and health.
Maintaining your heart health is one of the most important things you can do to live a long and happy life.
The heart is a ticking time bomb.
According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease causes 1 in every 4 deaths in the United States.
But you can set back the clock.
The heart is a ticking time bomb. According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease causes 1 in every 4 deaths in the United States. But you can set back the clock. #heart
I encourage you to use all 13 of these methods to take care of your heart.
Do you have any other ways to take care of your heart health?