Heart disease is a leading cause of death around the world. It also affects lifestyle and quality of life. There are a number of factors associated with heart disease. Some of the factors such as family history and age are outside our control. The good news is that you can significantly lower your risk of heart disease and maintain a healthy heart by making changes to your lifestyle. Adopt the following changes starting today!
Exercising regularly for as little as 30 minutes a day has been proven to lower the risk of heart disease. In addition, exercise burns calories and keeps your weight in check and lowers your cholesterol. For best results, follow an exercise regime that includes cardiovascular exercise (swimming, running, brisk walk etc), strength training and stretching.
A heart healthy diet should include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fat free dairy products, beans and legumes, fish and lean meats. You should avoid excess sugar and salt, as well as foods high in saturated and trans fats such as deep fried foods, full fat dairy products and red meat. For an example of a diet for a healthy heart, look up the Mediterranean diet.
Include caffeinated drinks like green tea and coffee in your diet. Coffee has been known to lower the occurrence of cardiac arrhythmia. Green tea has a lot of antioxidants and is known to lower the risk of both heart attack and stroke. Consume 1-3 cups a day of caffeinated drinks. Try to avoid additives like sugar and cream.
Smoking is perhaps the most significant risk factors contributing to heart disease. The ill effects of smoking are widely known so we will not get into it much in this article, but you can read it here if you like. Don’t smoke. Just don’t! If you are a smoker, quit today. Read this to know how quitting smoking will benefit you.
Get the right amount of sleep
Studies have shown that sleeping too little increases your chances of getting heart disease by about 50%, while sleeping too much increases it by 40%. Find the sweet spot. Sleep for around 7-8 hours a night. Also focus on the quality of sleep. Read this to know how you can sleep better at night.
Vegetarians have a 32% less chance of developing heart disease. If you must eat meat, consume lean meats and fish. They are good for your heart.
Laughing reduces stress and dilates your blood vessels. As a result your blood flow improves and blood pressure reduces. In the long run laughing can reduce the risk of heart disease. Laughing clubs can be found across the world and they are gaining popularity. Try it out. This one does not come with any side effects 🙂
Stress has not been proven to contribute directly to heart health and more research is needed on this. But what we know for sure is that stress triggers or promotes other behavior that is directly linked to an increased risk of heart disease. These include but are not limited to overeating, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, alcohol consumption and more. Manage your stress levels to not indulge in these activities. Instead opt for other stress busters like exercise or sport or catching up with friends.
We know what you are thinking. Getting married will increase your stress levels. Or at least this is what you hear all the time from married people or in marriage jokes. But the truth is that studies have found a correlation between being married and having a healthy heart. This is especially true for women, who were found to have a 15% lower chance of developing heart disease if they had been married for at least ten years.
Have a pet
People who already have pets know what we are talking about. Having a pet, especially dogs, can lower your stress levels, lower your blood pressure and get you to step out and exercise when you take your dog for a walk, resulting in better weight management. The benefits are many. Plus you will have a best friend with you always.
Avoid excessive TV
People who watch TV for more than four hours a day have a 80% higher chance of developing heart disease. Go figure. Drop the remote and step out to take a walk. Read a book instead.
Walk 10000 steps a day
This is the minimum recommended steps for you to be considered active. Do not mistake this for exercise. This is the number of steps you should walk apart from your 30 minute minimum workout routine. So get a pedometer or download free apps like Google Fit and make sure you are doing the bare minimum.
Taking slow, deep breaths is the best way of managing stress. In fact, pranayam is an ancient Indian practice of controlled breathing exercise that is known to be beneficial for a variety of ailments such as anxiety, depression and hypertension. 10-15 minutes of pranayam a day will make a significant impact of your amount of stress.
Meditation will clear up your mind and reduce stress levels. Meditate for at least 15-30 minutes a day. Find some peace and quiet. Think happy thoughts and about happy places. It will have a direct effect on your heart health in the long run.
Increase Vitamin D intake
Vitamin D is known to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as strengthen bones and boost immunity. 75% of people with heart disease are known to be deficient in vitamin D. There is a strong correlation. Increase your vitamin D intake to have a healthy heart.