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How to Keep Heart Healthy and Strong?

Published On 23 Nov 2020
Lifestyle
Written by
Ankita HO
Written by
Ankita HO

Introduction 

When it comes to heart disease prevention, ‘now’ is always the best time to get started. Irrespective of your age, the choices that you make in terms of diet, exercise, and lifestyle will have a direct impact on heart health and your risk of cardiovascular disease. This is precisely why you should start making heart healthy choices without any further delay.

If you were to ask your doctor, ‘how to keep your heart healthy?’, you can be pretty sure that you wouldn’t get any shortcuts. Instead, your doctor would point to behaviors like unhealthy eating, sedentary lifestyle, and smoking as major risk factors for heart disease. Keeping your heart health and strong therefore comes down to fixing poor life choices to lower the risk of heart disease. 

How To Keep Your Heart Healthy And Strong? 

To get started you should first address dietary problems and then move on to lifestyle changes.

 

Embrace the DASH Diet

When it comes to heart health, it doesn’t get any healthier than the DASH diet. Developed by the National Institutes of Health as a diet to combat hypertension without the need for medications, the diet has time and again been ranked as the world’s healthiest diet by dieticians and nutritionists across the world (1).

Unlike most fad diets, the DASH diet is not based on restrictive eating or calorie counting, but is a healthy eating plan designed for sustainable long-term heart health benefits. By eliminating processed foods and focusing primarily on whole foods, intake of sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and added sugar is reduced. Unsurprisingly, studies show that the diet can not only help with the goal of treating high blood pressure, but it can also help control cholesterol levels and will lower the risk of obesity and associated conditions like diabetes. 

To put it very briefly, the DASH diet primarily includes fresh fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. In addition, you are encouraged to consume whole grains, beans, nuts, poultry, fatty fish, and lean meats in moderation. This ensures optimal nutrition and a good intake of protein, fiber, and minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium – the essentials of any heart healthy diet.

In addition to these nutrients, remember that not all fats are equal. Omega 3 fats from fish and nuts are regarded as healthy and can lower the risk of heart disease and other health conditions. If you’re trying to limit your caloric intake or can’t get these nutrients from dietary sources, you can also turn to fish oil supplements and DHA supplements

If you’d prefer to try another diet, you can opt for the Mediterranean diet, which is regarded as just as heart healthy.

Get Active

If you want to strengthen your heart, you absolutely have to start exercising. A sedentary lifestyle is regarded as one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease as outlined by the American Heart Association. This is evident from large scale studies in which we can observe a much higher incidence of cardiovascular events and mortalities as compared to in individuals who are active (2). What’s interesting is that increasing levels of activity even in midlife has been shown to lower the risk of mortality. 

Exercise is so effective because it helps with weight management, cholesterol control, and blood pressure regulation, improving almost all measures of cardiovascular health. To get the most out of your workout or physical activity plan, you should use a combination of aerobic and strength training exercises. 

Get Off The Couch

Whether or not you exercise daily, staying seated in a chair for extended periods is bad for your heart. A huge study that included nearly 800,000 people in the United Kingdom found that the risk of disease and death was significantly higher in individuals who spent the most amount of time seated (3). Sitting for extended periods was associated with a 147 percent increase in cardiac events including heart attacks and strokes. 

Staying seated for long periods of time causes blood flow to slow down and allows fatty acids to build-up in the blood vessels. This makes you more susceptible to heart disease. The behavior is also linked to impaired fat metabolism, obesity, muscle loss, insulin resistance, and other problems. 

Get More Sleep

Most of us understand that sleep deprivation and disturbed sleep can have a significant impact on health. However, we often overlook its impact on heart health specifically. The lack of adequate sleep on a regular basis can raise your risk of cardiovascular disease, even if you have an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Research shows that individuals who get less than six hours of sleep a night have twice the risk of a heart attack or stroke as compared to those who sleep for six to eight hours (4)

Experts believe that inadequate sleep has a cascading effect on various health parameters and biological processes, including the inflammatory response and blood pressure. This in turn affects heart health. 

Avoid Cigarette Smoke

If you smoke cigarettes, you should quit right away. That’s a no brainer as smoking is regarded as one of the biggest controllable risk factors for heart disease. However, non-smokers should also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke on a regular basis as this can increase the risk of heart disease by as much as 25 to 30 percent. 

This is because the smoke from cigarettes contains chemicals that promote the development of arterial plaque. Even short exposure to smoke from cigarettes can cause significant damage to blood vessel lining and will make the platelets increasingly sticky, which raises the risk of a heart attack. 

FAQs 

1. How to keep the heart healthy naturally?

It’s a fact that heart health can only be promoted through diet and lifestyle changes that are sustainable. In other words, you need to eat heart healthy foods, stay active, get adequate sleep, and control stress levels to lower the risk of heart disease. 

2. What is cardiac anxiety?

Cardiac anxiety disease or heart anxiety neurosis describes the condition of anxiety and fear about cardiac events even in individuals who do not actually suffer from coronary artery disease. Rather than an actual heart disease, cardiac anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder or panic disorder. 

3. How to keep the heart healthy and strong with foods?

The best foods for heart health include leafy greens and an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, whole grains, and other whole foods in general. At the same time processed foods should be avoided so as to limit intake of sodium, sugar, and trans fats. 

4. What 3 foods do cardiologists say we should avoid?

Cardiologists do not make recommendations with regard to specific foods, but they point to specific nutrients or ingredients as dangerous. These include sodium, sugar, and trans fats as they are known to increase blood pressure, fat buildup, insulin resistance, and other parameters that affect heart health. 

5. How to boost heart health with exercise?

To get the most out of your exercise routine, adopt a combination of aerobic exercise and weight training. This will have a strengthening effect on the heart and it also improves the efficiency of muscles in the body. You can get similar benefits, improving energy levels with CoEnzyme Q10 supplements

References:

  1. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/dash-ranked-best-diet-overall-eighth-year-row-us-news-world-report
  2. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.CIR.0000048890.59383.8D
  3. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-012-2677-z
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2845795/

Recommended Reads:

https://www.setu.in/blogs/lifestyle/hypertension-the-silent-killer-that-looms/

https://www.setu.in/blogs/lifestyle/nutritionist-pankti-motani-talks-about-top-5-superfoods-against-hypertension-and-high-cholesterol/

https://www.setu.in/blogs/food/give-your-heart-a-little-sunshine-and-your-stomach-recipes-included/

https://www.setu.in/blogs/habits/high-cholesterol-in-the-20s-and-30s-causes-prevention/

https://www.setu.in/blogs/lifestyle/sleep-an-easy-way-to-manage-weight/

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