Posted on February 06 2019
February is American Heart Month and during this month we will be sharing several different heart healthy tips, products, and facts about heart disease and cardiovascular diseases in general.
It's no secret that your heart is an essential organ. It works incredibly hard for you during your entire life, so you definitely want to protect it as best as you can. Cardiovascular disease is not always preventable due to genetics and family history; however, there are steps you can take to prevent the disease from worsening and help improve the length and quality of your life.
Below are some of our favorite tips to follow when it comes to heart health and awareness!
Mountainside Medical's Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Heart
1. Aim for 7+ Hours of Sleep
Everyone loves a good nights sleep. It makes you feel well rested and ready to take on whatever challenges the day presents. But, did you know that getting a peaceful and sound rest greatly benefits your heart? In one study, young and middle age adults who slept 7 or more hours a night had less calcium in their arteries - which is an early sign of heart disease - than those who slept 5 hours or less, or those who slept 9 hours or more.
The type of sleep people get is also important. Adults who said they got good-quality sleep also had healthier arteries than those who didn't sleep soundly. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, or if you don't feel refreshed after a full nights sleep, talk to your doctor about what you can do to help yourself.
2. Monitor Your Blood Pressure
Monitoring your blood pressure is extremely important when it comes to heart disease. When your blood pressure is taken, it measures the amount of pressure flowing through your arteries with every heartbeat. If your blood pressure is too high, the extra force can damage artery walls and create scar tissue, which makes it harder for blood and oxygen to get to & from your heart. This makes the heart pump harder and can cause it to quickly become worn out. If the heart can't get enough oxygen, parts can start to die.
Aside from checking your blood pressure at the doctors, or with an at home blood pressure monitor, there are lifestyle changes that you can make to stabilize your blood pressure and lower it. For instance, cut back on salt, limit alcohol to no more than one to two drinks per day, favor healthy eating habits - such as, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins, manage your stress, and exercise. These simple changes can bring your blood pressure back down into the normal range. However, some people may also need medication in addition to lifestyle changes.
3. Cut Out Saturated Fats
To help your heart's arteries function better, cut down on the saturated fats. They are mainly found in meat and full fat dairy products. Instead, choose leaner cuts and reduced fat options. In addition, completely eliminate all trans fats, which are found in some processed foods. The trans fats increase your bad cholesterol, or LDL, level. Check ingredient lists for anything that says "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated", as those are trans fats. Be sure to have your cholesterol tested regularly as well.
4. Find Out if You're Diabetic
Many people are diagnosed with diabetes more and more in today's day and age. Still, there are some people who don't know that they have this serious condition. Over time, high blood sugar damages arteries (in addition to other organs as well), and makes heart disease more likely. Your doctor should test your blood sugar regularly - especially if you're 45 or older, if you're pregnant, if you're overweight, or if you have other risk factors for diabetes. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, work closely with your doctor on your lifestyle habits and any medication that you may need.
If you're prediabetic, meaning that you have borderline high blood sugar, you can prevent a full diabetes diagnosis by trading processed carbs for fiber rich whole grains. Every positive change you make in what you eat and how much you exercise will greatly help.
Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of moderate exercise. This includes any activity that gets you active and breaking a slight sweat. Pay attention to how much time you spend seated, whether it's at work, in your car, or on your couch. You want to eliminate as much time seated as possible. Being sedentary is extremely bad for your heart, so you will want to break up long periods of sitting to stand or walk.
6. Eat Healthier
Your heart works its best when it runs on clean fuel, so to speak. That means that you should be eating a lot of whole, plant-based foods - such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds - and fewer refined or processed foods, such as white bread, pasta, crackers, and cookies. One of the fastest ways to clean up your diet is to cut out sugary beverages like soda and fruit juice, which lacks the fiber that's in actual fruit.
7. Take Charge of Your Mental Health
Aside from taking charge of your physical health, you'll also want to make sure that your mental health is in check. For many people, "emotional eating" is where they find comfort and stress relief. Try to change those patterns if possible. If you're having difficulty changing those habits, it can help to talk with a trained and professional counselor to find other ways to cope with stress and negative emotions.
8. Quit Smoking
Smoking and secondhand smoke are horrible for your heart. If you smoke, seriously consider quitting, and don't spend time around others who smoke as well. While e-cigarettes are becoming more popular, and are better for you than regular tobacco, they still present nicotine and are still toxic. Your best bet would be to quit smoking altogether.
9. Do What You Love & Love What You Do
A key to managing stress is to do it as healthy as possible. That means spend time doing something you love. Whether it's meditation, prayer, yoga, or exercise, it's important to enjoy your relaxation time. Make it a point to spend time with people who make you feel good, too. Talking, laughing, and simply enjoying each other are good for your emotional and heart health.
10. Celebrate Every Step
Making changes to your diet and lifestyle won't happen overnight. It takes time and effort, and you should think progress, not perfection. Reward yourself for every positive step you take. Ask your family and friends for support, and encourage them to join in too!
Please consult with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before taking any medication, supplement, or beginning any health regimen.