Healthy hearts: Everyday changes go a long way!

Published 18 April, 2024

pHeart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, and it can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Fortunately, there are many actions you can take to improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease. Here are some of the most important steps you can take:

Maintain a balanced diet

  • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants, which can all help protect your heart. Aim for at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Choose whole grains: Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread, are higher in fibre and nutrients than refined grains. They can also help lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Cut back on saturated and trans fats: Saturated and trans fats can raise your cholesterol levels, which increases your risk of heart disease. Cut back on high-fat meats, fried foods, and processed snacks.
  • Choose healthy fats: Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish, can help protect your heart. They can lower your cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation.
  • Limit your sodium intake: Too much sodium can raise your blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Choose low-sodium options and avoid adding extra salt to your meals.
  • Avoid sugary drinks: Sugary drinks, such as soda and fruit juice, can contribute to weight gain and increase your risk of heart disease. Drink water or unsweetened beverages instead.
  • Limit alcohol intake: Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease. If you drink, do so in moderation.
  • Consider a Mediterranean-style diet: The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats. It has been linked with improved heart health and reduced risk of heart disease.

Keeping active

  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. Examples of moderate-intensity activities include brisk walking, cycling, and swimming. Examples of vigorous-intensity activities include running, hiking uphill, and high-intensity interval training.
  • Incorporate strength training exercises at least twice a week. Strength training can help improve your overall fitness level and reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Find physical activities that you enjoy. This will help you stick to a regular exercise routine and make it more enjoyable.
  • Be consistent with your exercise routine. Try to exercise at the same time every day or on certain days of the week to create a habit.
  • Make physical activity a part of your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a walk during your lunch break, or do some stretching exercises while watching TV.
  • Try to get up and move every hour if you have a sedentary job or lifestyle. Sitting for long periods of time can increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Consider getting a fitness tracker to monitor your physical activity and set goals for yourself. This can help keep you motivated and on track.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your heart health.
  • Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels: High blood pressure and high cholesterol are both risk factors for heart disease. Work with your doctor to monitor these levels and take steps to keep them in a healthy range.

Managing our stress

  • Identify the sources of stress in your life: The first step in managing stress is identifying the sources of stress in your life. This can include work, relationships, financial issues, or health problems.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga, can help you reduce stress and anxiety. Try to practice these techniques for at least 10-15 minutes every day.
  • Spend time with loved ones: Spending time with friends and family can help reduce stress and improve your mood.
  • Take breaks and prioritize self-care: It’s important to take breaks and prioritize self-care activities, such as taking a relaxing bath, reading a book, or listening to music.
  • Practice time management: Poor time management can lead to stress and anxiety. Try to prioritize tasks and set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Consider seeking professional help: If you are feeling overwhelmed or unable to manage your stress, consider seeking professional help. A mental health professional can help you develop coping strategies and manage your stress.

Getting enough sleep

  • Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can increase your risk of heart disease. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This can help regulate your body’s internal clock and improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Create a relaxing sleep environment: Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. Use comfortable bedding and consider using a white noise machine or earplugs to block out noise.
  • Limit screen time before bed: Exposure to screens, such as TVs, phones, and tablets, can disrupt your sleep. Try to avoid using screens for at least an hour before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Caffeine and alcohol can interfere with your sleep. Avoid consuming these substances, especially in the evening.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation, can help reduce stress and promote relaxation before bed.

By following these steps, you can help keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease. If you have any concerns about your heart health or if you need help developing a plan to improve your heart health, consider discussing the subject further with a health professional.

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