If you want a healthy heart, you must constantly work to boost your heart health. Change never happens overnight, but there are some important decisions you can make right away to put you on the path towards a healthy heart.
Here are six action steps to take right away to boost your heart health to prevent heart attacks, heart disease, strokes and the risk of peripheral vascular disease.
6 simple tips to boost your heart health today
1. Check your pantry
A healthy diet can go a long way in overall health. Certain foods increase your risk for heart disease, just as there are things you can eat that will reduce your risk of heart disease.
Check your pantry for foods that are high in cholesterol, such as meats, high fat dairy products, and certain processed foods. Processed foods are also high in bad fats, such as trans fats.
Look for foods that are high in dietary sugar and replace them with low sugar foods and foods that contain no sugar.
Substitute red meat with fatty fish, which are high in omega 3 fatty acids, and heart healthy.
Instead of cakes and cookies, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with whole fruits, which are high in dietary fiber and antioxidants and give you health benefits you can’t get through eating low fiber, high sugar foods.
2. Start an exercise program
Years ago, when my Mom was in hospital for surgery, we met another patient who was there for heart surgery. Hours after ge returned to his room, the doctors encouraged him to get up and move around for at least ten minutes to speed up recovery.
For the rest of us, this means getting off the couch and getting out there to do some form of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is particularly good at increasing your heart rate, increasing your respiratory rate, and lowering your blood pressure.
Aim to do aerobic exercise for about 30 minutes per day on most days of the week. These include brisk walking, running, jogging, using a stair-stepper, bicycling, and swimming. Swimming is especially good for people who want to exercise but cannot tolerate the wear and tear on the joints.
Also consider doing some kind of weight training about two days per week. Weight training tones muscles and increases your basal metabolic rate so that you can burn calories more effectively, even without exercising.
Ideally, make exercise a family affair so you can do things as a group and reduce all of your family’s risks of heart disease.
3. Schedule a blood sugar screening
Reduce your risk of heart disease by having your blood sugar checked. Get a fasting blood sugar test to check for diabetes or pre-diabetes. Take care to keep your blood sugar levels under control, especially if you have a family history of diabetes. The risk for high blood sugar levels also means the increased risk for heart disease. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels involves living a healthy life, following a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting adequate sleep. Consult your doctor to check whether you need prescription medication to keep your blood sugar under control.
4. Schedule a sleep study
If you have a tendency to snore, rule out the risk of sleep apnea, a known risk factor for heart disease. When you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing during your sleep and wake up suddenly, gasping for air even though you don’t remember it in the morning. Sleep apnea will raise your blood pressure during the day, not to mention that it makes you tired during the daytime. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea and undergo treatment (which can mean using continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP, or make steps to reduce your weight), you can lessen your risk for heart disease and can have a better quality of life.
5. Reduce your stress levels
Stress can raise your blood pressure and your heart rate, increasing the risk of stress on your heart. Reduce stress by identifying the cause. Practice stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi, which bring various other health benefits such as increasing flexibility, strength, and balance besides stress reduction.
6. Check your cholesterol levels
Cholesterol in your bloodstream can cause a build-up of cholesterol-containing plaques that increase the risk of blood clots. These can cause various types of heart disease. You can lower your cholesterol through proper diet, that is by eating foods low in cholesterol and saturated fats, or by taking medication that will lower your cholesterol levels, keeping heart disease at bay.
Take care of your heart health by taking action today.