Your heart is your hardest working muscle. How do you keep it strong?
Many of us exercise to keep our muscles strong. But what do you do to keep the hardest working muscle in your body, your heart, strong? Keeping your heart healthy is central to overall good health. You are never too old or too young to begin taking good care of your heart. Taking small steps to follow a healthy lifestyle at any age can help prevent heart disease, and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Although some heart disease risk factors like family history can’t be controlled, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make to improve your heart health.
Conditions that lead to heart disease may begin early in life, but there are many steps you can take to protect your heart health. Start by knowing your risk factors. Some, like family history or being over age 45, are beyond your control, but there are risk factors that you can do something about.
Nearly half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
Other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:
- Overweight and obesity
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Habits for a Healthy Heart – You Are What You Eat
A healthy diet is one of the best ways to avoid heart disease. Your heart and overall health will benefit if you follow these nutritional guidelines:
- Include a variety of fruits and vegetables
- Eat fiber-rich whole grains
- Choose low-fat dairy products
- Eat lean meats and at least two servings per week of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, trout, herring)
- Limit sodium to less than 1,500 mg a day
- Watch fat and sugar intake
- Drink alcohol only in moderation
- Watch portion sizes
A regular exercise program helps to decrease your resting heart rate and boost good cholesterol. Aim to get 30 minutes of exercise a day. Walking is a great way to get started, because it’s easy to do, inexpensive and available everywhere with no gear required. Small changes in exercise can have a big impact on cardiac wellness.
Keep Your Weight in Check
Your risk of heart disease and stroke lowers if you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Discuss your weight with your healthcare provider to make sure you are in the healthy range and determine which steps you can take to lose weight if you need to.
DO ONE THING: Take small steps to make your heart stronger, work more efficiently, and avoid disease.
SHARED DECISION MAKING: Talk to your doctor about your personal heart disease risk factors, and discuss what you can do to keep your heart strong.