Focusing on keeping your heart healthy is a good way to make sure you stay healthy overall, as good practices for your heart involve everything from sleep to diet to regular checkups. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, taking care to incorporate good habits will benefit you your whole life.
Start by Giving Up the Bad
A lot of daily activities can affect our hearts, but it can be hard to start new habits even if we know how good they will be for us in the long run. If you do find it difficult to pick up new habits, try stopping some negative ones.
Smoking is always the first habit you should kick, as it causes damage to your circulatory system by hardening arteries. Also, decreased lung capacity makes it harder to engage in much-needed exercise. Almost immediately you will feel the benefits of quitting. When you stop smoking, your risk of blood clots, and therefore heart attacks and strokes, goes down.
Another large area that might need some adjusting is your diet. You don’t need to do anything drastic like become a vegan or cut out all carbs, but dropping some damaging behaviors will go a long way. Start with cutting out or severely limiting fast food. Make more baked food options instead of fried. You should also watch your sodium and red meat intake.
Daily exercise is about as close as you can come to a magic fix for extra weight, sleep issues and strained mental state. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week (or 75 minutes of intense activity). Staying active and getting your heart pumping will decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Plus, you’ll reduce your stress levels, fall asleep easier at night and give yourself a boost of self-confidence.
Exercise can come in many forms, so don’t fret if the thought of running a 10K is overwhelming. You can start out by walking around during your lunch break or in your neighborhood after dinner. Join a few exercise classes and see what you like. If you want more guidance, try working out a few times with a personal trainer.
Learn about UT Health Olympic Center’s fitness programs, fun group classes and personal training sessions here: https://uthealtheasttexas.com/services/fitness
Incorporate the Good (and the tasty)
Changing your diet can have the biggest impact on your overall health. Adding in healthier habits, like eating salmon or switching out fries for a salad, can help you reduce your weight and decrease your chances of heart disease. Changing your diet will also improve your cholesterol levels. Limiting the amount of red meat, dairy products and other foods with high levels of saturated fat will lower you LDL levels. Too much of this “bad cholesterol” can cause blockages in your arteries, which negatively affects the health of your heart.
When you start making better diet choices, try keeping a food journal where you track what you eat and how much. You can also record how you felt after eating something. If you notice that you always feel sluggish and tired after eating a burger, you may be more inclined to avoid them. You can also use a food journal to plan your meals. Putting in forethought to what you eat can help you avoid impulsive, bad eating.
Schedule Those Checkups
Even if you overhaul your diet, join a running club and nix smoking, you still need to see your primary care physician for regular checkups. Your physician can check things that you may not notice, conditions like high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms or high cholesterol that can signal a more serious issue.
It is also a good idea to speak to your physician when you are making a life change. Let them know if you’re significantly altering your diet, amping up your workout routine or considering quitting smoking. Your doctor will help make sure you make the best choices for your body.
To find a primary care physician and schedule an appointment, please call 903-596-DOCS.
Heart attacks and strokes are scary topics, but the good news is that you are in control of significantly reducing your risk of either. Reach out and get help from your friends, family and healthcare providers. We are all here to support you in a healthier lifestyle. Make positive changes and live with a happy heart!
To get a complete picture of your heart’s health, schedule a MyHeart First screening. These seven tests are proven to most accurately detect heart disease and defects. Early detection of cardiovascular disease can help prevent future heart attacks and strokes. Get all seven tests done at once for only $150.