Everybody knows that the heart is the most important organ in the body. However, a lot of people don’t treat it that way; heart disease is an increasingly concerning problem in America, with about 630,000 deaths occurring annually. It’s the number one leading cause of death in the U.S., and one that targets men and women pretty equally. Furthermore, someone has a heart attack in America once every forty seconds, which is a pretty shocking statistic, and one that confirms we don’t look after our hearts properly at all. So what are some ways to improve heart health?
One of the biggest risk factors for heart disease is being overweight or obese, another common affliction which affects millions of American citizens. Though measures like handicap parking permits exist for those who are morbidly obese, they don’t tackle the root cause of the problem. Using a disabled parking space might help reduce stress on an already stressed-out heart, but the real change has to come from lifestyle modifications. These can ultimately reduce the pressure on the heart and lead to a healthier, happier lifestyle for its owner. So here are five simple ways to improve heart health, starting today!
1. Take the Stairs
Many of us take a lift to our place of work or our apartment. Adjusting the routine ever so slightly and opting for the stairs is one of the easiest ways to improve heart health. Walking up stairs is actually an amazingly beneficial form of exercise; you’ll notice that if you ever have to run up a flight of stairs, your heart will be working overtime by the time you reach the top. This is an indication of how beneficial the repetitive movement of lunging upwards is for your heart. While you shouldn’t run up the stairs at every opportunity, choosing to take them once a day (as opposed to the passive choice of a lift) might be a very good idea for your overall heart health.
2. Aim for Seven Solid Hours of Sleep
A balanced, uninterrupted sleep pattern is crucial for many different areas of our health; it affects everything from anxiety levels to cognitive aptitude. In one recent study, young and middle-aged adults who got their head down for a solid seven hours a night had much less calcium in their arteries than those who slept less than five or more than nine hours. Calcium is an early sign of heart disease. Quality of sleep is important too; it can be useful to practice a brief form of meditation before you put head to pillow, as restless thoughts can keep you awake, and even wake you up during crucial stages of sleep.
3. Move Around During the Day
Many of us stay seating and/or lying down for large portions of the day and night. This is not a good practice to get into, as it doesn’t promote blood flow or increase your heart rate. Ultimately, sedentary behavior can result in an earlier onset of heart disease, so it’s a habit you want to break. Fortunately, it’s one that’s easily broken. Simply stand up and walk around more! If you’re taking a call on your phone, get up and walk while you’re doing it. If you spend hours of time at your computer, then break up those periods with intermittent strolls around your office, or simply plan out thirty minutes of moderate exercise for when you return home from work. This is one of the most significant ways to improve heart health.
4. Stop Smoking
This one is far easier said than done, as everyone who’s ever tried to quit knows full well. However, quitting smoking can be an essential component of keeping your heart healthy and a necessary step in undoing some of the cardiovascular damage you may have done. Inhaling cigarette smoke is one of the leading causes of heart disease. Firsthand smoke is obviously worse, but secondhand smoke can be just as bad. So you want to stop smoking as soon as you’re physically able, and also stop hanging around with people who smoke, when they’re smoking. There are many different avenues to achieve this, from nicotine patches to e-cigarettes, so choose the one that works best for you and commit to quitting. Your heart and arteries will thank you for it.
5. Shape Up That Diet
Saturated fats are the big danger here, so you want to cut those down significantly if you suffer from obesity. These can largely be found in meat and dairy products, so aim to reduce fat where you can, or just limit your general intake of sources of saturated fats. An abundance of sugar is also a major problem in most modern Americans’ diets, and is the reason our kids find themselves afflicted by obesity at increasingly young ages. Soft drinks should be minimized to one or two a week, and sweet treats should be significantly decreased. You should also watch your salt intake; many food products are doused in salt before they reach your table, so you might not have to go about adding extra to them once they’re on your plate. Making these small changes to your diet is one of the best ways to improve heart health, and you’ll feel better overall for it, too!