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“Listen to your heart” is a popular adage, but often people may spend so much time thinking about their figurative hearts that they may forget about their literal hearts. Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body, and neglecting its care can lead to serious consequences.
Even if you think your heart is in great shape, you shouldn’t take that assumption for granted. The Centers for Disease Control provide some eye-opening facts about heart disease:
Despite the statistics about heart disease, you may assume that you are not at risk because of your age or because you spend five hours at the gym every week. However, heart health should still be a matter of concern for you.
It isn’t uncommon for younger people to suffer from heart disease. An article from Everyday Health cited a doctor who claims that more women in their early 20s die from heart disease than from breast cancer. Heart disease can also affect men at any age.
Heart health is a matter of life and death, but it goes beyond that. By adopting habits that are good for your heart, you can improve your overall quality of life — you’ll please both your figurative heart and your literal heart!
From time to time, it is helpful to take an overall health assessment. One way to get a rough estimate of how your heart is doing is by taking a heart age test that measures your risk factors. You and your doctor should also work together to identify any risk factors you have for heart disease. These risk factors include:
You’ll notice these factors are elements you have no control over. There are other risk factors, however, that you do have control over:
By taking the following steps, you can lend your heart a helping hand and maybe even extend your life.
Smoking can double your risk of having a heart attack. Even secondhand smoke can pose a danger to your heart health. According to the Texas Heart Institute, research shows elevated heart rates and tightening of major arteries among smokers, who also carry the potential for an irregular heart rhythm. These factors can all cause your heart to work harder. Smoking also raises blood pressure, which carries a higher risk of stroke.
It is easy to talk for days about all the benefits of quitting smoking, but actually stepping away from those cigarettes is often much easier said than done. Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey to quit smoking:
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to take care of your body. Physical activity can:
You don’t have to kill yourself at the gym to reap the heart benefits of physical exercise. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. That averages out to about 30 minutes five days a week. You can also shoot for 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity per week.
If jumping into an exercise routine seems overwhelming, you can start slowly by adding more activity into your normal activities. For example, you can park a block away from your destination when you’re going shopping, or you can make it a point to stand up and walk in place for a few minutes every hour while you’re at work. Always keep in mind that a little bit of physical activity is better than none.
If you’re feeling up to it, you should add some muscle-strengthening exercises into your routine a couple times a week.
Stress and anger can increase your risk of high blood pressure and other heart-related problems. Managing stress is a challenge, but you can do so by:
“Diet” sounds like a dirty word to some people, but there are some yummy foods that are good for your heart. Examples include:
Your doctor can give you more advice about which foods to eat and which foods to avoid for heart health. However, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that you should look for foods that are high in soluble fiber, antioxidants, whole grains, and unsaturated fats.
Conversely, you should stay away from foods that are high in saturated fat, refined sugar, and cholesterol.
You may not always have time to eat right, and you might want a little extra assistance to keep your heart in good shape. The right supplements can do wonders for your ticker.
Many of the above-mentioned activities will help you get a handle on your diabetes, but there is more you can do to control this condition and thereby improve your heart health.
Taking control of your heart health may seem like a daunting challenge, but you can take small steps that move you toward your greater goal — a healthy life powered by a strong heart. By educating yourself about heart health, adopting good diet and exercise habits, and taking beneficial supplements, you can make sure your literal heart and your figurative heart are both in good condition.
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