Taking care of your heart

Smart tips to stay healthy
Overweight runner losing weight to help heart

No matter what your age, it’s never too late to start taking care of your heart. When you make healthy adjustments to your diet and physical activity, you’ll start feeling the positive effects right away. 

Get the answers below to some of the most commonly asked heart-healthy questions. 
 

How can I keep a healthy heart?

Eat heart-healthy foods

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends including heart-healthy foods, monitoring intake of saturated fats, and eliminating foods with trans fats

Saturated fats are a type of fat found predominantly in meat and dairy products, which typically turn solid when at room temperature. The AHA recommends that no more than 5-6% of a person’s daily caloric intake come from these fats. 

Trans fats are typically created through artificial processing to help increase the shelf life of certain foods, such as French fries, onion rings, packaged snacks, and baked goods. The AHA recommends eliminating trans fats, as they are associated with increasing LDL (bad) cholesterol, decreasing HDL (good) cholesterol, and increasing risk of type 2 diabetes.
 

Consider a plant-based diet

Plant-based diets are in the news, and for good reason. Research indicates that plant-based diets can reduce risk of heart failure by 42% in people without previously diagnosed heart disease or heart failure. 

Plant-based, whole food diets also greatly reduce dairy, meat, and processed foods, keeping saturated fats in check and virtually eliminating trans fats. 

Plant-based diets also have another healthy side effect: they are good for the planet. The commercial dairy industry uses more water compared to plant-based agriculture ,which means more carbon is emitted to treat and pump water. It’s best to check with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.
 

Maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI)

According to the  Medical University of South Carolina's Dr. Patrick M. O'Neil, obesity is linked with hypertension, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) is a good step towards keeping your heart healthy. Although your BMI does not measure body fat directly, it offers an easy way to screen for obesity.

The CDC has a handy online calculator you can use to calculate your BMI. However, athletes should note that BMI might not correctly measure fat percentage due to their larger amounts of muscle. 
 

Practice smart portion control

Practicing smart portion control is one way to keep one’s body fat percentage in a healthy range. This might mean adjusting the serving size or amount of food you put on your plate. 

One smart tip to keep portions smaller is to use smaller plates, bowls, and glassware.
 

Stay physically active

Staying physically active is another way to maintain a healthy weight and decrease stress. Adding more physical activity, whether substituting walks for food during lunch or taking stairs instead of the elevator, can improve more than just your heart. 

Along with helping control your weight, exercise can also help you get a more restful sleep, improve your mood, and encourage you to connect with friends and family. Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, even just a few minutes of movement is better than none at all. 
 

Brush and floss daily

Surprisingly, gum disease is also linked with heart disease. Brushing and flossing daily can help reduce gum disease risk – and possibly keep your heart healthy as well. 


What kinds of problems can my heart have?

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death worldwide. And, even when they don’t cause death, these conditions can leave patients with a lower quality of life. 
 

What are the risk factors for heart problems? 

Two of the biggest risk factors are smoking and obesity  Smoking harms your entire body, with especially damaging effects on your heart and lungs. Lack of movement can lead to weight gain and studies have shown that extra weight adds stress to your heart.
 

Is there a link between smoking and heart disease?

Yes. Smoking damages the heart and lungs. It is the top controllable risk factor for heart disease. That means you can do something about it: stop smoking. It’s a big step, but you’re not alone. Check out group therapy and hypnotherapy as well our own Wellvolution® program  to help kick the habit.
 

What changes to my diet can help my heart?

If your heart is the engine that powers your body, the food you eat and drink is your fuel. Because of this, the American Heart Association recommends small adjustments that can really add up to a healthier diet:

  • Add more fish, especially tuna, salmon, sardines, and herring; it’s a better way to include more omega-3 fatty acids than taking fish oil pills.
  • Eat more fiber-rich foods, like beans, oats, apples, pears, and avocados.
  • Include almonds, walnuts, pecans, and other tree nuts in your diet.
  • Limit saturated fats, eliminate trans fats, and monitor your salt intake (steering clear of fast food, packaged snacks, and most fried foods will help you make smarter choices).

Take the time to discover the very latest health news. You’ll discover why more doctors are recommending nutrition over prescriptions. We’ve got smart food tips to keep your heart healthy.
 

How does losing weight help my heart?

Not only can this help reduce stress – which is also a risk factor for heart disease  – you will also be avoiding artery damage and other problems that come from high-fat diets. 
 

Is there anything else I can do?

You can have some fun because it’s good for your heart:

  • Catch a funny movie, tell a joke, and keep laughing. You’ll be lowering your stress and the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Treat yourself to a piece of chocolate. Eating dark chocolate is a source of flavonoids, a kind of antioxidant that’s also in tea, blueberries, apples, nuts, and red wine. 
  • Spend time with your dog, cat, or just about any kind of pet. If keeping a pet is difficult for you, check your local animal shelter. Many welcome volunteers. You probably know pet owners who gush over how wonderful it is to have a dog or cat in their lives. But the health benefits just may surprise you.

Remember: If you have any concerns about your heart or if you experience any sudden changes in your health, speak with your doctor and you can work together to create a plan to meet your health goals.

 

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