A healthy heart is central to overall good health. Embracing a healthy lifestyle at any age can prevent heart disease and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke. You are never too old or too young to begin taking care of your heart. True, the younger you begin making healthy choices, the longer you can reap the benefits. But swapping good habits for bad to promote good health can make a difference, even if you’ve already suffered a heart attack.
Choosing healthier foods and exercising are two of the best ways to contribute to good heart health. There are a number of additional things you can do to lower your risk for heart disease. Things that put you at higher risk for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure.
- Obesity/being overweight.
- High cholesterol levels.
- Inactivity (no exercise).
- Family history of heart disease (especially a parent or sibling).
Path to Improved HealthYou are in direct control over many things that can influence your heart health. It’s up to you to choose how seriously you take this responsibility. Some people find it easy to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Others will do so only after being diagnosed with a symptom of heart disease, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Whatever your inspiration, know that the benefits of a healthy heart are worth the effort. In fact, your entire body will be better for it. Good overall health can also protect you from type 2 diabetes, asthma, joint pain, and a number of other chronic diseases and conditions. It can even reduce your risk for cancer. Additionally, a healthy lifestyle that includes eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise has been proven to boost your mood. You’ll have more energy and less stress.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, try to add just one healthy aspect to your life for now. As you feel that you are gaining control, try adding another, then another. Pretty soon, you’ll feel empowered instead of overwhelmed.
Know Your NumbersEvery adult should know his or her blood pressure and cholesterol level. Beginning at age 18, you should have your blood pressure checked at least every 3 to 5 years. There are often no symptoms associated with high blood pressure. The best way to know for sure is to check.
Young adults who are age 20 and older and who smoke or have a family history of heart disease should have regular cholesterol screenings. Otherwise, women should begin having regular cholesterol checks when they are 45. Men should begin them at age 35. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you should also be screened for diabetes.
Body VRT – Health Check at Brown’sNow you can do these simple tests at your local Brown’s Pharmacy. The Body VRT is only €10 and appointments are booked at your convenience. In 20 minutes, we will check your blood pressure, blood cholesterol and triglycerides, blood glucose and BMI. Following these tests we will give you advice on the best way forward. It is that simple.
Get Plenty of ExerciseYou don’t have to be a member of a gym or buy fancy equipment to exercise. The key is just to get up and move. Go for a walk. Take the stairs at work. Do some push-ups or sit-ups. Dance. Recommendations are at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity for adults each week. Children should get at least an hour of activity every day.
Aerobic exercise has a direct effect on your heart. Your heart is a muscle and exercise strengthens it. A strong heart can more efficiently pump blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients to other parts of your body. Exercise can lower your risk for developing plaque in your arteries. Plaque is a waxy substance that can clog arteries and reduce blood flow to your heart. If plaque builds up too much, it can even block the artery. This is what causes a heart attack.
Don’t SmokeNo new news here. Smoking is bad for you. It causes cancer. It damages your lungs. It’s also terrible for your heart. Smoking increases your risk for heart disease. It damages the lining of your arteries. There are numerous studies that provide evidence that smoking cigarettes is a major cause of coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attacks.
If you currently smoke, it’s a great time to stop. There are medicines that can help, as well as other “quit smoking” tools such as nicotine gum and patches.
Make Healthy Food ChoicesBalance is the key to eating healthy for the long haul. Your diet should consist mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and lean proteins. If you eat this way most of the time, you’ll be able to indulge occasionally.
Allowing yourself to eat something you crave from time to time is important. So do not feel guilty about treating yourself as a reward for eating healthy. Just make sure that you aren’t treating yourself too often.
As you choose your vegetables, keep color in mind. A colorful plate with plenty of red, orange, yellow, and dark-green vegetables helps ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need.
Try to cut down on or even eliminate heavily processed foods. Heavily processed foods are the boxed and packaged foods, especially those that are ready to eat (think crackers, potato chips, and even drive-through foods). Also, look for foods low in sodium.
Swap soda and energy drinks for water. There is an incredible amount of sugar in soda and energy drinks. Drinking water in place of these can significantly impact your health for the better.
Watch Your WeightBeing obese or overweight is not healthy. The more weight you gain, the higher your body mass index (BMI). Your BMI is a measure of your body fat based on your height and weight. The higher your BMI, the higher your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels. Being obese also puts you at risk for breathing problems, gallbladder disease, liver disease, and even cancer.
Making healthy food choices in combination with an exercise program is the best way to lose weight. Even a small amount of weight loss can make a big difference in your health.
Learn to Manage StressManaging your stress can help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Stress is often associated with high blood pressure. Chronic stress exposes your body to elevated levels of stress hormones, which also is not healthy.
Everyone deals with stress differently. The way you react to it can directly impact your health. There are breathing exercises that can help you process stress. Meditation has also proven to be an effective way to manage stress. Exercise is also a great way to deal with it. Poor ways to react to stress are to smoke, to drink alcohol, or to let it interfere with sleep.