Heart health is a very important part of living a long, healthy life. It weighs less than a pound, but if it becomes damaged, your life can change dramatically. That’s why it’s important to know how to keep your heart healthy.
Your heart is the center of your cardiovascular system. It beats around 100,000 times per day and is responsible for providing your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. But heart disease remains the No. 1 killer among both men and women in the United States.
Let’s take a look at three things you should do to keep your heart healthy.
If you’re wondering how to keep your heart healthy, your diet is a good place to start. Your diet should include a variety of nutritious foods from all five food groups. Two diets that can help you accomplish this goal are the Mediterranean and DASH Diets.
The basis of the Mediterranean Diet comes from Greece, Crete, and southern Italy during the early 1960s. During that time, the incidence of chronic disease in this region was among the lowest in the world. Life expectancy was also among the highest.
Following a Mediterranean Diet means eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. You’re replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil. You’re also using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor your foods.
A similar diet that requires no special foods, and instead provides daily and weekly nutritional goals, is the DASH eating plan. This plan recommends:
- Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
- Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
- Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.
Guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend sticking to an overall heart-healthy diet. Researchers say it’s more important than avoiding – or agonizing over – an occasional indulgence.
Cardiovascular exercise is one of the four types of exercises you can do to keep your heart healthy. Some examples of endurance (or cardiovascular) exercises include:
- Walking briskly
- Climbing stairs at work
- Playing sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer or racquetball
The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate to vigorous activity per week. Their researchers also recommend mixing in strength, balance and flexibility exercises, too.
If you’re a smoker and wondering how to keep your heart healthy, the answer is simple: Quit. Smoking can do things like:
- Raise a type of fat in your blood called triglycerides
- Lower your “good” cholesterol (HDL)
- Damage cells that line your blood vessels
- Increase the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels
- Cause thickening and narrowing of blood vessels
- Create blood clots
Smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease (also known as coronary artery disease), which can lead to a heart attack.
A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons in the fight against cardiovascular disease. If you’d like more information on heart disease, download our guide: “The Heart Disease Facts That Could Change Your Life.” In it you’ll find the most telltale signs that there may be something wrong with your heart.