Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States and is becoming even more common in younger adults. The good news is that it is possible to seriously curtail your risk for heart disease through manageable lifestyle changes. Better yet, these lifestyle changes will not only limit your risk for heart disease, they’ll also improve your overall quality of life!
For American Heart Health Month, we have come up with some suggestions to help. With a little attention to these three simple concepts, you’ll be doing your part to keep your heart healthy for years to come!
It seems like every month or so we are ready to commit to a regimen that will kick-start a new healthy relationship to food, but then life happens: stress leads to a return to the comfortable and familiar and just as quickly as we began, we’re back at square one. The idea of dieting can be daunting. The truth is, a complete dietary overhaul doesn’t work for everyone. Actually, it probably doesn’t work for most. If this sounds familiar, try starting small. A few positive changes to your current habits can have a big impact on how you feel.
- Instead of cutting out bread entirely, choose whole grain which has less sugar and more fiber
- Instead of eliminating fat, get your fat from smarter sources like nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and fish
- Use other ingredients to season your food and lower your salt intake
It’s not about depriving yourself, it’s about moderation and smarter choices. Portion control is a simple solution that can yield great results. For more tips on how to make smarter choices, the Mayo Clinic put together an extremely handy 8 step guide to heart healthy eating.
When you start small you can achieve little victories that give you confidence and feel good. You will then build on those victories and establish a new normal without feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
Food and mood are inextricably linked, and the foods that are good for your heart and body are also good for your brain! This makes a lot of sense because stress and heart health are also inter-connected.
Without an adequate night’s rest -- a solid 7 to 9 hours is recommended for adults -- your brain cannot fully recharge and you’ll feel the strain. Furthermore, an inadequate amount of sleep can put you at a higher risk to experience anxiety and depression (which are also linked with heart disease). Try to establish a sleep routine and sleep the same hours every night, and make sure to turn off your screens 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. This will help your body and brain establish a healthy rhythm and ensure you get the most out the time you spend dreaming!
On top of a good night’s rest, here are a few things proven to help quiet your mind and limit stress: meditate, practice yoga, spend time in nature, disconnect from your phone for an hour or two a day, practice gratitude, and exercise!
Exercise is the key ingredient to a heart-healthy lifestyle. Adults should spend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to intense aerobic activity. Depending on your starting point, that might feel like an intimidating number, but don’t worry. You don’t have to start putting together your training plan for the next marathon. 150 minutes is really just two and a half hours per week and the activity can come in many different forms.
Walking is actually one of the simplest ways to meet your exercise goals. Hiking, biking, and jogging follow naturally as other ways to get the blood pumping. Try to vary the types of activity as well. Not only is it boring to do the same thing day after day, switching it up actually gives you the best results. Try mixing cardio with weight and resistance training!
Staying motivated can be a struggle, so pair up with a buddy. You’ll be able to hold one another accountable and it’ll make the activity even more fun. Set reasonable expectations and remember that you’re doing this for yourself and for your heart. What your exercise routine looks like is not important, what’s important is that you’re moving in the right direction and improving. Your heart will thank you!
Here are a few of our pharmacist's favorite heart-friendly products!
Finally, we must remind you that there is no substitution for regular check-ins with your physician. These recommendations are merely the first steps toward a heart healthy lifestyle, and are by no means the end of the conversation. Special thanks to the American Heart Association for all their referential material as well as their commitment to raising awareness about heart disease!