7 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health
How much do you know about keeping a healthy heart?
Diet, exercise, blood pressure, cholesterol – it can all become a blur when you’re talking about keeping that big muscle in your chest pumping hard and strong.
It’s important for anyone who has had a heart attack – and even those who have not – to take the steps necessary to prevent a future heart attack.
So what are those steps?
Here are the seven best steps you can take to improve your heart health:
1. Control your blood pressure.
Elevated blood pressure is also known as hypertension, and studies show those who have hypertension often suffer from heart attack or stroke. Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
When we take your blood pressure we like to see the top number, the force your heart produces as it squeezes, at 120 or lower. We like the bottom number, the resting pressure your heart has to push against, at 80 or lower. The lower we are able to keep those pressures, the better off your heart is going to be as far as risk for heart attacks and strokes.
2. Keep diabetes under control.
It’s a fact. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes. Keeping your glucose levels under control can greatly decrease your heart attack risk.
Diabetes is the inability of your body to put the sugar you eat where it needs to be. Instead of being sent to the muscles where it is needed, it stays high in the blood and causes all kinds of trouble. It can effect blood flow and circulation, eventually impacting large organs including the heart.
3. Watch your cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol: “good” and “bad.” Too much bad cholesterol (LDL) can cause plaque to form in your arteries, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood. The good cholesterol (HDL) helps remove the bad and acts as a type of cleaner for your artery walls. You need a good balance of both to reduce your risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Ask your doctor to check your cholesterol so you can talk about ways to lower your risk.
To help keep your cholesterol in check, watch your diet and exercise. Exercise can raise HDL levels and improve your cholesterol. There are also medications we utilize to help treat high cholesterol.
4. Take time to exercise.
Yes, you have to get that heart pumping, but you don’t need to spend hours at the gym. Spend 30 minutes a day doing some sort of moderate physical activity. That can mean just going for a brisk walk or a bike ride. Exercise not only helps you lose weight, it also keeps your heart healthy and strong.
5. Maintain a healthy diet.
Simply eating the right foods can help make a huge difference for your heart. Healthy foods fuel our body and help us fight off diseases – including those that put our heart at risk. So what foods are “superfoods” for your heart? Eat plenty of fruit, veggies, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats (including fish). I also recommend following a Mediterranean diet.
6. Lose weight.
If you are obese, a healthier heart is as little as five or 10 pounds away. Even just losing that little amount of weight can greatly reduce your heart attack risk.
7. Quit smoking. NOW.
Smoking puts your health at risk in so many ways, your heart is just one of them. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, quit. For help, you can turn to the Methodist QuitSmart® Smoking Cessation Program by calling (402) 354-5237.