LOVE YOUR HEART
How often do you think about your heart? We’re not talking about the warm feels you get after watching your go-to rom-com. When is the last time you thought about how hard your heart is pumping to keep you alive? While it’s easier to live in ignorant bliss and continue smashing the #3 combo with a large fry, it’s time we buckle down on heart health.
February is American Heart Month, which is the perfect time to start developing heart-healthy habits. Heart Disease, the number one killer of both men and women for the 80 years, will kill 1 in 4 people this year (yeah, it’s time to get serious).
WHAT IS HEART DISEASE?
Simply put, heart disease occurs when the vessels used to move blood throughout the body aren’t pumpin’ like they used to.
When arteries begin to narrow from plaque buildup, your heart has to work even harder to efficiently pump blood throughout the body (also known as Atherosclerosis). Imagine pouring candle wax (plaque) down your sink drain (blood vessels). After a short time, you’ll begin noticing the sink draining slower and slower.
AM I AT RISK?
When considering our risk for heart disease, there are many components increasing our risk that we have no control over: older age, male gender, African American ethnicity, genetics and a family history of heart disease. Considering this list, you may have one or all stacked up against you, but that’s no reason to throw your hands up in defeat.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT YOURSELF FROM BEING 1 OF THOSE 4?
1. Keep your blood pressure in check
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the result of this increased strain on the heart. Systolic pressure, the top number, indicates how hard the heart is pushing blood out, while diastolic, the bottom number, represents the heart at rest.
Aim for a healthy blood pressure reading of 120 mmHg / 80 mmHg or lower. Prolonged high pressure and stress on the heart can result in long-term organ damage, heart failure and ultimately death. One study discovered that a reduction to 2,500mg sodium per day can significantly reduce your risk for stroke, heart attack and heart failure. They found a dose-response relationship, indicating the lower your sodium intake, the more your blood pressure dropped.
2. Cut the crap
Fill up your plate with half fruits and vegetables, ¼ lean protein and ¼ starchy vegetables or whole grains. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, antioxidants and potassium, which all play a direct role in keeping our heart healthy. Research shows there is a direct correlation to the health of our gut and our heart. Eating probiotic rich foods like yogurt and kombucha paired with fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains keeps our digestion and heart health in check.
Fiber does double duty in heart health by also reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides and regulates blood sugars. Keep in mind, one week of healthy eating won’t reverse years of junk. Making small, sustainable changes is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
3. Get moving
Sure, binging Game of Thrones for five hours may be ideal, but inactivity can have a huge impact on your heart health. Regular exercise keeps your body fat lower, strengthens your heart and lungs and improves your mood.
Fitting a workout into your day doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. If you’re crunched for time, pull up a youtube video and get sweating. Check out our Pinterest for quick workouts you can squeeze into any schedule. Little bits of activity throughout the day add up! For every 30 minutes you sit, move around for 3 with light stretching or walking
4. Reduce stress
Chronic stress can seriously throw our bodies out of wack, resulting in poor sleep, hormone imbalances and weight gain. If stress is affecting your sleep, it’s time to make a change. Studies show that not getting enough zzz’s can increase your odds of having a heart attack.
Take back your zen by reducing daily microstressors, like an overly obnoxious alarm, bumper to bumper traffic and work deadlines. Prioritize productivity by minimizing the amount of time spent on social media or in front of the TV.
5. Get regular check-ups
It’s important to learn about how you can best optimize your health. Knowing what your body needs is the first step. Checking your blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat percentage, and triglycerides is key to staying ahead of your heart health!
6. Clean up your environment
Cigarettes are bad, duh. Exposure to cigarettes increases risk of heart disease, lung disease, peripheral vascular disease, so cut those out of your life!
It’s no secret we’re all about the 80/20 lifestyle – focus on the good stuff for your body and indulge every once and awhile. When talking about a heart-healthy diet, it’s more than just eat your fruits and veggies. Keeping a healthful diet, minimizing stress and staying active all work to keep your heart happy, even if the odds are stacked against you.