February is heart health month, so it’s a good time to explore how to keep most important powerhouse muscle in our body really healthy.
Your heart is about the size of your fist and pumps about 2000 gallons of blood a day! Keeping your heart healthy and strong is essential to your overall health.
Unlike strengthening glutes through squats and lunges, strengthening our heart muscle is not as obvious or direct. Lifestyle plays the starring role in promoting heart health and reducing cardiovascular disease.
A heart-healthy lifestyle means:
- Get moving! Exercise is essential to heart health. Getting at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity a day dramatically reduces risk of heart disease. Cardio exercise can be as simple as a brisk walk. Other activities may include bicycling, in-line or ice skating, jogging or even kayaking. Any activity that raises your heart rate strengthens the heart muscle. If you’re having trouble getting motivated, try finding energy bars that will work to give you that extra boost before a workout.
- Cut fat! Reducing fat from our diet and increasing plant sources and foods higher in fiber is essential to heart health. Eliminating dangerous trans-fats and decreasing saturated fats is most important to supporting a healthy heart and reducing cholesterol and blood pressure. Implementing a 40-30-30 diet or finding healthy snack alternatives to foods high in trans-fats and saturated fats will ensure that you’re consuming the right amount of fat on a daily basis.
- Chill out! Stress is a major risk factor for heart disease. Luckily, stress can be managed by diet and exercise, as well as developing new hobbies, meditation or even just being more connected to our friends and family.
- Smoke free! Smoking is the single most health damaging habit. If you smoke, seek support for a smoking cessation plan. Quitting smoking can dramatically lower your risk for heart disease.
Heart disease is not only one specific ailment – it includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arrhythmia (irregular heart beat), stroke and heart failure. These conditions are serious and, according to the American Heart Association, result in the deaths of 2400 Americans daily. Treatment may be difficult and varies from person to person. When it comes to heart health, the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” could not ring more true.
Remember to talk to your health-care provider. Working closely with your doctor will help you to better understand your risks and develop a personalized plan to achieve your optimum health.