How do we keep our heart in tip top shape? Here are four strategies to keep your ticker ticking:
1. Get regular health screenings. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. Adults should have their blood pressure checked at least every 2 years (and more if you have high blood pressure.) Cholesterol should be checked once every 5 years from the age of 20 and on. Diabetes screening is also a good idea if you have a history of it or are overweight. Diabetes is a risk factor for developing heart disease. How many contestants on "The Biggest Loser" find out that they have diabetes on the ranch? They had no idea and obviously weren't doing anything about it to fix the situation. Getting proper and regular health screenings empowers you over your own life and health.
2. Eat a Heart Healthy Diet. You should really try to eat foods that are low in fat, cholestreral and salt. Saturated and trans fat raise the cholesteral levels in your blood which should also be limited. When you do use fats, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats, found in nuts and seeds, also are good choices for a heart-healthy diet. You should also try to include whole grains, low fat protein sources and fruits and veggies.
3. Quit Smoking. Smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, including atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries — which can lead to coronary heart disease, heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke.
4. Exercise. A sedentary (inactive) lifestyle is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Fortunately, it's a risk factor that you can do something about. Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has many benefits:
- Strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system.
- Improve your circulation and help your body use oxygen better.
- Improve your heart failure symptoms.
- Increase energy levels so you can do more activities without becoming tired or short of breath.
- Increase endurance.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Improve muscle tone and strength.
- Improve balance and joint flexibility.
- Strengthen bones.
- Help reduce body fat and help you reach a healthy weight.
- Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and depression.
- Boost self-image and self-esteem.
- Improve sleep.
- Make you feel more relaxed and rested.
- Make you look fit and feel healthy.
Our heart is the only one we got so take care of it!