Heart health plays a key role in your overall health. Even when we’re asleep, your heart is responsible for moving blood throughout an entire system, delivering nutrients and oxygen to our bodies’ tissues.
Heart Health Statistics
-According to the CDC, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States
-1 in every 4 deaths is due to heart disease—that’s approximately 655,000 Americans each year
-1 in every 5 heart attacks is silent—this means all the damage of a heart attack has occurred, but the person was unaware they had a heart attack
-It’s anticipated that by 2030 about 43% of the population will have some form of heart disease
So, what are some ways to show our hearts some love?
One way is to consume heart-healthy foods on a regular basis, such as:
-healthy nuts like walnuts or almonds
Why are they good for your heart?
1- Leafy greens-dark, leafy greens are tremendous boosters for heart health. They provide tons of vitamins, nutrients and minerals, especially folate (a B vitamin) which is critical to heart disease prevention.
2-Avocados-Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat (good fat) which can help lower your LDL (bad cholesterol)
3-Oats-Oats are one of the healthiest grains on earth and are also a gluten-free. A major risk factor for heart disease is blood cholesterol. Oats are a fantastic way to keep your total cholesterol levels low.
4-Whole grains-Eating whole grains can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 30%. They can help lower LDL levels and lower blood pressure as well!
5-Berries-Berries provide incredible health benefits! They are a phenomenal part of a heart-healthy diet. Berries are rich in fiber and vitamin C, so not only do they help with your cholesterol and blood pressure, they also help in reducing oxidative stress.
6-Healthy nuts-Overall, nuts are a good source of fat, fiber, and protein for your body. Nuts tend to be high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are not just good for your heart, but also for brain development and controlling inflammation in the body. Some of the most nutritious nuts for heart health are walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews.
7-Salmon-Some fish, such as salmon, are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is a fantastic source of lean protein. The EPA and DHA provided from eating salmon can help prevent blood clots, stabilize abnormal heart rhythms and improve blood pressure.
8-Seeds- Seeds are known for helping reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. They are also filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Diet is often an underestimated factor to both heart health and overall health, when it should be the first thing we address to promote wellness within our bodies. Making sure we feed our bodies foods that reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and reduce oxidative stress is one of the most important things we can do to care for ourselves.
Exercise your way to a healthy heart
Exercise is another critical element to maintaining our heart health and a solid way to make sure you don’t need the medicine cabinet!
In 2013, researchers performed a meta-review of over 305 trials with 399,000 participants in total. During the review regarding the prevention of coronary heart disease and prediabetes, it was determined there were no statistical differences between those who exercised and those who were given medication.
You know what that means?! You can actually prevent these things by just moving your body and being active!
So, what types of exercise are good for your heart health? Really, getting any physical activity will help improve your heart health, but here are some specific examples:
1- Aerobic Exercise-Things that qualify as aerobic exercise would be activities such as brisk walking, running, swimming, tennis, or cycling. These activities help increase your cardiac output (how well your heart pumps). As a general rule of thumb, doctors typically recommend about 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week for optimal heart health.
2-Strength Training-Strength training may not seem like the first form of exercise you would consider for improving your heart health. However, strength training plays a direct role in body composition. So, for people who carry a lot of body fat, especially in the belly region as it is a factor in heart disease, these types of exercise can be significantly effective and beneficial. When combined with aerobic exercise, strength training has been shown to help increase HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol).
Effectively executing a strength training plan to benefit your heart health doesn’t mean you have to be deadlifting hundreds of pounds like a bodybuilder either (unless you’re into that, then good for you!). You can just use things like free weights, weight machines, and resistance bands. You can also use your own body weight and do things like squats and push-ups!
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, just two days per week (non-consecutively) is enough to reap the benefits you seek.
3-Stretching- Although stretching doesn’t have a direct impact on your heart health, it does keep your musculoskeletal system happy, meaning it keeps your joints from aching and getting muscle cramps. By stretching, you increase your flexibility and balance, making aerobic and strength training exercises easier and more enjoyable for yourself. You should stretch daily, particularly before and after exercise!
Maintaining good heart health can really be as simple as that: eat good foods and get exercise. It’s really quite astonishing how many areas of your health can be improved by simply moving your body and making some conscious choices on the foods we put into our bodies!