Here at Absolutely Divine Wellness, we are all about getting your heart healthy and in tip top shape. In that light, here are the best habits we could find to strengthen your heart:
1 - How Aerobic Exercises Make Your Heart Stronger
When you walk, swim or bust a move on the dance floor, you strengthen your heart. How does this happen? Your heart has to work harder to circulate oxygen throughout your body and pump your blood when you are in constant motion. As it turns out, this is a good thing.
This process raises your HDL cholesterol level. HDL is the "good" cholesterol that you want more of. It actually takes excess cholesterol out of your arteries and back to your liver, where it can be processed and sent on its way, out of your body.
LDL, the "bad" cholesterol, is lowered when you exercise aerobically. This lowers the fatty buildup and possible blood clotting that can reduce the flow of blood to your brain and your heart which leads to a stroke or possible heart attack. As referenced above, you don't need to run a marathon or hit your stair-master for an hour to benefit from aerobic activity. Any physical activity qualifies as aerobic if it is sustained, while elevating your heart rate to a medium or high level of intensity. Hiking, cycling, using a cardio machine, dancing, kickboxing and brisk walking on the beach are all forms of aerobic exercise which make your heart stronger and healthier.
2 - Lose Some Weight for a Healthy Heart
You often feel tired and run down when you are overweight or obese. You can find it difficult to perform simple, daily activities. Being overweight can also lead to a negative self image, a higher risk of developing diabetes and some cancers, gout, sleep apnea and an increased incidence rate of gallstones and gallbladder diseases.
As an all-around anti-health physical condition, being above your ideal weight is about as unhealthy a characteristic as you can display. (The American Heart Association says that being overweight can lead to a "higher than average risk" of at least 50 different health problems.)
As if all of the above problems were not reason enough to lose a few pounds and shrink your waist size …
… overweight individuals also tend to have weaker hearts.
Those extra pounds make your heart work harder. This is often because the food that you ate to make yourself overweight elevates your cholesterol level, while while contributing to the level of unhealthy fats in your blood.
Even when you are simply walking, your muscles work harder if you weigh 160 pounds than if you weigh 140 pounds. This extra work means your heart has to also work harder, to pump healthy oxygen throughout your body. The Archives of Internal Medicine show that the connection between heart disease and being overweight is perfectly correlated.
If you are a few pounds overweight, your risk of heart disease elevates by 32%. If you are obese, you are a very scary 81% more likely to develop heart disease than if you reach and maintained an ideal body weight.
3 - Your Heart Is Happier (And Healthier) When You Have Less Stress
Stress can be a killer. That's a real problem today, because humans have never been more mentally engaged on a continual basis than at our current point in history. Your personal and business obligations, hundreds of media messages constantly in your face and a number of other issues can create a very stressful environment.
Unlike food or alcohol as possibly causing health problems, people sometimes have a hard time identifying stress as a stressor. If you are overweight, it is easy for you to see eating too much of the wrong foods as the culprit. You can see food, taste and smell it. This makes it simple to identify your unhealthy approach to food as causing your overweight or obese problem.
However, stress is not a physical thing. It is not an object you can point to and say, "That is what stress is." It is a mental, emotional and sometimes even a negative spiritual experience. As hard as it may be for you to point out the stressors in your life, it is vital that you do so for one very important reason.
Your heart is healthier when you are stress-free.
When your heart is sick, your entire body is sick. If your heart does not work properly, your incidence rate of stroke and heart attack, heart disease, some cancers, overweight and obesity, and a long list of health problems increases dramatically.
Stress causes reactions in your body intended to protect you from whatever stressful situation you are experiencing. Unfortunately, the hormones and chemicals released as a response to stress can also lead to a weak heart when stress is constant or consistent.
Work to identify those situations which cause you to become anxious and frustrated. Look for patterns which make you feel stressed out. Practice meditation, take a walk outside in the sunshine or start exercising regularly. These are all proven stress beaters, meaning they have a significantly healthy impact on your heart.
4 - "Kick the Habit" to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
Emphysema, chronic bronchitis, COPD and lung cancer would all prefer that you continue smoking. Your rate of contracting these and other smoking-related diseases continues to rise as long as you keep right on puffing away. If you have asthma, smoking can both trigger an attack, and make an asthmatic attack more dangerous.
The website QuitSmokingSupport.com reveals that smoking can "significantly hasten hardening of the arteries." This means your heart has to work much harder to pump oxygen and blood throughout your body. When your heart is overworked consistently, serious danger can be just around the corner.
You should also remember that smoking is bad for the people around you. If you don't want to quit smoking for your own health, do it for your loved ones. The same research which shows an improved risk for hardened arteries in smokers also shows the same problem for those who inhale secondhand smoke. So your smoking is weakening not only your heart, but the hearts of the people you love and spend the most time with.
Does it get cold in the winter where you live? If so, your risk of suffering some heart disease at that time of the year is greater if you smoke. Rates of high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate increase for smokers come wintertime.
The British Medical Journey points out that smoking "damages the arteries to the heart and brain", which weakens your heart, automatically increasing your risk of stroke and heart attack.
Can you undo the damage of smoking? Definitely.
Dr. Bjorn Eliasson from Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Goteborg, Sweden estimates that 10 million deaths each year will be caused by smoking (as of 2015, forecasting up till 2030). However, his research shows that if you quit smoking entirely, or just cut back a little, your heart and entire cardiovascular system begin to become stronger and healthier.
Within a few months of reducing how many cigarettes you smoke, you can make your cholesterol level healthier.
You can also reduce how hard your heart has to work to pump blood and oxygen throughout your body, according to the experiments conducted by Dr. Eliasson and others. You experience other physical health benefits as well. So kick the habit totally, or just cut back on the amount of cigarettes you smoke daily. Your heart, and the hearts of those around you, will thank you.
5 - Why Salmon Is So Heart Healthy
Those salmon-hungry brown and grizzly bears you see eating salmon on your favorite nature show are on to something. They probably know that if you eat 3 servings of fish a week, you can drastically improve your health across the board, boost your immune and neurological systems, make your heart healthier and fight off multiple diseases and illnesses.
Of all the fish, recommended to eat as a part of a healthy lifestyle, salmon is right up there in the #1 spot. Wild caught salmon, not farm raised, is an important source of zinc, iron, vitamins B3, B6, B12 and D, protein, phosphorous, selenium, potassium and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Your body craves omega-3 fats. But guess what? Unlike many of the important minerals, vitamins and protein you require, your body cannot manufacture omega-3 fatty acids. You must consume them from some outside source. As it turns out, salmon, along with mackerel, herring, sardines and albacore tuna, is extremely high in heart-healthy omega-3s.
That incredibly important fatty acid can reduce your risk of stroke, high blood pressure, heart attack, unhealthy triglyceride levels and heart arrhythmia. Eating just 3 six ounce servings of salmon per week dramatically reduces your risk of these and other heart related health problems.
6 - Wine and Beer Are Good for Your Heart ... Until They Aren't
Have you heard that wine can be a heart healthy addition to your diet? Are you always quick to quote Ben Franklin to back up your beer drinking habit? Franklin is famously remembered by beer drinkers as saying, "Beer is proof that God loves us."
Yes, it's true, alcohol can be good for your heart.
The resveratrol frowned in red wine can protect against damage to your arteries. It does this by raising your HDL cholesterol level (that's the "good" cholesterol). Other forms of liquor, beer and other adult beverages have also shown heart healthy properties in multiple studies.
When you are 20 pounds overweight, losing 5 pounds is a smart move for better health. Losing 20 pounds would even be better. So does this mean that if a little bit of beer or wine is good for you, a lot is even better?
The answer is ... absolutely not.
Heart.org, a web run by the American Heart Association, recommends the following doses of alcohol per day for men and women. One drink for women and 2 drinks for men, at most. This doesn't mean if you are a teetotaler you should start drinking. It just means that research shows you should drink no more than those quantities if you want to impact your heart health positively.
What is 1 drink?
An alcoholic drink is generally agreed upon as one 12-ounce beer. A drink with 1.5 ounces of 80 proof alcohol also constitutes one drink. This includes 4 ounces of wine (notice we said 4 ounces here, not that extra-large wineglass served by your favorite waiter, who you always coax to "add a little extra").
Over-drinking can lead to alcoholism, and increased risk of heart disease and other health problems. If you drink, limit yourself to the recommended maximums listed above and your heart can benefit.
7 - Your Butt is Killing Your Heart! (If It Sits Too Much)
The next time you want to be scared into the standing position, do this. Type "the dangers of sitting" into your preferred search engine. If you don't have the required time to sift through the more than 30 million results Google produces for that term, we are here to help. The following devastating health problems are your possible rewards if you sit too much:
High blood pressure
Colon, endometrial and breast cancer
High cholesterol level
Weaken mental functioning
Chronic neck, shoulder and back pain
Soft, weak bones
Swollen ankles, varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis from lack of circulation.
Research revealed by news conglomerate CNN shows that sitting for extended periods of time will kill you ... even if you exercise regularly!
If you watch 5 to 6 hours of TV per day, you are 27% more likely to die from any cause than someone who only watches 1 to 2 hours of daily television. If you prefer 7 or more hours of television viewing daily, the chances of you dying, from anything and for any reason at all, increase by 57% over a “2 or fewer” hours per day TV viewer.
This happens because the constant, unrelenting pressure on the back of your thighs slows down your circulation. Your heart cannot properly circulate blood and oxygen to your lower extremities. Poor posture decreases blood flow to your upper body. A lack of activity or movement further slows down your heart rate.
This is how sitting for too long cannot only be dangerous, but it can become a deadly habit. The problem is, the common habit of sitting is socially acceptable. Look around you. Your entire world is built to keep you on your butt. Even our vehicles are made for seating comfort.
So get up and get moving, limiting the amount of time you spend on your rear end. You can add years to your life, and increase your quality of life, by avoiding the heart related problems which a sedentary lifestyle promotes.
I hope this 7 tips to keep your heart healthy for years to come has given you some ideas of how you can make small but consistent changes in to your current habits.
One small consistent step is always better than no step at all.
And if you need more motivation, come and see us that the office. We've got your back.