You can always count on your heart being there for you, faithfully pumping blood and oxygen through your body — until it doesn’t.
The old ticker may be something you don’t think much about, but you might want to baby your heart a little more so it will keep working for you in old age. Heart disease kills 655,000 people each year, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women.
You can’t change your family history, but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of avoiding heart disease. Here are some things you can do today to keep your heart healthy:
Lose some weight
Stubborn belly fat is something many people battle continuously. It seems to hang on the longest, and trying to get rid of it can be frustrating. Losing that weight will not only help your clothes fit a little better, but it will improve your heart health as well, as stomach fat increases your risk for a heart attack. Keeping your heart healthy can be the motivation you need to lose a few extra pounds.
Eat for your heart
The right diet will help protect your heart by helping you to lose weight and by the addition of foods that can prevent heart disease. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are high in fiber and contain nutrients that promote heart health. Limiting saturated and trans fats also can help control cholesterol and prevent narrowing of the arteries. Cut back on sodium to keep your blood pressure down.
Go for a bike ride
Hopping on your bike a few times a week will do wonders for your heart. Exercise is a critical component in a heart-healthy routine. Aerobic exercise — like biking, running, swimming and other activities — improves circulation, blood pressure and heart rate. While strength training may not seem as important for heart health, it is an important part of a well-rounded exercise routine. It helps reduce fat, builds muscle and can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Incorporate at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and two days of strength training into your weekly workout goals for the best results.
Keep an eye on your heart
There are some risk factors for heart disease that you may not know you have if you don’t check. For example, it is unlikely that you will notice your blood pressure increasing or your cholesterol changing unless you get tested. Talk to your doctor about testing your cholesterol levels and blood pressure so you can get treatment if you need it.
“It is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly, even if your blood pressure is normally within a healthy range,” says Robert Gerken, administrator at Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “Your arteries can change as you age, making you more susceptible to high blood pressure and complications like a stroke or heart attack.”
There are so many reasons to stop smoking and heart health is a big one. Smoking and secondhand smoke can lead to heart disease, stroke and even death. Of all coronary heart disease deaths, nearly a third are due to smoking or secondhand smoke. So, protect your health and the people around you and stop smoking today.
Moderate your alcohol consumption
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Alcohol affects everyone differently, but heavy drinking can contribute to a number of risks for your heart. It can increase triglycerides in your blood and raise your risk for high blood pressure and heart failure.
Your heart health should be something you think about at every stage of life. Get moving, eat right and develop healthy habits now that will pay dividends for you and your heart in the future.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.