Most people understand that keeping your heart healthy is important, but finding ways to do so can seem overwhelming. While diet is a crucial factor, it is not the only thing that affects your heart health. Having a toolbox of strategies that you regularly aim to use is a great way to maintain cardiac fitness and reduce the risk of heart-associated diseases.
1. Seek Activity
You hear it over and over again from every health-oriented source; moving your body is important. While you might find going to the gym to crank out 30 minutes of cardio each day, as recommended by the American Heart Association, to be the easiest way to maintain your fitness, it is not the only option for quality exercise. Simply being open to activity and finding it whenever possible is a mindset that can sneak in enough active time to keep you in shape. If you work on the top floor of your building, take the stairs instead of the elevator. When you think of trying the new coffee shop down the street, grab a friend and walk there instead of driving. Being open to movement is half the battle, and it can make it much easier to begin doing intense workouts later on.
2. Turn off the TV
Bad news for your latest Netflix binge, but according to the American College of Cardiology, studies have found that excessively watching TV can have a poor impact on your cardiac health. People that watched more than four hours of TV each day had a 49% increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and death. This sounds like a scary statistic, but it doesn’t mean you need to cancel all your streaming subscriptions. What is important is the pattern you set yourself up for on a daily basis, rather than fretting over a movie marathon you have a couple of times a month. As long as you are limiting yourself to one or two hours of TV during the week and getting plenty of movement throughout your day, you can still enjoy your binge sessions on a rainy Saturday.
3. Evaluate Your Plate
There are many trends and diet fads out there that claim to cause weight loss, but losing weight is not always an indicator of what is going on inside your body. You may be dropping pounds, but what really matters is whether or not you are also strengthening your heart. If you are not looking to restrict your calories or portion size, one eating lifestyle consistently recommended by Harvard Health is the Mediterranean diet. Following the traditional diet of the Mediterranean people, it involves consuming whole, unprocessed grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables. There is also an emphasis on heart-healthy fats from sources like fish, olive oil, and nuts. If you do not like the taste of fish, you can also take a fish oil supplement to receive the same benefits. However you structure your eating, the important thing to remember is to limit sugary treats and processed meats.
4. Exercise Moderation
Doing anything in excess is not a healthy, sustainable way to live. Drinking alcohol is an activity that many people enjoy in social settings or to enhance their meals. You do not, by any means, have to give up alcohol to have a healthy heart. In fact, Mayo Clinic states that the antioxidants in red wine can actually help to keep your heart in shape. However, you should limit yourself to one glass of any alcoholic beverage per night. Drinking frequently and in large amounts can wreak havoc on your body, from your heart down to your liver. When thinking of activities that bring joy but may not be the healthiest, like getting a giant ice cream cone in the summer, you should remember that everything can be enjoyed in moderation. Having a healthy heart doesn’t matter as much if you are not enjoying the life that it provides.