How To Keep A Healthy Heart
The American Heart Association and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend six steps to keep a healthy heart: quit smoking, exercise regularly, limit alcohol intake (since alcohol increases blood pressure), control your weight, manage stress and eat a healthy diet, including "good" fats and oils.
- Quitting smoking is the first step to keep a healthy heart. A 2006 Surgeon General's report concluded even secondhand smoke harms the heart and blood circulation and can cause heart disease in the long term. Eliminating exposure to smoke resulted in fewer heart attacks, according to studies from Colorado, Ohio, New York, Indiana, Montana, Italy, Ireland and Scotland.
- Exercising just 30 minutes a day for five days a week is another way to keep a healthy heart. The American Heart Association cites research showing every hour of walking potentially can increase life expectancy by two hours. Exercise can include climbing stairs, swimming, biking, jogging or even just walking.
- Limiting your alcohol intake can help you keep a healthy heart. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines heavy drinking as averaging more than two drinks per day for men or one for women or five (or more) drinks at one time for men and four (or more) for women.
- Next, learn your "body mass index" number, which measures body fat based upon height and weight to keep a healthy heart. It is a better health gauge than just your weight . A healthy BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. One of 18.5 is considered "underweight," while 25-29.9 is considered overweight. Obese is more than 30. Another method is pinching selected areas of the body with a caliper then using one of six formulas to determine your body fat percentage. Acceptable percentages are 18-25 for men and 25-31 for women. Once you know either of these numbers, you can better monitor not just your weight but your body fat.
- Dealing effectively with stress also is essential to keep a healthy heart. The American Heart Association recommends daily relaxation such as yoga or meditation, seeking pleasurable activities, positive self-talk and using emergency "stress stoppers" such as stopping to take deep breaths or setting your watch ahead to avoid running late.
- Finally, eating a healthy diet will help keep a healthy heart. That means avoiding fads and not having too much or too little of any food group, including fats and oils. Use the federal government's "food pyramid" to gauge the proportion of protein, fruits and vegetables, dairy, carbohydrates, and fats and oils. Limit your salt and sugar intake. Beans are a good lean protein source and cold water fish such as tuna and salmon are good sources of healthy oils. Don't worry as much about the number of servings, just balance the proportions properly and eat three meals (four smaller ones is better) daily and those will take of themselves.
- Consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program.
- Seek help with establishing a good diet, exercise program or quitting smoking, don't do it alone.
- Get a friend who has the same goal so you can motivate each other to stay healthy.
- Don't ignore small warning signs, if you feel there's something wrong with you there probably is.
- Don't get discouraged about the healthy diet or quitting smoking, major lifestyle changes take time.
- Don't go back to old habits once you seem or feel "better."