According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, claiming around 655,000 lives each year.
But heart disease is largely preventable. So let's take a look at what you can do to keep your heart healthy.
Staying active is crucial for heart health, especially for those who live a mostly sedentary life. But that doesn't have to mean spending hours at the gym every week. Even small changes can make a huge difference when it comes to physical activity. Here are a few ideas you can try:
- Set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you to stand up and move around for a few minutes every hour. Walk a lap around your house or office, do some light calisthenics (jumping jacks, sit-ups, lunges), or even just stretch it out.
- Go for a walk. Find a time of day that works best for you and then make your walk a non-negotiable part of your day. I like to go for a walk – with my kids, or by myself – every afternoon.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car further away from the entrance. Walk around (or walk in place) while on the phone. Clean your house. Dance while making dinner. All these little things can add up!
Make time to relax.
Making time to relax and unwind from the day can have a tremendous impact on your heart's well-being.
Numerous studies have shown that high stress levels lead to an increase in stress hormones that spike your blood pressure. The higher your blood pressure, the more you are at risk of damaging your arteries by making them less elastic, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and leads to heart disease.
To combat this, take 30 minutes every night before bed to pray, read, or focus on your breathing. It will calm your nerves and lower your stress hormones, protecting your heart from damage.
Choose heart-healthy foods.
If you've been following the New Life Promise plan for a while, you're already eating a heart-healthy diet! The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says these foods (that are included in the New Life Promise and LiveSmart meal plans) are the foundation of a heart-healthy eating plan:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Lean meats and fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice
It's especially important to make sure you're including enough Omega-3 fats in your diet. Omega-3s help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.
Fatty fish, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, walnuts, flaxseeds, and grass-fed beef are all great sources of Omega-3s. While these foods are all included in our meal plans, I still highly recommend including a high-quality Omega-3 supplement in your routine to ensure you're getting enough Omega-3 fats daily.
Small steps in the right direction can mean big things for your heart! So, start with baby steps. Tonight, enjoy a heart-healthy meal and give yourself some time to unwind before bed. Tomorrow, go for a 15-minute walk outside. Your heart will thank you 🙂