Heart disease is one of the major causes of illness, disability and death in the US and across the developed world. As a result, we are bombarded with messages about the dangers and risk factors associated with heart problems and are encouraged to make radical changes to our lifestyle.
The problem is that making sweeping changes overnight is not something that we are conditioned to do and changing the habits of a lifetime cannot be done easily. So simply lecturing people with high blood pressure or cholesterol on the importance of changing their habits is often ineffective.
Some people are successful in their attempts to overhaul their entire exercise pattern and diet, tackling all of their unhealthy habits at once. But many of us who try to make big changes fail or fall short, and then blame ourselves for not being strong enough. This is counterproductive. The best way to go about boosting your heart health is to make small changes, introducing them one at a time until each becomes a habit. Here are the top ten tips to set you on the road to heart health.
Go for a walk
The first step is easy. Get out into the fresh air and take a short walk. Ten minutes will be enough. For those who rarely exercise, even this short walk done regularly can have positive benefits, and as you build up your stamina, you can walk further. Going for a walk is an effective form of exercise that also can boost your mood and improve the efficiency of your heart and lungs.
Try lifting weights
Of course, if you’re really keen, you could join a gym, but that isn’t essential. Lifting any weights on a regular basis is a good form of exercise that can give your body a workout, tone and strengthen your muscles, and encourage your heart to work more efficiently. Just lifting a hardcover book or a two-pound weight on a regular basis can make a big difference.
Fruit and vegetables
One of the most consistent pieces of heart health advice is to change your diet. But where do you start? Well, the best place to begin is by increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables, which will boost your health in a variety of ways. And while you are thinking about how to change your diet, it is a good idea to consider cholesterol testing. You can find a suitable test online that measures cholesterol in the blood to give you an idea of your current level of risk.
Go big on breakfast
Snacking on salty, fatty foods increases cholesterol, fat deposits and arterial clogging. One way to avoid the need to snack is to start the day with a whole-hearted breakfast. A meal of fruit and whole grain should give you the energy you need to get through to lunch.
Cut out the soda
Losing weight is a standard piece of advice for those who want to boost their heart health, as carrying too many extra pounds puts a strain on your heart. One of the biggest sources of calories is soda or coffee. In fact, by cutting out just one soda or latte a day, you can easily save 100 calories.
A handful of nuts is a great alternative to chips or cookies. Walnuts, almonds, and other nuts are all good for your heart, and they can even make a healthy addition to a salad or a replacement for processed meat products in pasta or other meals.
Eat more fish
Cutting down on red meat is an important part of a heart-healthy diet, and one good tip is to replace red meat with fish or other seafood once a week. Fish is rich in important oils that are good for your heart, your bones and your cognitive function.
You don’t need to become a Buddhist monk to benefit from the positive effects of meditation. In fact, even just a few minutes of breathing slowly and deeply can help to lower your blood pressure and enable you to keep stress – a significant contributor to poor heart health – under control.
It would be foolish to ignore scientific advice about heart health, particularly if you are already suffering from conditions such as hypertension or high cholesterol, however, trying to make too many changes all at once is usually counter-productive. Try to improve your routines one step at a time, and in this way, you will be taking the right steps towards better heart health.