Heart-Healthy Habits

As we age, we realize it is less important to look good and more important to feel good. No one complains about their clothes fitting better, losing weight, or gaining muscle but as we age, our focus shifts to a better quality of life.

One way to improve both quality and longevity of life is to focus on taking care of your heart. This pump works all day, everyday to move blood, taking nutrients and oxygen throughout the body and removing waste. Taking care of it is so important but we often sacrifice heart health for the convenience of other habits. 1 of every 3 deaths in the U.S. is caused by cardiovascular disease. Ready to change this? Here are 8 tips to make your heart health a priority.

1: Check Yourself -

Your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) is determined by several factors - age, habits, genetics, environment, diet, weight, etc. Determine your heart age and risk of developing CVD by clicking here and taking a quick survey.

2: What’s Your Weight?

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for heart health. Being overweight OR underweight puts extra stress on the heart. One way to determine if you are at a healthy weight is to check your BMI (body mass index). A healthy range is 18.5-24.9. Click here for a BMI calculator. Keep in mind that this number does not take into consideration body composition. If you carry a lot of muscle, your BMI will be higher. Check with your primary care provider to see if you are unsure of a healthy weight range for you.

3: Adjust Eating Habits

The most important thing for weight management is a healthy diet. Try to eat from all food groups, drink a minimum of 64 fluid ounces of water each day, avoid drinking your calories (stick to sugar-free drinks and water), aim to eat whole grains, eat plenty of fresh foods, and avoid fried foods.

Some easy ways to reach these recommendations are:

  • Drink one full glass of water before and with each meal

  • Eat slowly 

  • Pack fresh snacks for work and trips

  • Try roasting veggies and baking/grilling protein

  • Stick to lean proteins (white meat, chicken, fish)

3: Get Moving

Keep your heart healthy by keeping it pumping. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes/week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes/week of vigorous physical activity. Try starting with 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week and ramp up the intensity over time.

To determine the intensity of your workout, use the “talk test”. If you are exercising at a moderate intensity, you will be able to converse with someone fairly easily. If you are at a vigorous intensity, it will be difficult to say more than a few words at a time.

4: Skip the Salt (or Don’t)

High sodium intake leads raises blood pressure and puts unnecessary stress on the heart. In order to control your sodium, try to eat no more than 2400 mg of sodium each day (about 1 teaspoon). Check food labels to determine sodium content and avoid processed packaged foods.

Endurance athletes may not need to watch their sodium intake, however. If you are an athlete or are training for an endurance event, check with your physician or dietitian to make sure you are eating the right amount of sodium for your activity, training volume, and training conditions.

5: Manage Stress

High levels of stress can place extra pressure on the heart. Think about your stress levels. If you  are under a moderate to high amount of stress most days of the week, try one of the following:

  • Turn off electronics for 15-30 minutes each day and disconnect

  • Get outside and go for a walk

  • Call a friend

  • Meditate 5-10 minutes each day

  • Learn something new

  • Read a book

6: Get Some Rest

Lack of sleep can lead to higher stress levels, which can lead to stress on the heart. Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Set an alarm for 30 minutes prior to your target bedtime to remind you to start getting ready for bed at a reasonable time!

7: Be Proactive

Somewhere in your busy schedule, make your health a priority. Check in with your primary care physician a minimum of once every 12 months. If you have been experiencing any adverse symptoms (shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness, etc.), don’t wait! Call your doctor today.