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What is Heart Health?

by David Yath

Heart health is the state of your heart and its associated circulatory system. It’s important to know that heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, but it can be prevented by making small changes in your lifestyle.
The benefits of having good heart health include:

  • Lower risk for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases like coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease
  • Less chance of developing high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke or heart attack if left untreated

How to Improve Your Heart Health

  • Nutrition. Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean protein sources such as chicken or fish. Limit your intake of saturated fat (found in meat and dairy products) and trans fat (found in fried foods).
  • Exercise. Regular physical activity helps keep your heart strong by improving blood flow through the arteries around your heart muscle. It also helps control weight gain–a major risk factor for heart disease–and improves cholesterol levels.
  • Stress management techniques such as meditation or yoga can help lower stress levels by reducing anxiety and depression while boosting endorphins (feel-good hormones). They may also help you get better sleep at night so you’re less tired during the day when it’s time to exercise!
  • Sleep deprivation has been linked with high blood pressure and obesity–two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease–so be sure to get enough shut-eye each night!

Nutrition for Heart Health

  • Eat a balanced diet. A heart-healthy diet is one that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It also includes lean proteins like fish or poultry, low-fat dairy products and nuts.
  • Reduce sodium intake by avoiding processed foods as much as possible and limiting your use of salt when cooking or eating out at restaurants.
  • Avoid eating too many saturated fats found in meats such as beef steak or pork chops; butter; cheese; ice cream; cakes with frosting–and other high-fat foods such as French fries (potatoes), chips/crisps (potato slices), doughnuts/donuts

Exercise for Heart Health

The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week. Aerobic exercise is any activity that gets your heart rate up, such as walking, running or biking.
For best results:

  • Try to include at least 2 days each week when you do more than 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity. This means briskly walking fast enough to talk but not sing (about 3 mph). Or you can use an exercise device that measures how hard you’re working, such as an elliptical machine or treadmill; aim for an intensity level between 7 and 8 out of 10 on those machines’ gauges.
  • Include strength training at least twice per week by using weights or resistance bands–this helps build muscle mass and improves overall health. You can do these exercises in addition to your aerobic workouts or as part of another routine entirely (such as yoga).

Stress Management for Heart Health

Stress management is a crucial component of heart health. Stress can be caused by many things, including work, family and finances. Identifying and addressing sources of stress is the first step in reducing it. Relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation can help you relax so that you can feel less stressed out overall.

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