February is American Heart Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about heart diseases (CVD) and advocating for cardiovascular health. Studies show that cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death in the United States. Luckily, these diseases are easily preventable by combining an active lifestyle with a healthy diet.
Here are six ways you can improve your heart health in 2022.
1. Exercise 5-6 days every week.
It’s no secret that exercise is key to a healthy life. Not only can it help you lose weight, exercise helps strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, and reduces bad cholesterol.
According to medical experts, the best kinds of exercise that boost heart health include:
Aerobic exercises, like running, walking, or jogging, that raise your heart rate and increase your breathing.
Resistance training including workouts with equipment such as free weights and resistance bands.
Flexibility workouts and stretching that benefit musculoskeletal health and reduce joint pain and cramping.
Exercise especially matters for seniors and older adults because living an active life is the best way to maintain daily activities.
Common aerobic exercises for that are good for seniors include:
2. Eat a “Heart-Healthy” Diet.
Following a healthy diet is imperative to keeping your body, and your heart, healthy.
To ensure you are eating foods that will improve your heart health:
Integrate whole grains, which are high in fiber, and fruits and vegetables.
Aim for at least three servings of whole grains and three to five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Include good sources of protein. Meat, fish, dried beans, low-fat milk and yogurt are all good sources of protein. Limit the amount of red meat you ingest; too much red meat can lead to CVD.
Choose healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil and avocados.
In addition to incorporating these things into your diet, limit the amounts of:
Saturated and trans fats
As you grow older, your metabolism slows down, and your body needs more of certain nutrients. Eating healthy as a senior means ensuring you get all the nutrients your body needs.
3. Reduce stress.
It’s medically proven that stress has a negative effect on your mind and body. It can cause chemical and physical effects to overall body function. Long term, high levels of stress have been linked to other health problems, including cardiovascular disease. Meditation, exercise, and a healthy diet are all simple actions that can help reduce stress.
4. Make sleep a priority.
Sleep plays a major role in your overall health so you should make it a priority. Among other things, sleep gives your mind and body time to recharge and allows it to function to its maximum potential. As an average, it is recommended that people get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. However, more sleep is needed for children and people over 65.
In addition to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, a lack of sleep can result in cardiovascular disease. A few simple habits you can adapt to ensure you get enough sleep include:
Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it
Avoid caffeine in the hours prior to bed
Refrain from using screens immediately before sleep
5. If you’re a smoker, stop.
It has been proven time and time again that tobacco use can result in cancers and chronic diseases. According to the CDC, one in four deaths from cardiovascular disease is initially caused by smoking.
Smoking, and inhaling secondhand smoke, increases the plaque buildup in blood vessels, which narrows arteries and makes it harder for blood to get to and from your heart. This causes blood to thicken and clots to form which forces your heart to work harder.
Quitting smoking reduces the risks of developing cardiovascular diseases. Within a year, the risk of disease decreases drastically. Within five years, the risk is equivalent to someone who has never smoked.
Take it one day at a time.
The American Heart Association explains that setting realistic expectations and slowly incorporating changes over time can lead to overall positive lifestyle changes. Put simply, you don’t have to make a ton of drastic changes at one time. You can slowly incorporate better choices into your life and overtime, these little changes will add up.