In 2019, heart diseases, like heart attack, were among the top 5 causes of deaths in the Philippines. This is a worrying development considering that 6 years ago, it only ranked 7th in the top causes of mortalities and morbidities in the country. Fortunately, some heart diseases can be prevented. In this article, we will discuss some of the best lifestyle changes to improve your heart health.
Common Heart Diseases
While there are a lot of heart diseases, you need to keep in mind that many of them are preventable. Before we discuss the different lifestyle changes to improve your heart health, let’s first learn about the most common preventable heart diseases.
- Coronary Heart Diseases. This condition happens when the blood vessels, which supply blood to the heart, harden, and become narrow. Often, the cause of this is the buildup of plaque from cholesterol, fats, and other substances. Atherosclerosis is the term we use to refer to the buildup of plaque.
- Heart Attack. Filipinos are very familiar with heart attacks. We often hear news of people dying because of this condition. Medically, heart attack happens when the artery which supplies blood to the heart is blocked. This can happen with unmanaged plaque-buildup as discussed earlier. The plaque may rupture, forming a blood clot. The blood clot can then block the artery.
- Heart Failure. You need to make lifestyle changes to improve your heart health to prevent heart failure from happening. Heart failure doesn’t happen quickly – it’s a gradual process. Often, it results from heart injuries from hypertension and heart attack. Over time, the muscles of the heart weaken and wouldn’t be able to “keep up” with the body.
The Best Lifestyle Changes to Improve Your Heart Health
After knowing about the preventable heart diseases, we can now proceed to the different lifestyle changes to improve your heart health.
Be Mindful of Your Diet
Each time you eat, ask yourself, is it good for my heart? One of the best lifestyle changes to improve your heart health is being mindful of your diet and nutrition. Here are some good practices:
- Limit or restrict salt in your diet. This is one of the most important changes to make for those who want to manage or prevent hypertension (high blood pressure). One good diet to adopt is the DASH diet, which is a dietary pattern that includes increasing intake of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts. It’s also low in red meat and sweets or sugary beverages.
- Choose healthy snacks. Aside from fruits and salads, you can eat nuts. Generally, nuts can help lower your cholesterol level. They are also good at “filling you up,” so you don’t have to eat often. Just consume these in moderation since nuts are also high in calories. Experts suggest a “handful” of healthy nuts is enough. It’s also important to take your uric acid levels into consideration, particularly if you are at risk for gout.
- Forego the calories in your drinks. Instead of drinking sodas and other sweetened drinks, stick to water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Cut down on alcohol. Although reports are saying that some alcohol, like red wine, is good for the heart, precaution is still needed. It’s best to avoid the intake of alcohol whenever you can.
- Explore various ways of cooking. Instead of using animal oil to fry, you can try other ways to prepare your food. There’s boiling, steaming, baking, and grilling.
- Try herbs and spices. Instead of salt, you can use different herbs and spices to season your meals.
- Choose whole grains. If you can, you can also choose wholegrain products. Wholegrain products typically have more vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats.
- Have more portions of fruits and vegetables. As always, eat a lot of vegetables and fruits. A variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet is linked to heart health promotion and disease prevention. Additionally, reduce the intake of processed foods. This is perhaps one of the best lifestyle changes to improve your heart health.
- Avoid trans fats. When you buy food, check the label. If possible, choose products that indicate 0 trans fat. This is because trans fat increases the risk of clogging your arteries. It is also linked to an increase in the level of bad cholesterol and a decrease in your good cholesterol. Experts say that cutting trans fat in your diet will improve your blood flow.
One of the best lifestyle changes to improve your heart health is to keep moving. Barring another medical condition that would make it hard for you to workout, 30 minutes of physical exercise daily is recommended. You can choose from a variety of exercises, but you can also do the following:
- You can do 3 to 4 sessions of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, lasting approximately 40 minutes or in shorter or longer rounds, as tolerated.
- Take a 10-minute walk. If you’re not used to working out, a brisk walk is a good start. Gradually increase the time as you become accustomed to the activity.
- Lift a few times a day. If you don’t have weights at home, lifting a hardbound book or a 2-pound object not only tones your muscles, but it’s also good for the heart.
- Seize an opportunity to move. Whenever you see an opportunity to move, be sure to take it. Instead of using the elevator, take the stairs. But remember to let your doctor know if this may cause shortness of breath or fatigue, based on past experience, as this may be an early sign of a heart problem. If your destination is near, try walking or cycling instead of driving.
- Check with your doctor before engaging in high-intensity workouts. If you are interested in engaging in more demanding forms of exercise, such as heavy lifting or marathons, be sure to check with a cardiologist before doing so, if you are at risk for heart disease.
Cigarettes are filled with chemicals that harm not just the heart, but also the blood vessels. Additionally, it reduces the oxygen level in the blood.
If you smoke, consider quitting. If you are not a smoker, then avoid second-hand smoke as it also has the same effects. Come to think of it, experts say that your risk of developing heart diseases reduces in just one day after quitting. Truly, it’s one of the greatest lifestyle changes to improve your heart health.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation is linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. These three are harmful to the heart. Most adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
Take Care of Your Mind
Aside from taking care of your body, you also have to take care of your mind. You can do the following lifestyle changes to improve your heart health daily.
- Breathe deeply. Slow, deep breathing relaxes your muscles and can even regulate your blood pressure. The best thing about it is it doesn’t cost a thing – you just have to invest a few minutes daily!
- Be grateful. Being thankful gives you a lot of positive emotions that are known to promote wellness in both mind and body. When you count your blessings, you are less likely to feel negative emotions, like too much anger. These negative emotions are linked to high blood pressure and heart diseases.
- Reduce stress. When you’re stressed, you are more likely to make poor choices with regards to your health. For instance, you might drink alcohol or overeat. These habits are bad for the heart. Additionally, stress hormones make the heart work harder because it interferes with circulation. For this reason, practice some stress-reducing activities, like meditation.
Make these little lifestyle changes to improve your heart health. Remember that you don’t have to do them all at once. Take it one step at a time and feel your heart getting healthier day by day!
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.