Keeping Your Heart Healthy
According to the American Heart Association, proper nutrition and exercise are the best ways to keep your heart healthy. Exercising just 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease and some studies suggest it may also increase your life expectancy.
Exercise For A Healthy Heart
A sedentary (inactive) lifestyle is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Fortunately, it's a risk factor that you can do something about. Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has many benefits. It can:
- Strengthen your bones, heart and cardiovascular system
- Improve your circulation and help your body use oxygen better
- Increase energy levels so you can do more activities without becoming tired or short of breath
- Increase endurance
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve muscle tone, strength, balance and joint flexibility
- Help reduce body fat and help you reach a healthy weight
- Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and depression
- Boost self-image and self-esteem
- Improve sleep
- Make you feel more healthy, fit, relaxed and rested
Before starting an exercise program, talk to your doctor about:
- Medication changes: New medications can greatly affect your response to exercise.
- Safe exercises: Doctor's approval is needed before you lift weights, jog, or swim, etc.
- Stretching: Stretching before and after exercising helps prepare the muscles for activity, helps prevent injury and muscle strain, and can increase your range of motion and flexibility.
- Cardiovascular or aerobic: This type of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs, improves the body's ability to use oxygen, and has the most benefits for your heart. Over time, aerobic exercise can help decrease your heart rate and blood pressure and improve your breathing.
In general, to achieve maximum benefits, you should gradually work up to an aerobic session lasting 20 to 30 minutes, at least three to four times a week. Exercising every day or every other day will help you keep a regular aerobic exercise schedule.
Eating Heart Healthy
- Opt for cuts of red meat and pork labeled "loin" or "round." They usually have the least fat.
- Eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, trout, herring) at least twice a week. (One serving equals about 3 ounces cooked, and is about the size of a checkbook.)
- Select fat-free, 1% fat, or low-fat dairy products.
- Use liquid vegetable oils or soft margarines in place of hard margarine and shortening.
- Eat more deeply colored vegetables and fruits because they are higher in vitamins and minerals (spinach, carrots, peaches, berries, etc.).
- Try to eat less than 300 mg. of cholesterol each day.
- Read the ingredient list and choose items that don't have added sugars.
- Try to eat less than 1,500 mg. of salt per day.
- Replace salt with herbs and spices or a salt-free seasoning mix. Use lemon juice, citrus zest or hot chilies to add flavor.
- Eat about 25 grams of fiber each day.
- Choose breads and other foods that list whole grains as the first item in the ingredient list.
- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation (One drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.)
- Drink water instead of sugary beverages.
- Cut back on cholesterol and saturated fats.
- Avoid oversized portions.
Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Call (225) 387-QUIT for information on our smoking cessation program, and kick the habit for good.
Chronic stress can cause high blood pressure and weakening of your artery walls. Here are some ways to relieve stress:
- Participate in activities that you enjoy, such as reading, walking, or visiting with friends and family.
- Try deep breathing and meditation exercises.
- Think positively.
- Exercise on a regular basis.