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Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Heart

Published on: May 07, 2024
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Do you know that cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading cause of mortality worldwide? A Lancet study pointed out that the CVD epidemic in India is grave, contributing to 27% of the nation’s total deaths.

It’s high time to prioritise your health by embracing a healthy lifestyle. The American Heart Association (AHA) also echoes this view and advocates Life’s Essential 8 checklist to improve heart health.

Here is a list of the top 10 tips to keep your heart healthy:

1. Consume Heart Healthy Diet

Nutritionists recommend making smart food choices, limiting calorie intake, and avoiding trans-fat and partially hydrogenated oils to maintain good heart health.

Load your plate with heart-friendly foods like fresh green vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, and nuts. Opt for skinless poultry, fish, and seafood as healthy protein sources if you are a non-vegetarian.

Try to avoid sweetened drinks, processed meats, refined carbohydrates, full-fat dairy products, deep-fried foods, and tropical oils like coconut and palm, as they tend to increase your bad cholesterol.

Here are a few tips for eating heart-healthy foods:

  • Read the nutrition labels whenever you buy a new food item. If there is more than one choice for the same food category, select the one with lower sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars.
  • Consume home-cooked food as far as possible. Restrict eating out to once or twice a month.
  • Look for a Heart Checkmark on food labels to ensure they are safe for good heart health.

2. Exercise Regularly

Participate in at least 150 minutes/week of moderate-intensity exercises or 75 minutes/week of vigorous workout to keep your heart healthy.

Set realistic goals, be persistent with exercises, and include activities in your daily routine to keep you moving. If you have a sedentary work regime, including a 10-minute break every hour will help you keep moving.

List of exercises to improve heart health:

  • Brisk walking
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Jumping Jack
  • Cycling
  • Stair climbing

3. Quit Smoking

Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, and it is also associated with nearly one-third of all deaths from heart disease.

Despite these shocking details, it is a fact that within one year of quitting smoking, you can reduce your risk for heart disease by 50%.

Quit smoking today as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and tobacco products contain hazardous chemicals like nicotine, which can inflame and constrict your arteries.

There is a higher possibility of quitting if you follow a well-defined plan:

  • Finalise a quit date.
  • Select whether you want to quit gradually or suddenly.
  • Decide if you need help from a psychologist or health professional.
  • Deal with urges by using nicotine gums, sprays, patches, and inhalers.
  • Finally, quit smoking on the fixed date.

4. Indulge in Quality Sleep

Sleep for at least 7-9 hours to keep your heart healthy, improve brain function, and minimise chronic disease risks. Quality sleep helps repair cells, tissues, and blood vessels, bolsters your immune system, and enhances brain function.

You may improve your sleep hygiene by:

  • Staying away from the screen before bedtime.
  • Setting a routine.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake after the evening.
  • Optimise the bedroom environment to promote sleep.

5. Reduce Body Weight

Maintaining your body weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) within the optimal range can improve heart health. BMI helps determine whether your weight and height are proportionate.

A healthy BMI ranges between 18.5 kg/m2 and 24.9 kg/m2. You can calculate the BMI by dividing your body weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters.

Attain a healthy body weight by:

  • Exercising daily.
  • Controlling your portion sizes.
  • Consuming fresh green vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, and nuts.
  • Staying away from fried and sugary foods.

6. Manage Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your liver produces. It helps in the production of bile, hormones, and vitamin D.

There are 4 types of cholesterols– High-density lipoprotein (HDL), Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), Very Low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), and Triglycerides.

Among these, HDL is good cholesterol, while LDL and VLDL are bad cholesterol.

If the LDL and VLDL levels increase above the standard range, they may accumulate in the inner wall of arteries and constrict them. Eventually, the blood flow to the heart may reduce, leading to chest pain, heart attack, or stroke.

You can reduce the bad cholesterol and keep your heart healthy by:

  • Avoiding saturated fats present in red meat and full-fat dairy products.
  • Totally eliminating trans fat or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
  • Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts, flaxseeds, salmon, mackerel, and herring.
  • Increasing fibre intake through Brussels sprouts, apples, and pears.

7. Control Blood Sugar

Maintaining blood glucose within the standard range is crucial for good heart health. Your fasting blood sugar should ideally be below 100 mg/dL.

If it is between 100 to 125 mg/dL, then you are pre-diabetic, and you should monitor your lifestyle and glycemia to reverse the condition.

A blood sugar level of 126 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes, which increases the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Tips for managing blood sugar:

  • Eat low-glycaemic, fibre-rich foods like leafy greens, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, and lean meat.
  • Stay active by participating in regular exercises and sports activities.
  • Avoid refined flour by limiting cookies, pastries, pizza, burgers, and white bread.
  • Quit smoking, vaping, and passive smoking as they make it challenging to manage prediabetes and diabetes.

8. Control Blood Pressure

Doctors advocate maintaining systolic blood pressure (BP) below 120 mmHg and diastolic below 80 mmHg to keep your heart healthy. If your BP is above the standard range, it is known as hypertension.

The condition increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other severe health ailments. Symptoms of high BP include headaches, shortness of breath, and nosebleeds.

Monitor your blood pressure regularly if it is above the standard range. You can measure your blood pressure with the help of a sphygmomanometer.

Tips for lowering your blood pressure:

  • Lose extra weight, especially in the abdominal region.
  • Minimise stress through breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Sleep for 8-9 hours daily.

9. Limit Sodium & Enhance Potassium Intake

To improve heart health, avoid salty snacks and food items rich in sodium. Your daily total sodium intake should not exceed 1,500 mg.

Avoid French fries, pizza, sausage, canned fish, and salted nuts to reduce sodium intake. At the same time, increase potassium intake to 3,000 and 3,500 mg for a healthy heart.

Food rich in potassium:

  • Bananas
  • Spinach
  • Coconut water
  • Avocados
  • Sweet potatoes

10. Laugh and Smile a Lot

Laughing and smiling a lot reduce stress hormones and lower arterial inflammation. They also increase HDL levels and reduce BP.

So, laugh your heart out by watching a comedy movie, spending time with close companions, spending time with pets, or cracking jokes.

How We At Fitterfly Can Help You?

Since the heart plays a vital role in maintaining overall well-being, prioritising cardiovascular health is paramount. Improve your heart health by adhering to AHA’s Life’s Essential 8 checklist.

Fitterfly has also launched India’s first heart health program, FitHeart, to optimise cardiovascular well-being.

Interested in assessing your heart’s performance by calculating your heart age? It may differ from your actual age!

This calculation provides insight into your heart’s functionality and estimates the risk of heart disease compared to an individual with optimal heart health.

Calculate Your Heart Age Now!

Disclaimer

This blog provides general information for educational and informational purposes only and shouldn't be seen as professional advice.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is HDL considered good cholesterol?

HDL cholesterol is referred to as good cholesterol because it absorbs other cholesterol in the blood and transports it back to the liver. The liver then flushes the cholesterol from the system, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Why is LDL considered bad cholesterol?

LDL cholesterol is considered bad cholesterol as it accumulates in the blood vessels' inner walls. The condition hardens and narrows your arteries and may lead to a condition called atherosclerosis.

How many hours of quality sleep is good for your heart health?

The healthy BMI range is between 18.5 kg/m2 and 24.9 kg/m2. If your BMI is below 18.5 kg/m2, then you are underweight, a BMI between 25.0 kg/m2 to 29.9 kg/m2 suggests overweight, whereas a BMI above 30 kg/m2 falls under the obese category.

Why is smoking hazardous for your heart health?

Cigarettes contain a toxic chemical, nicotine, which is hazardous for your heart as it may inflame and harden the arteries, which in turn may narrow the arterial lumen and increase heart rate, the flow of blood to the heart, and blood pressure.

- By Fitterfly Health-Team

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