#5 only takes 5 minutes!
February is National Heart Month, and it’s a great opportunity to evaluate how well you’re taking care of one your vitalist of organs. Considering heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, you can’t ignore this chance you have to protect your ticker.
Even if your heart is okay right now, these staggering statistics should make you hesitate a moment and assess what habits you can put into place to keep it that way.
If you intend to take long-term care of your heart, here are the top five ways to do that:
#1 Move That Body
One of the top preventable risk factors for heart disease is physical inactivity. By exercising, you can eliminate that risk factor.
Exercise lowers a whole bunch of your risk factors for heart disease. It lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and improves the way your body processes blood sugar.
To reap these health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends working up to 30 minutes of moderate cardio (any activity that raises your heart rate) at least 5 days per week and two total-body strength training sessions.
Even if you can’t pull off a half-hour workout, you can break it up into three doable 10-minute or two 15-minute segments and get the same benefits.
#2 Eat to Live
Another risk factor of heart disease is a poor diet. What constitutes a poor diet? Processed foods, foods with low nutrient content, and oversized portions contribute to a poor diet, among other factors.
You can have a dramatic impact on your health by focusing instead on unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. You should limit processed foods, fruit juices, and red meat to keep your heart happy.
Speaking of fruit juices, did you know drinking one sugary drink (soda, juice, energy drink) per day makes you 20% more likely to develop heart disease? Simply swap your soda for a sparkling water, and you can have a staggering impact on your heart.
#3 Snuff the butts
You already know your lungs pay the highest cost from your smoking, but you might not realize that it takes a heavy toll on your heart too. Even secondhand smoke exposure makes you much more likely to develop heart disease.
Smoking is among the top three major risk factors for smoking, but it’s one you can control. If you only make one change on account of your heart, make it this one.
#4 Time for your checkup
It’s all too easy to ignore those yearly reminders to schedule your checkup. You’re always fine, so why bother?
Well, for one, your doctor is trained to notice risk factors for heart disease that you wouldn’t even know about. For example, he or she has your past records in front of them, so they can see if your numbers are trending up over time. If your blood pressure is in a healthy range, but it’s steadily edging upward, your doctor can help you intervene before it becomes a problem.
Even if you feel okay, you could have elevated blood pressure or cholesterol levels and not even know it because they don’t create any symptoms. Your doctor can provide invaluable guidance to help you make healthy changes.
#5 Learn how to meditate
Yes really! Stress is a major contributing factor to high blood pressure and artery damage. Too much long-term stress can actually damage your heart.
So, it’s important to practice relaxation techniques such as meditation to combat some of that stress, lower your blood pressure, and reduce your susceptibility to anxiety and depression. This habit doesn’t just help your heart, it has a positive impact on all different aspects of your health.
A meager 5 minutes of meditation per day creates healthy changes in the brain and body. You can handle 5 minutes, right?
The good news is, it’s never too late to start any of these habits. Even if you’ve smoked for years or never picked up a dumbbell, you can turn that all around today and reverse many of the damage that’s already been done.
It’s also important to keep these changes in perspective. You can’t expect yourself to overhaul your entire life in one fell swoop. It’s much more sensible to focus on small incremental changes. Even just small changes at a time pay off in major accumulative benefits.
Happy Heart Month!