No Smoking or Tobacco Use
Tobacco use is one of the least healthy habits to adopt. Not only are you ingesting poison but by smoking tobacco, you are seriously damaging your lungs. When you smoke, it stays in your lungs and constricts your airways. This makes it harder for you to breathe and to absorb oxygen.
While most believe smoking to be simply a lung problem, when your lungs are working in overdrive to compensate for the smoke and soot in your system, your heart is working just as hard too. This is because your heart powers your lungs and provides oxygen to your body. The less oxygen you take in, the harder your body and heart have to work to distribute that oxygen. Smoking also raises your blood pressure, which increases your chance of heart disease. Blood clots also tend to arise in someone who smokes, increasing the chance of heart disease.
Tobacco is also a major risk factor for diabetes and its complications, such as amputations, kidney disease, and blindness.
Drink in Moderation
Alcohol is similar to smoking affecting heart health. Drinking alcohol in excess increases your chance of high blood pressure, which can cause heart disease. Most alcohol is also high in calories, so increased consumption can lead to weight gain, which can lead to a host of other health problems. The recommended amount of alcohol is a maximum of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
While good for your overall health, maintaining a healthy weight is especially important for your heart. People who are overweight or obese tend to have high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, high cholesterol, and might develop diabetes. All of these factors are very stressful on the heart. Talk to your doctor about setting a healthy weight goal for your height and body type. Also, use your waist size as a way to check if you are too heavy. Men should remain under 40 inches and women under 35 inches.
Read food labels and select items that are low in saturated and trans fats, low in salt (sodium) and low in sugar. Consuming too much of these can contribute to weight gain and puts an increased strain on the heart. It also affects your cholesterol levels and can lead to high blood pressure.
We recommend eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as they help maintain overall nutrition as well as a healthy weight. Also, fish such as salmon are great for your heart health as they contain omega-3 fatty acids. For a great three-course meal that is heart healthy, check out our blog post on “A Heart Healthy Meal for your Sweetheart.”
Exercise keeps your heart strong. Experts recommend that you exercise three to four times a week for 30 minutes to strengthen your heart and improve blood circulation. Exercise also reduces stress and helps you sleep more soundly, both of which are important for heart health.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore – you can add it to your daily routine as easily as exercising from home.
Keeping a healthy heart means maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Eating a well-balanced diet, consistent exercise, keeping a healthy weight, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation will help reduce your risk for heart disease. This American Heart Month, make sure to incorporate these suggestions into your daily life.