As the leading cause of death of people living in the United States, it’s no secret how important it is to prioritize your heart health. While it may seem daunting to reduce your risk of heart disease, it may be easier than you think. With just a few simple changes to your daily routines, you have the ability to drastically reduce your risk of congestive heart failure, heart attack, coronary artery disease and more.
It’s a common misconception that in order to improve your heart health you have to make drastic changes to your overall lifestyle. To help simplify the process for you, we’ve created an easy-to-follow heart health roadmap:
Knowing your numbers is the foundation for improving your cardiovascular health and will help you determine which areas of health you need to focus on.
- Body Mass Index (BMI): A percentage that measures the percent of fat in your body, your BMI is a key indicator in determining your risk of obesity. Ideally, adults should aim for an 18.5-24.9 BMI.
- Blood Pressure: Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure places unnecessary strain on both your heart and blood vessels. While some may experience increased blood pressure for no known reason, other influencers include lack of sleep and/or kidney and thyroid problems. For the average adult, your blood pressure should fall between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
- Cholesterol: A fat-like substance created in the liver, cholesterol takes two forms: HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol). HDL is carried throughout the body then broken down and removed from your bloodstream. Conversely, LDL carries excess cholesterol to blood cells, where it tends to sit and build up. As your cholesterol increases, so do fatty deposits in your blood vessels. For adults, an ideal total cholesterol level is 200mg or less.
Possibly the most simple step you can take towards improving your heart health is incorporating healthier foods into your diet.
- Protein: Each day, the average adult should have 45-55 grams of protein from a healthy source. While meat is a common go-to protein source, studies show that these low-fat foods have far greater health benefits: fish, beans, poultry, nuts and dairy. For example, in one study, people who had one serving of fish daily have a 24 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to chicken (19 percent) and low-fat dairy (13 percent).
- Fruits & Vegetables: High in fiber and low in calories, fruits and vegetables are great sources of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals and should make up 50 percent of your plate.
- Healthy Fats & Carbs: Another good source of fiber, both healthy fats and carbs play a major role in reducing blood pressure and regulating blood sugar levels. However, the health benefits of these are only found in naturally occurring food sources such as whole grains and high-fat foods like avocados, nuts and cheese. For the average adult, fat should provide 20-35 percent of your caloric intake while carbs provide 45-65 percent.
- Sleep: When you think heart health, you might not think that the number of hours of Z’s you get matters. However, getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is critical in helping your body naturally repair its hardest working muscle–the heart. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the average adult should get anywhere from 7-8 hours of sleep each night in order to reap its benefits.
- Exercise: Exercise is an important factor for a healthy lifestyle, no matter what area of health you are focusing on. The American Heart Association recommends getting 150 minutes (or 2.5 hours) per week of moderate-intensity activity. This can be as simple as a 30-minute walk each day, a bike ride around the neighborhood or even gardening. The bottom line is to move your body for an extended period of time.
Improving your heart health doesn’t have to be hard. It can be done by simply staying aware of your health and making conscious choices to improve it. Need help establishing a heart-healthy routine? Visit one of our cardiac experts at NorthCrest today. Give us a call at 615-384-2411 or visit our website.