There is nothing more fundamental to our well-being than a healthy heart. The hear beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime, pushing millions of gallons of blood to every part of our body carrying oxygen, hormones, vitamins, minerals, fuel, essential cells, and other compounds that are vital for keeping us alive. There are steps we can take every day to support our heart health.
- Eat a Nutritious Diet
Good dietary habits are important for heart health. Eating a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables along with high-fiber whole grains is crucial. One rule to remember is darker colored fruits and vegetables tend to be more nutrient-dense. Consider adding yams, broccoli, kale, blueberries, and blackberries to your diet. Fiber is also essential. Pinto beans have the highest amount of fiber among beans, and grains such as amaranth and oats are also rich in fiber. For baking, try using coconut flour instead of refined white flour, which is high in carbohydrates and stripped of its fiber and nutrients. Fifty-eight percent of the carbohydrates in coconut flour are from fiber.
- Choose Heart-Healthy Fats
Most people are deficient in omega-3s, such as those found in fatty fish, which offer many heart-health benefits. We can get omega-3s from salmon, cod, sardines, and tuna. Additionally, a daily fish oil supplement will ensure that we’re getting enough of these heart-healthy fats.
- Know your Cholesterol
Cholesterol is produced primarily in the liver. It’s used for digestion, membrane integrity, and as a precursor to sex hormones. There are two types: LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the blood. When we eat, our body converts any calories it doesn’t immediately need into triglycerides, which are stored in our fat cells. The sum of our HDL, LDL, and 20% of triglycerides equals our total cholesterol.
- Maintain a Healthy Blood Pressure
A healthy lifestyle plays an important role in healthy blood pressure. Smoking and consuming alcohol or caffeine can elevate blood pressure. Sodium can also contribute to high blood pressure. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, limiting alcohol and caffeine, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and doing stress-relieving activities can all be beneficial to our heart health.
- Exercise Regularly
The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week, or a total of 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Walking briskly, playing tennis, gardening, and biking are all great options.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity is defined as a body-mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. For anyone who is overweight, losing just 10 percent of our body weight can have a significant impact on our overall health.
- Reduce Stress
Take 15 minutes out of your day to do something calming, which can be as simple as sitting in a park with a book, petting our dog, or meditating. Stress relieving activities can help reduce stress and positively impact our health.
- Supplement when Necessary
For those who do not receive enough heart-health nutrients through diet alone, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats (like omega-3s), and other important nutrients can support heart health.