All this month of February America celebrates the amazing human heart with Heart-Health Awareness Month. While heart health consistently ranks as the top health concern in the nation, new research indicates that there are more and more everyday things you can do to sway it in a more positive direction.
Yes, You Can!
The first step in any lifestyle change is having the right attitude. A study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes on 600 patients found that those who took the initiative to exercise and turn their health around significantly increased their life expectancy. Another study in the American Journal of Cardiology also found that having an upbeat attitude actually protected people from heart health risks. A large part of staying positive includes reducing stress. Research published in both the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and Archives of Internal Medicine found that stress and its associated hormones can put added pressure on your heart. So if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take time to unwind by engaging in relaxing activities such as reading a book, spending time with friends, or participating in physical activities.
Depending on various factors like age and doctor-recommended restrictions, physical activity is anything that gets you moving to burn calories. From climbing stairs to organized sports, staying active can support a healthy heart and aid circulation. At the very least, start walking; it’s fun, easy, and a sociable exercise. An article in the journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, states that walking can help normalize blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
Nutrition You Can Live By
Your diet plays an important role in supporting a healthy heart. Even simple things, such as remembering to eat a healthy breakfast, can help lower cardio health risks according to one Harvard study. Certain foods, when added to your diet, aid various aspects such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight management. Fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, herring, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help lower blood pressure and triglycerides that can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends eating these types of fish at least two times a week. Kidney beans or black beans can also be good sources omega-3 fatty acids as well as niacin, folate, magnesium, calcium, and soluble fiber. Even foods like yogurt and supplements containing probiotics have been studied recently for their cholesterol-lowering effects. Besides adding more nutritious foods to your diet, it’s important to cut back on the ones that push your heart health in the wrong direction. One observational study published in BMC Medicine found that cutting back on processed meat consumption to less than 20 grams per day could lower mortality rates by 3.3%. Lowering your consumption of red meat can also lower levels of amino acids that have been linked to heart concerns.
Snacking doesn’t need to be the bane of your diet. Healthy snacks such as almonds and walnuts also contain omega-3s as well as fiber, folate, and magnesium that can boost your nutrition. Oatmeal, whole grains, and flaxseed can provide vitamins, minerals, and nutrients like magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, calcium, and soluble fiber. Of course, a consistently healthy diet revolves around choosing lots of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. Avoid fried foods, and foods and drinks with added sugars.
No Ifs, Ands, or “Butts” About It
Enough can’t be said on how much quitting smoking can boost heart health. But if you or someone you know needs yet another to convince them on how much their health can improve by quitting smoking, take a look at this study presented at a meeting held by the American Heart Association: It found that people who smoked fewer than 3.2 packs of cigarettes a day for 10 years could lower their heart illness risk to the same level as nonsmokers in eight years. Even heavy smokers who quit could improve their life expectancy by 35%.
The Power to Change Is in Everyone’s Hands
Some factors such as hereditary genes may be beyond your control, but by believing that you have the power to change your health and by following through with those changes, the power of positive thinking can go a long way. If the state of your heart is weighing heavily on your mind, adopt an upbeat attitude, be more active, eat healthier, and say goodbye to bad habits. Keep your heart in mind this February—and throughout your lifetime—by taking the steps towards greater well-being today!