How to Stay Heart-Healthy with Diet, Exercise, and More

Did you know heart disease kills more than 600,000 Americans annually?

More people die from heart disease every year in the U.S. than any other cause.

Cardiovascular health goes beyond diagnosis and treatment.

It requires a comprehensive commitment to well-being.

More people die from heart disease every year in the U.S. than any other cause. While genetics does play a role in one’s risk of heart disease, you can reduce yours by making heart-healthy decisions to exercise, eat well, and reduce stress, such as through yoga and meditation.

Cardiovascular health goes beyond diagnosis and treatment. It requires a comprehensive commitment to well-being. The doctors and staff at The Heart Center provide personalized counseling to identify lifestyle changes our patients can make to improve heart health and help them create a plan to make these important changes.

Eat for a Healthy Heart

Proper nutrition plays a key role in good health, especially heart health. Eating a healthy diet reduces your risk of obesity and other diseases that contribute to heart disease, including diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Choosing to eat a heart-healthy diet does not have to feel like you are on a diet, however. The American Heart Association (AHA) considers the following heart-healthy nutrition:

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Beans and other legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Skinless poultry
  • Lean cuts of meat
  • Limited red meat
  • Limited sugar-sweetened treats
  • Foods low in saturated and trans fat
  • Low sodium foods

 

Our staff provides customized input on your diet and is available to answer your dietary questions, helping you adopt the nutritional changes necessary to improve your heart health and overall well-being. You can even take advantage of our counseling and support groups to get the knowledge and motivation you need.

Think adopting a healthy diet is too hard? Try these simple tips for eating healthier:

  • Read labels. Look at the nutrition labels instead of relying on health claims made on the front of the packaging. Try to limit foods high in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.
  • Choose frozen fruits and vegetables if you are worried about spoilage. Just avoid those packaged with added sugars or sodium.
  • When buying ground meat, select the option with the lowest percentage of fat.
  • Choose “Choice” or “Select” cuts of meat, instead of “Prime.” The latter is usually fattier.
  • Remove the skin from poultry.
  • Designate one day a week as “fish day” or “meatless day.”
  • Opt for breads that are high in fiber, such as whole-grain bread.

Exercise for a Healthy Heart

Regular exercise is a key component of cardiovascular health. Are you getting your weekly allotment of physical activity?

The AHA recommends the following amounts of exercise for healthy adults:

  • Moderate-intensity aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. For example, walking at a brisk pace; OR
  • Vigorous aerobic activity for at least 25 minutes, three days a week. For example, jogging; OR
  • A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity three to five days a week.

 

The AHA also recommends moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least twice per week for additional health benefits. Include all major muscle groups in your exercise regimen.

Meanwhile, if you already have high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, you may need more exercise to bring down these numbers. The AHA recommends an average of 40 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic activity three to four days a week.

Before you adopt any exercise regimen, consult a doctor at the Heart Center to make sure it is safe. Our physicians will use their expertise to help you identify exercises that are safe given your medical history and current health. Some exercise programs may be too strenuous for some patients, creating additional cardiovascular concerns. We work with our patients so they safely adopt lifestyle changes to improve their heart health.

If you are not used to exercising, starting can be intimidating. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Avoid jumping into a new program too quickly. This can lead to frustration, burnout, and even injuries. Take it slow and build up to the recommended amounts of exercise.
  • Work with a certified personal trainer. If there is room in your budget for a trainer, he or she can help you design a custom exercise program that works for you. A trainer can also demonstrate the correct way to lift weights and do other exercises.
  • Exercise with a friend. Having a friend to exercise with can help you stay motivated. It is also safer to jog or walk with a buddy, and having a friend nearby is helpful if you become injured.

Schedule your workouts. Put it on your calendar so you have time in your busy life carved out specifically for exercising.

Reduce Stress for a Healthy Heart – How Meditation and Yoga Can Help

Constant stress at work and home can have a cumulative effect. Stress increases blood pressure and heart rate. It increases levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can negatively affect health. Most things that cause stress today, however, are not as dangerous to our physical well-being as the stress itself.

Find somebody to talk to if you are feeling stressed. Seek out a trusted friend, speak with a therapist, or take advantage of our support groups at the Heart Center. You may also turn to mindful relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga.

A 2012 study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that just a few minutes of meditation could lower blood pressure and risk of a heart attack or stroke – even if you already have heart disease. The study, which followed 201 African-American participants for more than five years, found that those who meditated regularly were almost half as likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or die from heart-related issues.

Almost any type of quiet contemplation can help you relax and relieve stress. Tai chi, sometimes known as moving meditation, is low-impact and requires full concentration to maintain balance while performing a series of gentle movements. Yoga too may help reduce stress levels. It can lower blood pressure and the stretching can increase flexibility, which may even help prevent injury as you introduce moderate to vigorous intensity workouts into your lifestyle.

Prevention and Treatment for the Whole Person

The Heart Center treats the whole person, not just the illness. That is why in addition to the diagnostic services and cardiovascular treatments we provide, we also offer risk factor assessments and management, counseling, support groups, and patient education. We believe in heart health through prevention, maintenance, and dedicated treatment. To schedule a medical consultation, call us today at 855-VASCULAR.