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The heart is a vital organ in our body that keeps us alive. It works 24/7, pumping blood to every part of the body, and beats about 2.5 billion times over an average lifetime.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide that is caused by;
- Factors - Smoking, high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels
- Medical conditions - Diabetes and obesity
- Harmful habits - A poor diet, physical inactivity, and excess alcohol intake
It is critical to take care of your heartâ€™s health not only to prevent cardiovascular diseases but also to control the levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce depression, and lower the risk of dementia.
Heart health is a major concern and people ponder on â€œHow to improve heart health naturally?â€
Best Way To Improve Heart Health
A healthy heart can be maintained and improved by making small lifestyle modifications and managing the risk factors. These include;
1. Maintaining A Heart-healthy Diet
Eating nutritious food and avoiding unhealthy fats can help reduce blood glucose and cholesterol levels, and maintain a healthy weight. Consider consuming more vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats, and limit your intake of salt and alcohol.
2. Exercising Regularly
Regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing heart disease and heart attack. The heart is a muscular organ that requires heart-strengthening exercises.
3. Avoiding Smoking
Smoking is one of the major causes linked to heart disease. Quitting smoking decreases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
4. Reducing Stress
Stress increases blood pressure and heart rate. Managing stress is important to maintain a healthy and happy heart.
5. Managing Cholesterol And Blood Pressure
Understanding and controlling the levels of cholesterol and blood pressure is key to maintaining a healthy heart.
What To Eat To Improve Heart Health?
Certain foods significantly influence the risk factors of heart diseases such as blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels, and inflammation. Therefore, diet plays an important role in maintaining good heart health.
Foods to strengthen the heart muscle and improve heart health include;
Omega-3 fatty acids present in the fish reduce the risk of abnormal heartbeats referred to as arrhythmia and slow down the plaque (fatty deposits) formation in the arteries that cause chest pain. Fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, lake trout, and sardines are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.
Heart-healthy nuts include almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and walnuts. These nuts contain protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.
Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are packed with heart-healthy phytonutrients and soluble fiber. The antioxidants in berries help protect against oxidative stress and damage that are involved in the development of heart diseases.
Flax Seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and phytoestrogens that boost heart health.
5. Whole Grains
Whole wheat, oats, brown rice, rye, barley, and quinoa contain high fiber content that helps reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol decreasing the risk of heart diseases.
Dried beans and lentils such as pinto, kidney, or black beans, are rich in fiber content, B-vitamins, and minerals. These help in reducing LDL cholesterol levels.
7. Red Wine
Red wine helps improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
Spinach is the best source of dietary magnesium that helps maintain a healthy heart rhythm.
A natural source of folate prevents the buildup of homocysteine in the body, which is linked to an increased risk of heart diseases like coronary artery disease and stroke.
Consuming steamed broccoli regularly is found to decrease cholesterol levels and prevent heart diseases.
Contain fiber, vitamin C, potassium, folate, and choline that are good for heart health.
Organ meat is rich in folic acid, iron, copper, and zinc, which helps in maintaining heart health by increasing the bloodâ€™s hemoglobin level.
13. Dark Chocolate
Is good for your heartâ€™s health. It protects from atherosclerosis (plaque formation in the arteries) that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Exercises For Heart Health
The heart is a muscle that gets stronger and healthier if you are physically active. A 30-minute walk every day can make a big difference.
People who are physically inactive are at twice the risk of developing heart health conditions when compared to physically active people.
Regular exercise can have the following beneficial effects;
- Burns calories
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces bad cholesterol
- Increases good cholesterol
Types of exercises for a healthy heart are;
1. Aerobic Exercise
Also known as cardio include brisk walking, running, jogging, swimming, and biking. By improving circulation, aerobic exercises lower blood pressure and heart rate. It improves cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute) and decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and, if diabetic, helps control blood sugar levels. Doctors usually recommend 150 minutes of heart-pumping aerobic exercise per week.
How much to do? Ideally 30 minutes each day, at least 5 days a week.
2. Strength Training
For people with excess belly fat, strength training helps reduce fat and create lean muscle mass. Studies report that a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training help to increase good cholesterol levels and lower bad cholesterol. Strength training exercises include weightlifting, using resistance bands, weight machines at the gym, or usage of your own body weight for resistance such as squats, push-ups, and chin-ups.
How much to do? Every other day I make 2-3 times a week.
These exercises indirectly contribute to heart health. Stretching improves musculoskeletal health that will help gain flexibility, prevent joint pain, cramping, and other problems related to muscles. Flexibility is important for performing aerobic exercises and strength training.
How much to do? Stretching must be done before and after workout every day.
Foods To Avoid For Heart Health
To maintain good heart health, the following foods must be avoided in your meal plan;
1. Baked Foods
Baked foods like cakes, muffins, and cookies - Increase the levels of triglycerides that can cause heart disease.
2. Red Meat
Red meat Is high in saturated fat. Eating too much red meat increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
3. Processed Meat
Processed meat such as sausages, salami, hot dogs, and bacon - Contains high saturated fat causing a rise in bad cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. It also contains high sodium leading to high blood pressure.
4. White Bread, White Rice, And Pasta
White bread, white rice, and pasta are deprived of healthy fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Refined grains are rapidly converted to sugars that are stored as fat, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Heavy alcohol intake can cause weight gain, blood pressure, heart failure, and strokes.
Butter is high in saturated fat that can raise bad cholesterol levels, increasing the likelihood of developing heart diseases.
7. Flavored, Full-fat Yogurt
Flavored full-fat yogurt is loaded with sugar and is linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
8. French Fries
French fries contain lots of fat and salt unhealthy for the heart.
9. Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is high in calories, fat, and sodium that are linked to high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
10. Canned Soup
The canned soup contains lots of sodium causing high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.
11. Ranch Dressing
Ranch dressing is high in calories, fat, and sodium that affects heart health.
Ice-cream is high in calories, sugar, and saturated fat leading to weight gain. It also increases triglycerides that can cause a heart attack.
13. Potato Chips
Potato chips contain high saturated fats and sodium that are linked to heart disease.
By knowing â€œHow to improve heart health naturally?â€ and following a healthy lifestyle, you can maintain good heart health.