10 tips for improving your heart health

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(Baptist Health) – Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. – but you can take measures to prevent it. Find out how you can improve your heart health naturally by learning more about the healthy lifestyle choices below.

Exercise.

Your heart needs regular activity to stay healthy. If your lifestyle is overly sedentary, improve your heart health with exercise by going on one ten-minute walk a day, then slowly build up to more challenging workouts. Once you build up enough stamina to walk at least 30 minutes at a time, find a workout you enjoy and make time for it at least five times a week. Popular options include yoga, cycling, weight lifting or running. You should also try to walk around every hour or so if you spend large portions of your day seated.

Eat heart-healthy foods.

A strong heart starts with the right fuel. The best foods for heart health include seafood, lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts. In addition to consuming heart-healthy food, avoid sodium-rich food, fried food, processed food and sugar. You should also limit your alcohol intake.

Maintain a healthy BMI (body mass index).

Losing excess fat, particularly around your midsection, can improve your heart health. Ideally, your BMI should roughly be between 18.5 and 25, and your waist circumference should be less than 35 inches if you’re a woman and less than 40 inches if you’re a man.

Watch your cholesterol.

Healthy non-HDL and LDL cholesterol levels are essential to preventing heart attacks. If you are already showing signs of coronary artery disease, you should work with your doctor to bring your non-HDL cholesterol down to 80. If you aren’t displaying signs of coronary artery disease but want to prevent it, you should work with your doctor to bring your non-HDL cholesterol down to 100.

Get an adequate amount of sleep.

Sleep gives your body time to strengthen and restore itself each night. Without it, the health of your heart and your arteries can become compromised. One study showed that adults who slept seven hours a night had healthier arteries than those who slept less than five or more than nine hours a night.

Stop smoking.

Heart disease can occur as a direct result of smoking. Smoking also puts those around you at risk of health problems due to second-hand inhalation. If you smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation to improve your heart health.

Keep blood pressure below 120/80.

High blood pressure takes a significant toll on your heart and arteries. Starting when you’re 18, have your blood pressure checked at least every three to five years. If you’re 40 or older or have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, have it checked every year.

Control diabetes-related risks.

Diabetes can significantly increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you already have diabetes, work with your doctor to keep your insulin levels in check and avoid placing excess stress on your heart. If you don’t have diabetes, take preventive measures to avoid the disease by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

Avoid illness.

Flu, sinus infections, pneumonia and other sickness can wear on your heart. Avoid illness by washing your hands regularly and avoid touching your face while you’re out in public and may be exposed to sickness-causing germs.  If you do become sick, give yourself plenty of time to rest and recover.

Keep stress under control.

Stress can play a major role in an array of medical issues, including cardiac disease. Keep your heart healthy and your stress in check by meditating, doing breathing exercises, practicing gratitude each day and making time for the people and activities you love.

Cardiac conditions can often be prevented or improved through lifestyle choices, and making the right ones is the easiest way to improve heart health. For more information on how you can protect your heart from cardiac disease, watch these heart health videos from Baptist Health. If you want to learn more about your personal heart health, sign up for a BHeart Healthy Screening, or request an appointment with a cardiologist.

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