Your heart is one of your most vital organs, feeding oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to your body day and night. Your daily habits and choices directly affect your heart’s function, so it’s crucial to take good care of yourself if you want your heart to be as healthy as possible. Those with a family history of cardiovascular issues should be even more inclined to make positive lifestyle choices to help protect their health and prevent heart-related complications from occurring.
If your heart doctor has asked you to make daily improvements to benefit your heart’s health, here are a few changes you can start making today!
Heart-Healthy Change #1: Stop Using Tobacco
We understand that a smoking or general tobacco habit is tough to break. However, we encourage you to keep trying to quit for the sake of your heart and entire body.
Tobacco, both smoking and smokeless tobacco, is more than a major cause of preventable disease in the U.S.—it’s the leading cause. According to the CDC, one in every five cardiovascular-related deaths can be attributed to a complication that arose from or was made worse by tobacco use.
And it’s not just the heart that can be harmed. Other parts of the body that tobacco negatively affects include:
- Reproductive systems
- Stomach and intestines
Specific to the heart, chemicals in tobacco and cigarette smoke cause your blood vessels to narrow and develop plaque buildup, which is a dangerous combination. When this happens, blood flow becomes hindered and can result in damaging or even deadly complications like:
- Heart Attack
- Blood reduction or loss in the limbs
- Aortic Aneurysm
Will Quitting Tobacco Really Help, or Is the Damage Already Done?
You may think your tobacco habits have done too much damage to your heart, but fortunately, that is not necessarily the case! Even those who have smoked or dipped habitually for years tend to experience drastic health improvements once they quit. The body is in the business of restoration, and it works to restore damage from tobacco quickly:
- After year one of quitting, patients will likely see a severe reduction in heart attack risks.
- After year five of quitting, patients are likely to see their risk levels of stroke reduced to almost zero.
For help putting the cigarette or dip down for good, check out these helpful resources:
Heart-Healthy Change #2: Start Moving
If your doctor told you to lower your blood pressure, reduce or manage your weight, and reduce stress levels, you can help kill three birds with one stone through exercise.
High blood pressure – High blood pressure means that there is too much pressure in your blood vessels and arteries. If you have high blood pressure, your heart is working harder to send and receive blood, making your heart and vessels inefficient at their jobs.
Excess weight – Extra weight puts physical stress on the components of your body, including your vessels, arteries, and heart. The more weight you have, the harder your heart has to work to pump blood throughout the body. Too much weight also leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries, which can lead to a dangerous blockage.
High stress levels – Too much stress seems like an issue that would only indirectly affect the heart, but it can actually cause inflammation throughout the body. Plus, people with too much stress tend to suffer from lack of sleep, poor eating habits, minimal exercise, and other side effects that can increase blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight.
Benefits of Exercise
Exercise is a wonderful way to strengthen your heart and pump more oxygen throughout your body, all while helping you address your blood pressure, weight, and stress issues.
When you exercise:
- Your blood vessels become less stiff and allow for better blood flow, which results in lowered blood pressure
- You burn fat, which can help you reduce weight when combined with proper dieting
- You release chemicals that help reduce stress levels
No need to jump into a strenuous, heavy-hitting exercise regimen or hit the gym five days a week. Starting slowly with a 10-20 minute walk daily is an effective way to start helping your heart. The more you move, the stronger you’ll become and the more you’ll be able to exercise over time.
Heart-Healthy Change #3: Eat Well
Your diet impacts your heart and vascular health in a major way. A healthy diet full of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-sugar and -sodium foods will help you keep your arteries clear and your heart stress-free. However, a diet of processed foods and foods that are high in sugar, sodium, trans fats, and refined carbs can work to narrow your arteries and put you at risk for dangerous heart issues.
Plus, a clean diet will help you lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight. Again, these are all factors in having either a healthy or unhealthy cardiovascular system.
According to the American Heart Association, reach for any of the following foods:
Apples, avocados, bananas, berries, citrus fruits, grapes, pineapple, and any other fruit are fantastic snacks or side dishes to add to your next meal.
Asparagus, broccoli, carrots, garlic, green beans, spinach, and squash are considered super heart-healthy, but others like kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and more are also great, nutritious options.
- Lean meats – beef, chicken, turkey, and pork are fine as long as they are at least 95% lean.
- Fish – Salmon, tuna, trout, and other fish high in omega-3 fatty acids are excellent sources of protein.
- Legumes – choose from black-eyed peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, and lima beans whenever you’d like.
- Nuts – almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, and walnuts are great protein-rich, heart-healthy snacks.
- Seeds – incorporate flax, pumpkin, sesame, or sunflower seeds into your meals whenever possible.
Choose fat-free or low-fat versions of dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Whole grains like oatmeal, barley, and brown rice are fine to eat. Also, look for whole-grain products like breads and tortilla wraps.
Along with making heart-conscious lifestyle changes, partner with the heart doctors at Middle Georgia Heart for the ultimate healthy choice!
Our heart specialists offer exceptional advice to help manage your heart health and treat any heart condition. Our team at MGH is ready to help you protect your heart in every way. Schedule an appointment with our practice today: 478-207-5224