After last week’s post about foods to add to improve heart health, it seemed appropriate to add some ideas for other factors you can change to improve heart health. These are all fairly simple lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in how your heart functions. If tackling all of them at the same time feels overwhelming, start with one and once it becomes a part of your routine, you can add the others.
Exercise: The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week for overall heart health. For people with concerns about high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol, they recommend 40 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise 3-4 times a week. Exercise includes anything that gets your body moving and burns calories. Choose an activity you like and stick to it!
Decrease Salt Consumption: In some people, sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, placing an added burden on the heart. The American Heart Association recommends about 1500 mgs a day of salt but most people eating a Standard American Diet consume about 3400 mgs a day. Eating a diet low in packaged foods will help you decrease your sodium intake.
Floss Your Teeth: Recent research has demonstrated a possible link between periodontal disease and heart disease. In a new study in which researchers infected mice with four different types of bacteria associated with gum disease, the mice had increased levels of systemic inflammation and cholesterol.
Don’t smoke: People who smoke are two to four times more likely to get heart disease. The nicotine in cigarettes raises your blood pressure, damages blood vessels, raises your heart rate, increase your risk of blood clots and decreases the amount of oxygen that gets to your heart. All of these factors contribute to heart disease.
Sleep: In a recent study, people sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 10 hours a night were found to have a higher prevalence of coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes, in addition to obesity and frequent mental stress, compared to “optimal sleepers” who slept an average of seven to nine hours. The study speculates that quality of sleep is just as important as quantity.