I am your heart. I work really hard to keep you alive. Every minute I pump out 5 litres of oxygen rich blood to every cell in your body so you can think, move, speak, work and live. In return all I ask is that you keep me healthy. Not many people around the world do that. In fact approximately 17.3 million people die every year because heart disease. By 2020, it will be the leading cause of death around the world.
1. Eat Healthy
Look towards healthy foods that help lower cholesterol. Eat vegetables and fish that have lots of good fats. Don’t eat as much red meat, choose lean meats instead. Eat a serving of nuts (walnuts, almonds etc.) every day. Drink less of carbonated beverages and drink natural fruit juices without added sugar. Get 4-5 servings of fresh vegetables. Feeling like having a snack? Skip the chips and salty foods and munch on some fresh carrots instead. Search and build your own book of healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Trust me, your heart will thank you for it.
With more of us having less active jobs than ever before, a lack of exercise is a big risk factor for heart disease. On the bright side, it also means that exercising regularly in addition to eating healthy is one of the fastest ways to reduce your risk! Research shows that getting just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week can significantly reduce the risk of a heart attack. Can’t spare 30 minutes at a stretch? Sneak in three 10 minute sessions of brisk walking or exercise whenever you get a break.
3. Get adequate rest
We’re living in a 24X7 world. The computers and mobile devices that allow us to connect to the internet and each other whenever we want have also taken away proper sleep habits. We sacrifice sleep for work and for leisure without realizing the effect that it has on our body. Scientific studies have shown that people who get less than 6 hours of sleep a night have a higher chance of getting high blood pressure and high cholesterol both of which contribute to heart disease. So put down that phone, turn off the TV and get some sleep.
4. Quit smoking
Smoking can double the risk of you having a heart attack. Smoking damages the blood vessels and increases the risk of them being blocked leading to higher chances of a heart attack. Women who take birth control pills and smoke are particularly at a higher risk to develop heart disease. Even smoking for a brief period of time damages the heart. Nicotine in cigarettes or chewing tobacco reduces the oxygen supply to the heart and increases blood pressure. So if you smoke, make a healthy start and quit today.
5. Drink alcohol in strict moderation
If you drink alcohol, be sure to strictly control how much you drink. Drinking alcohol excessively has been shown to increase the risk for hypertension, obesity and heart disease. Alcohol intake above moderate levels also increases cholesterol levels leading to formation of plaques and blood vessel blockage.
6. Practice Yoga and Meditation
Among other benefits, yoga and meditation have been shown to significantly reduce stress and have positive effects on mind and body. Yoga comprises of physical exercises as well as training to control the breath. In combination with meditation, yoga can improves many physiological functions and be extremely effective as a preventive mechanism for heart attacks.
7. Know your numbers and your risk factors
Lastly, always be aware of your health status. According to Barry A Franklin PhD Director of Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation at William Beaumont Hospital in Michigan USA and an American Heart Association Volunteer “Regular cardiovascular screening is important because it helps you detect risk factors in their earliest stages”. See your physician regularly and get your cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked. Your genes can play a role in whether you are more likely to get heart disease. Know your family history and whether that puts you at an increased risk. In addition, an advanced program like Xcode’s Lifelong Wellness can analyze your genes for health risks and metabolic traits and give you a personalized nutrition and fitness plan that will put you on the on the path to a healthier lifestyle.