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The 5 golden rules for a healthy heart

Our hearts pump fresh blood to all our vital organs, including the brain, so if there’s one thing you’re taking care of, you should make it your heart. But how can you keep your heart healthy?

Did you know the global leading cause of death is cardiovascular disease, at nearly 32%? Our hearts pump fresh blood to all our vital organs, including the brain, so if there’s one thing you’re taking care of, you should make it your heart. But how can you keep your heart healthy?

Luckily, there’s a wide variety of things you can do to make sure your heart is kept happy. From exercise to changing the way you eat, it’s never too late to take on some good habits here and there. Have a read below for some ideas.

 

1. Get your running shoes on

Now, I’m not saying you have to start running marathons starting tomorrow, but there are studies upon studies demonstrating the preventative effects of exercise against heart disease.

And the most effective type of exercise against cardiovascular disease is, unsurprisingly, cardio! Running, cycling, swimming, and other forms of cardio are great for reducing the risk of cardiac issues later on.

If you’re not an active person, you can start off with less intense exercise, such as going for a few walks every week. Playing team sports like football and basketball with your friends is another great way to get your body moving while also having fun.

In general though, any movement that gets your heart rate up will help to clear up your arteries, so if your choice of cardio is just dancing around the kitchen to your favourite songs, go for it!

 

 

2. Cut down on smoking and drinking

Most people already know the dangerous effects alcohol can have on your liver, but there is still little awareness about what heavy drinking can do to your heart.

While there is a little research showing moderate drinking can have beneficial effects on heart health, heavy drinking can increase levels of both cholesterol and triglycerides. High levels of these two substances are linked to increased risk of heart disease and strokes.

Quitting smoking will have all-round benefits for your body’s health, including your cardiovascular system. Smoking raises blood pressure, increases blood levels of carbon monoxide, and makes it easier for fat to cling to artery walls.

And if this fatty buildup becomes loose, it can easily result in a stroke or heart attack. Even if you’ve been smoking for years, it is never too late to quit and start letting your body recover.

 

 

3. Feed your heart well

Most cardiovascular diseases, as well as other major events such as strokes and heart attacks, are the result of clogged arteries. Arteries become clogged when a substance known as plaque, made of things like fat, cholesterol, and calcium, builds up and restricts blood flow to and from the heart.

Of course, eating too much of the wrong kinds of food will increase your blood’s levels of fat and cholesterol, making it harder for the oxygen and nutrients in your blood to reach the rest of your body.

Foods to avoid:

  • Fatty foods, processed meat, and dairy - these contain lots of saturated fat, which has a bad effect on your heart, so opt for leaner cuts of meat.
  • Deep fried foods and packaged snacks - the way these foods are prepared often results in a high level of trans and saturated fats, which both raise bad cholesterol.
  • Sweets, fizzy drinks, and other sugary foods - while fatty foods used to be considered the worst food for heart health, the focus has recently been more on sugary foods instead.  Sugar surplus in the body often gets converted into fat, and is also a risk factor for high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Salty foods - there is a strong link between sodium and high blood pressure, so cutting salt out of your diet is a fab way to protect your heart.

 

Foods for a healthy heart:

  • Unsaturated (good) fats - found in plant-based oils, avocados, fatty fish, and most nuts and seeds.
  • Fibrous foods - found in vegetables and various pulses including lentils and beans, foods with soluble fibre help lower your levels of bad cholesterol.

 

Eating more plant-based meals is also a handy way to cut out saturated fats, click here for our guide to a protein-packed plant-based diet.

 

 

4. Take some time out

When you feel stressed, your body is programmed to respond accordingly. Your heart rate and blood pressure rise to help you overcome a perceived danger. The problem is, what happens when you feel too stressed for too long.

If you find yourself facing intense amounts of stress, e.g. from work, your heart may well be suffering. The body’s response to stress is useful in the short-term, but long-term exposure to it has been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

Long-term stress may also lead to a poorer diet and less exercise due to the mental impact, meaning your heart suffers even more.

If you feel you may be too stressed too often, it may be a good idea to re-evaluate your work life, talk to your doctor about ways to manage stress, or pick up some stress-management skills, such as meditation.

 

 

5. Indulge every now and then

Time for some good news! Some studies have actually shown that wine, chocolate, and lean meat may actually be beneficial for heart health in moderation.

Wine, especially red wine, contains resveratrol, which is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Experts suggest drinking one glass for women (150ml), and two glasses for men (300ml) is the optimal amount for taking advantage of wine’s health benefits.

Cocoa’s polyphenols are also good for the heart, as well as being a strong antioxidant. And lean meat, eaten every now and again, contains lots of essential nutrients and may pose no extra risk to your blood vessels.

So while it’s never a great idea to go off the rails with any of these things, it’s still possible to follow a healthy diet that protects your heart while still enjoying the things you love.

 

For more help with stress-busting, take a look at our article on managing workplace stress. And if you’re looking for healthy heart recipes, check out our blog for some wholesome low-fat snacks and meals!

Looking for more information on keeping your body happy and healthy? We've got lots of great articles you can check out. Plus you can subscribe to our newsletter for articles in your inbox plus special offers, details on our upcoming events and the LiveFit Festival!

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