February 02, 2015
Your heart is one of the most critical parts of your body. It is amongst the first of your organs to start working in your body in-utero, and all-too-often the first organ to stop working. You can’t do without it, yet we take it for granted and don’t take nearly enough care of it. This “American Heart Month”, here are a few simple things you can do to improve your heart health:
Laughter and music have been proven to lower stress hormones – like cortisol – a hormone that contributes to heart disease and weight gain. Something as enjoyable as watching a comedy can help you relax and improve your heart health. Music can also help you relax, whether you prefer Mozart while you meditate, or like to dance around your kitchen while cooking dinner, you are giving your body the healthy break it needs.
You can also reduce your stress levels by putting your hands to work. Activities that involve your hands help to quiet the mind – a key factor in stress reduction. If you enjoy crocheting, knitting, jigsaw puzzles, sewing, wood working or gardening, these fun hobbies can also benefit your heart.
Get Enough Sleep
A lack of sleep not only makes you tired, it increases your risk for heart disease and causes weight gain. Adults need an average of eight hours of sleep every night to function at full levels. By practicing a good sleep routine and implementing a regular bedtime – including eliminating distractions like cell phones, lap tops and televisions in your bedroom – you can lower your risk for developing heart disease.
The Power of 10
Not everyone has access to a gym or fitness equipment, and you really don’t need it. Start by dividing your exercise into 10-minute chunks, and include activities in your day that you love. Do you have a dog? Take a walk with your furry friend and make this a regular part of your day. If you love to dance, put on some upbeat music while you clean.
By breaking up these physical activities into 10-minute increments, you can easily make exercise part of your daily routine. Ten minutes of walking three times a day has been shown to lower blood pressure more effectively that one 30 minute walk. Even if you can only manage 20 minutes of exercise every day, you cut the risk of having a heart attack in half.
While one to three ounces of wine per day have been shown to benefit heart health, green tea, orange juice and grape juice are also beneficial. Green tea contains antioxidants that lower cholesterol, and the folic acid in orange juice helps lower levels of homocysteine – which can reduce the risk of heart problems. A serving of grape juice contains antioxidants that discourage red blood cells from clumping and forming dangerous clots within the arteries.
Enjoy Good Food that’s Good for You
Eating healthy doesn’t mean eating foods you don’t enjoy. If you like Italian food, you’re in luck! Garlic has been shown to help reduce blocked arteries by preventing cholesterol from lining your arteries, and reducing arterial damage. Additionally, increasing your intake of Omega-3 fats from flax seed and fish are also heart healthy food choices. Studies suggest that eating just two tablespoons of flax seed a day may reduce the development of heart disease by a whopping 46%. Try sprinkling some on your morning yogurt, oatmeal or cereal, or even on a nice lunch salad.
If you need a snack to get you through your week, reach for some nuts. A serving of just over 5 ounces of nuts per week makes you 1/3 less likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack. Healthy foods like fruits and vegetables will give your heart health a boost. Additionally, keeping the good bacteria in your digestive tract in balance with probiotics, you can prevent unhealthy conditions and help your body break down the foods you eat into basic elements, which helps your body absorb the nutrients you need, and eliminate the toxins you don’t.
By implementing a few of these simple changes into your day, you will not only look and feel better, but you will improve your heart health remarkably.
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