Your heart will beat about 2.5 billion times during your lifetime. It is central to overall good health and is one of the most vital organs keeping you alive. It’s vital to treat it well.
When you have a healthy heart, your entire body will feel the benefits. In fact, good overall health can not only promote heart health, but it can also protect you from type 2 diabetes, asthma, joint pain, and a number of other chronic conditions and diseases, namely cancer.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death among men and women; it claims approximately 1 million lives every year.
Exercise and eating well are two of the mainstays of heart-healthy living. But what else can you do to keep your heart strong?
Start improving your heart health today
Here are a few easy changes you can make today to improve your heart health:
- Avoid trans fats
Trans fats are industry-produced fats and often used in packaged baked goods, snack foods, margarines, and fried fast foods to enhance flavor and texture. They are dangerous for your heart because they can lead to elevated LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and clogged arteries. By cutting them from your diet, you improve blood flow throughout your entire body as well as lower your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke over a lifetime.
- Eat heart-healthy foods
Certain foods are good for your heart because they contain essential vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that can help lower blood pressure and protect the blood vessels and arteries that bring blood and oxygen to the heart. Fuel your heart and fill your plate with dark leafy green vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish and a variety of berries to keep your heart (and your waistline) happy.
- Take care of your mouth
Dental health is like a barometer for overall health, including your heart. If you’re struggling with periodontal (gum) disease, the bacteria involved in the development of the disease can move quickly into the bloodstream and lead to inflammation throughout the entire body. This inflammation can then increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Be sure to floss and brush your teeth daily and get regular cleanings to avoid gum disease.
- Avoid stasis
If you have a job that requires you to sit for prolonged periods, make it a priority to get up and move your body every 90 minutes. This will help increase blood flow throughout the body, lower your blood pressure and increase muscle contraction in the legs. As these muscles expand and contract, they promote healthy circulation in more stagnant areas of flow.
You know it’s good for you. You know you should do it, but do you know why? When you exercise, your blood pumps through your body faster, which in turn exercises one of your most important muscles: your heart. Aerobic activity encourages your blood to pump out more blood with each beat, which means it can beat more slowly and keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. It will also help keep your heart healthy longer.
- Get enough sleep
The average healthy adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This time is essential for healing and repairing the heart and blood vessels. Adults that sleep fewer than 6 hours per night are about twice as likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack as those who sleep 6-8. In fact, ongoing sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
- Take care of your mental health
Those struggling with mental health issues like chronic stress, anxiety, depression or even PTSD have a higher risk of heart disease. These conditions can lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the heart and heightened levels of cortisol. Talk therapy and aerobic exercise can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Stop smoking
If you smoke, your risk of dying from a heart attack is 2-3 times higher than that of a person who does not smoke. Smoking increases your heart rate, tightens major arteries and can lead to an irregular heart rhythm, all of which can weaken your heart. Secondhand smoke isn’t much better. In fact, secondhand smoke can cause your blood platelets to become stickier, making your blood more likely to clot inside your veins and arteries. This puts you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
Coronary artery disease is diagnosed by patient history and physical examination. EKG blood tests can also be used to confirm the diagnosis. The Coastal Urgent Care centers of Bossier and Haughton have EKG and x-ray machines as well as an onsite lab to help check on your heart faster and more efficiently. Each center is available for walk-in appointments.