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10 Diet and Lifestyle changes to Improve Heart Health

It is no secret that improved heart health leads to a longer and healthier life. With plenty of information on the internet, it is easier to know what food to eat and avoid. People also know that LDL (bad) cholesterol can harm their heart health. However, besides knowing this, it is essential to understand that keeping your heart healthy is more than eating right. Your lifestyle habits, nutrients in your meals and portion size are also vital. 

Heart Health Guidelines 

Studies have found that around 659,000 people die of heart diseases yearly in the United States alone. This finding also means that one in every four deaths in the US is due to cardiovascular diseases. The same research also noted that one person dies of the disease in the country every 36 seconds. We can prevent such a high number of deaths with a healthier lifestyle and healthy eating habits. 

Quit Smoking

It could be the most common advice given to anybody who has the habit of smoking. A study suggests that smoking can lead to a two to fourfold increased risk of coronary heart disease. Furthermore, it results in 70% more mortality due to coronary heart disease progressing to the risk of sudden death. The harmful gases produced, especially carbon monoxide, are the main perpetrators that deplete heart health. 

Smoking affects the person who smokes and the people around them. Therefore, it is called passive smoking. So, by smoking, you risk your health and the health of people around you. In addition, as per research, exposure to high amounts of pollutants for a longer time also has similar effects.

There are many ways to quit smoking, like chewing nicotine gums which often act as a replacement for the former. Trying to find out why you started and trying to replace it with some other habit when a similar trigger happens can ultimately help build strong willpower. In severe cases, you can try rehabilitation.

Refrain from Alcohol Consumption

Full-fledged research further proves that alcohol consumption increases the risk of coronary artery disease by spiking hypertension and the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Also, it raises the risk of infectious endocarditis and atrial and ventricular dysrhythmias. Another study explains that continued alcohol consumption can cause conditions like artery widening, elevated lipid levels in the blood, atherosclerosis, altered platelet response (hampered blood clotting), inflammation, and alcoholic cardiomyopathy (ACM). It also hinders weight loss, a key factor for better heart health.

Quitting or regulating your alcohol consumption is very similar to quitting smoking. You have to replace the alcohol you usually consume with something similar, having significantly less or no alcohol content. Joining help and support groups that share their stories on how detrimental it can be for them will also help you take control of the situation. It would help if you worked to develop other interests and create healthier habits to bring long-term behavioural changes. 

Exercise

It comes as no surprise that adequate exercise is a boon to heart health. It helps reduce blood pressure, stress, and inflammation by improving HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Regular exercise can also help in weight reduction. In addition, regular exercise and a good healthy diet can work wonders for your body. 

A study by the American Heart Association mentions that adults must aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. The report also asks you to add moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activities to your exercise plan at least two days a week. In addition, it advises spending less time sitting and working out at least 5 hours a week to improve your health. Gradually increasing exercise duration can impart added benefits, especially to your heart health.

Bodyweight Maintenance

According to research, excessive body weight or obesity is a profound risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and other medical conditions like high blood pressure. A sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, and binge-eating for a considerable amount of time cause an increase in body weight. In addition, consuming fatty and carb-rich foods frequently is a solid reason for the high-fat percentage in the body. 

The greater the body weight is, the more the heart has to work to pump the required amount of blood for effective assimilation. Therefore, it puts a lot of pressure on the heart, which results in its gradual weakening. 

There are many ways to reduce fat in the body: 

Keep an eye on the calorie intake and maintain a calorie deficit Exercises like cardio, strength training, resistance training,Incorporate various foods that cover all the nutrients or follow a balanced diet.

A study found that intermittent fasting reduced fat and improved heart health after doing it for a certain period. In addition, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases by slowly eliminating the contributing risks like metabolic syndrome, symptoms like hypertension, high blood sugar levels, and excess abdominal and blood fat levels. Another research also suggests that it effectively lowers chronic inflammation by reducing the number of damaged blood cells. 

The HealthifyMe Note

Besides your physical appearance, maintaining a healthy body weight also benefits your health. It reduces the risk of diseases like stroke, heart attack, diabetes, asthma etc. Hence, it is essential to maintain a healthy weight. You can do so by following a healthy eating plan and exercising regularly. 

Include Nutritious Foods in Your Diet 

Instead of consuming processed foods, you should try having a lot of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables as they have a lot of antioxidants, micronutrients, and dietary fibre. All can help improve your heart health. It comes in different forms like whole grain oats, oatmeal, whole wheat or whole grain bread, high fibre cereal, whole wheat flour, fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, low sodium-canned vegetables, and canned fruits with minimal sugar content or without mixing syrup, etc. 

Such food items can improve cholesterol levels by reducing LDL levels. They have a lower calorie count, and they are filling simultaneously. Just like other lifestyle changes, you must practice replacing unhealthy processed foods with whole foods in your diet. Not watching one’s diet has long-term health implications. 

The fibre in whole foods is crucial in reducing body weight and fat levels. In addition, whole foods are indirectly related to boosting heart health. Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are also obtained by regularly having these foods. A study conveys all the above points in a detailed and scientific manner. 

Choose Healthy and Low-Fat Protein

Lean protein sources like lean meat, legumes, low-fat dairy products, eggs, fish, and poultry are the best foods to boost heart health. Compared to high-fat protein sources, diets high in protein from dairy, fish, chicken, and vegetables are associated with a significant reduction in risks of cardiovascular disease. In addition, the omega-3 fats found in some types of fish can help decrease triglycerides, a form of blood fat. Also, research substantiates that omega-3 fatty acids are a crucial contributor to reducing the risks of sudden death caused by cardiac arrhythmias. 

When you replace animal protein with plant protein, you eat less fat and cholesterol while getting more fibre. It is essential to note from a study that high protein intake causes insulin secretion. Its increase can lead to insulin resistance, a necessary factor of increased body fat. However, it is worth noting that whey protein contains fewer amounts of fat. A study found that whey protein consumption significantly decreased the number of triglycerides in the blood by 21%.

Limit Sodium Consumption

It is quite a popular fact that high-sodium content leads to high blood pressure, a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. A report by the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300 mg of sodium, approximately a teaspoon a day for a healthy adult. Also, lowering the amount of salt you use at the table or in the kitchen is a good start. Canned or processed items like soups, baked goods, and frozen meals contain a significant amount of salt added as a seasoning. One can reduce the salt intake by reducing the number of calories consumed by processed foods. You can try making stews, soups, and sandwiches at home. Opting for low sodium salts like red and pink salt will also help.

Get Good Sleep

Research has found that insomnia or sleep deprivation can elevate the number of risks that promote cardiovascular diseases. Less sleep causes stress, higher heart rate, and high blood pressure, all red flags for heart health. In addition, a study claims that insufficient sleep can cause type-2 diabetes and obesity. It makes you lethargic very quickly and leaves you with less energy to do any work. With less sleep, you will not be able to exercise to maintain your health which can lead to obesity, thus further elevating the probability of CVD. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should obtain between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. 

To achieve that, you must make some necessary changes like:

Figure out a sleep schedule, meditate, reduce screen time, adjust the room lighting and temperature at your convenience, avoid coffee and alcohol, choose comfortable bedding, and cut off from all noise before sleep.

Reduce Stress

Stress is directly related to severe health problems, including cardiovascular diseases. As per a study, a spike in cortisol (stress hormone) levels, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, storage of more unhealthy fats in the blood, more fat storage in the body, etc., is associated with chronic stress. 

To some people, even mild stress can contribute to cardiac issues. For example, a common occurrence is inadequate blood flow to the heart muscles, meaning the heart does not receive enough oxygen. Long-term stress can also alter blood clotting. As a result, it thickens the blood, increasing the risk of a stroke. Other common effects of stress are anxiety, forgetfulness, impatience, irrational anger, decreased energy, low sex drive, eczema, ulcers, weight gain, and pains. 

Yoga and meditation, exercise, a support system, recreation, reduced workload, balanced meals, and sound sleep are some basic measures to reduce stress. Also, you must visit a psychiatrist or a therapist if stress becomes too much for you to handle.

The HealthifyMe Note

Adopting healthier lifestyles and diet plans can reduce the number of cardiovascular disease cases by a considerable ratio. Above are some necessary guidelines to lower cardiovascular disease risk by making simple lifestyle and dietary modifications.

Certain Cardiovascular Disease Symptoms

In today’s world, when information is available at your fingertips, it is pretty easy to get misinformed. Knowing when exactly you are at risk of cardiovascular diseases is necessary. The primary signs and symptoms include: 

Shortness of breathChest pains, tightness in the muscles around the heartIrregular heartbeatLightheadednessDizzinessFaintingSkin turning into blue colour

The primary reason for all the above is the inability of the blood to assimilate the necessary nutrients and minerals. It happens because of the development of fatty plaques in the arteries and veins.

Conclusion

It is not practical to apply all the necessary lifestyle and diet changes in a short amount of time. Being informed is the first and foremost step. Following a balanced diet and healthier lifestyle is key to improving your heart’s health and thus ensuring a longer lifespan. Your heart is a critical organ that keeps you alive and well. Let’s take a small step forward each day toward a healthier future. You can also look out for any cardiovascular disease symptoms you may have. If you suspect anything, you must consult your doctor immediately. Slowly and effectively implementing the health guidelines in your life can do wonders for your heart health. It sure takes dedication and effort to lead a healthier lifestyle, but it is worth it. After a while, it turns into habits.

Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

Q. How do lifestyle and diet affect the heart?

A. Lifestyle and diet are the main reasons for heart diseases. The food you eat and its nutrient content are vital to determine the number of risks. Also, certain habits, environmental factors, stress and other underlying health conditions trigger CVD risk. Some examples are a sedentary lifestyle, ignorance towards fitness, drinking alcohol too often, continued tobacco use, and irregular food routines.

Q. Are eggs good for the heart?

A. Yes, eggs are good for heart health to a certain extent. Doctors and dietitians recommend that healthy adults have an average of one or two eggs daily to help avoid diabetes. According to research, this level of egg consumption even assists in avoiding some types of stroke.

Q. How do you strengthen a weak heart?

A. You can start by being vigilant about your foods’ nutrient content to strengthen your weak heart. Some other guidelines that you can keep in mind to ensure a healthy heart are: following a disciplined lifestyle, having a well-structured workout routine, eating foods rich in dietary fibre, intermittent fasting if you are overweight, quitting smoking and drinking, having a good sleep, and lead a stress-free life. 

Q. What is the best exercise for heart health?

A. Basic cardio like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and jumping rope regularly for some months can do wonders to your heart health. Besides that, some forms of resistance training, strength training, and yoga can help reduce cardiovascular disease risks. Also, vigorous workouts like HIIT, limited to three times a week, can be good for you.

Q. Which drink is good for the heart? 

A. Many drinks are good for heart health. Some of the best are pomegranate juice, black coffee, black tea, green tea, natural fruit juice, red wine, and milk. However, it is essential to note that you must have these drinks in moderation for better results. 

Q. Is rice heart-healthy?

A. Some types of rice like brown rice, wild rice, red rice, whole-grain rice, and black rice can be heart-healthy. Also, this is because these forms of rice have a low glycemic index. In addition, they contain complex carbohydrates, high fibre, and many macro and micronutrients. Therefore, they are healthier than white rice, which has high amounts of starch, a high glycemic index, and simple carbohydrates. Moreover, raw rice is filling and doesn’t convert into sugar very quickly, which means a slower insulin release, leading to significantly lower values of fat accumulation.

Q. What food makes your heart stronger?

A. Dark chocolate, tomatoes, whole wheat, oats, berries, nuts, green leafy vegetables, fresh herbs, black beans, salmon, tuna, tofu, etc., are some examples of heart-healthy foods.

Q. Which dry fruit is good for the heart?

A. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews are perfect for the heart. They help reduce inflammation, maintain good cholesterol levels, reduce weight, and make blood cleaner. 

Q. Can a heart repair itself?

A. The heart can only repair specific damaged muscle cells. Still, it cannot reverse the damaged muscle tissues after a cardiac arrest. So while the heart can create specific new muscles, this regeneration process is too low.

Q. Can you reverse heart damage?

A. Unfortunately, you can only slow the process of further damage. In non-complex situations, you can follow some healthy methods to slow down its progression. In severe cases, only treatment can do the needful.

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