Good heart health is imperative for maintaining your overall health. A strong heart lessens feelings of depression, protects against heart attack and stroke, and may even lower your chances of developing dementia as you age. Is your heart as healthy as it could be? Check out these tips to help you feel better and possibly even live longer by taking care of your heart.
1. Stop Smoking Right Now
If the headline seemed urgent, that’s because it is. Smoking cessation is the single most important thing you can do to improve your heart, not to mention your overall health. Smoking is one of the biggest causes of coronary heart disease, and people who quit smoking are about half as likely to have a heart attack after just a year of being a non-smoker. If you can’t quit smoking cold turkey, seek out cessation help. Therapy, gum, and even prescriptions are available to help you kick nicotine for good. Your family doctor can help you determine which route is best for you based on how often you smoke and how long you’ve been smoking.
2. Reduce the Amount of Stress You’re Under
Yes, it’s easier said than done, but physicians and psychiatrists alike agree that stress reduction is helpful for your overall health, including your heart. Think about your day-to-day life. Where are you overextended? Chances are you can’t do much to reduce stress at work, but can you do so at home? Do you really need to be the head of the PTA and coach soccer, not to mention run the bake sale? Maybe there aren’t a lot of places you can cut back on your tasks. That doesn’t mean you can’t still reduce stress. Even spending 10 minutes a day reading, knitting, cooking, or doing something else you enjoy for no reason other than it makes you happy can reduce your stress levels and create better heart health.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
The types of food you eat and how much you eat determines how healthy your heart is. Foods that are high in fat and sodium cause you to retain water, gain weight, and lead your heart to work harder to keep your blood pumping. Focus on eating at least five portions of healthy fruits and vegetables each day. Doing so provides your body with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber needed to keep your heart working a healthy amount. If you don’t like to eat fruits and vegetables on their own, that’s okay. You can add them to granola, include them in pasta sauces, or simply “hide” them in casseroles to get them into your body without eating them alone. If eating enough healthy vitamins is truly hard for you, your doctor may be able to suggest cardiovascular supplements to help you.
4. Keep Track of Your Numbers
Regular checkups are important for ensuring your heart is healthy. Your doctor can help you track important medical numbers, including your cholesterol levels, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. He or she will help you determine where your numbers need to be based on your sex, age, activity level, and overall health, and then help you take the steps you need to ensure your body stays within those numbers. At a minimum, have an annual checkup; however, if you are high-risk, your doctor may want to see you more often.
5. Focus on Your Oral Health
You might not link your oral health with your heart, but your dentist and doctor will. Research shows that people who have poor oral hygiene are more likely to carry bacteria that cause gum disease. When gum disease becomes serious, it leads to periodontal disease, which can then travel through your body and cause heart disease. Brush, floss, and use mouthwash at least twice a day and have regular checkups with your dentist to ensure your oral hygiene is helping to protect your heart.
While there is much you can do to protect your heart at home, it should never replace seeing your doctor regularly. Remember, never make changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regimens without first consulting your physician.