By Al Brandenburg
Our heart is the hardest-working muscle in our body, and heart disease is a leading cause of death. So, it’s important to adopt a healthy lifestyle sooner rather than later.
Some risk factors can’t be changed, like family history, age and sex, but there are still some key things you can do to improve your overall heart health.
If you are worried about your heart disease risk, visit your doctor. Knowing your “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels, as well as your blood pressure, weight and body mass index (BMI) is the initial step to improving heart function.
Adopt a healthier lifestyle today to avoid heart problems in the future. Get out and have some fun. Stay safe and stay healthy.
Tips for a healthy heart
Live healthier. Eating a heart-healthy diet and getting regular exercise are key to a stronger heart. Studies show women who eat lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean proteins, as well as maintain a healthy weight have a 92% decreased risk of a heart attack. Getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes every day by walking, biking or swimming can help, even if you start in small steps — literally or figuratively.
Quit bad habits. If you smoke, it’s time to quit! Smoking tobacco puts you at far more risk of developing heart disease. Talk to your doctor about how best to go about kicking this bad habit once and for all.
Unwind a little. Learn how to relax and unwind for a while every day. If this means turning off the TV or electronic devices, so be it. When we get stressed out, our bodies increase production of adrenaline, which can overwork the heart. De-stress by talking to friends, exercising, doing yoga, gardening or just sitting quietly looking out the window.
Get some Zs. Getting plenty of sleep is good for your heart and your whole self. Sleep allows our bodies to shut down and recover, which is good for all aspects of our health. One of the things I don’t do well is get enough sleep. As we sleep, our blood pressure and heart rate decrease, giving our hearts a break. Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep are more than twice as likely to die of heart disease.
Stay social. For better heart health, exercise with a friend. Having a good social support system helps you stay motivated to continue with your workout regimen and can lower your risk of heart disease. Studies have shown people who stay socially active have significantly lower blood pressure and other factors for heart disease. I can attest, however, that golf does not necessarily remove stress, but it’s still fun.
Al Brandenburg is a member of the Maricopa Senior Coalition.
Sources: AARP, NIA.NIH.gov; SeniorHealth365.com, LiveStrong.com
This story was first published in the September edition of InMaricopa magazine.