The heart is the engine that drives the body. When it’s functioning properly, we experience energy and vitality.
We know that with daily exercise and proper nutrition, we give ourselves the best chance of living a longer, more vibrant life.
However, when our heart health isn’t optimal, it can significantly impact our daily lives and leave us feeling tired, sluggish, and generally unwell.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, which means it’s important to understand how to take care of your heart to support your overall health and well-being.
In this article, we’ll explore ways in which you can help your heart feel its best and, in turn, improve your energy levels, boost your vitality, or simply maintain good health.
1. Get Enough High-Quality Sleep
The amount of sleep you get can impact every area of your health. For your heart though, a lack of sufficient sleep can be devastating.
In fact, if you miss only a couple of hours of sleep on a regular basis, the sleep debt can impact your heart in the long run. Studies have shown, for example, that adults over age 45 who get less than six hours of sleep on a nightly basis double their chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
When you get enough sleep, however, your body is able to thoroughly engage your sympathetic nervous system during the NREM stage of sleep. This nervous system engagement can reduce your blood pressure and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Getting quality sleep each night is a habit that you must build over time. To start getting better-quality sleep more consistently, you can:
- Exercise on a regular basis
- Establish a bedtime routine
- Reduce caffeine intake
- Get natural light early in the day
- Stop using electronics at least one hour before bed
2. Limit Intake of Trans and Saturated Fats
Aim to create consistent eating patterns that help protect your heart health. One of the most effective ways to protect your heart health is by reducing trans and saturated fats in your diet.
Trans and saturated fats harm your heart by building up in your blood vessels. If too much of these fats build up inside your body, your risk of having a heart attack or stroke increases.
What’s especially dangerous is that trans and saturated fats are found in a seemingly endless number of foods in the standard American diet (hello, processed foods). Avoiding high levels of these fats requires that you make a conscious effort and research the foods you eat.
You can also make sure you focus on adding healthy fats to your diet, which are found in foods such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil.
3. Eat More Omega 3s
If you want to eat to support your heart health, include Omega 3s in your diet on a weekly basis.
In addition to a variety of other health benefits, Omega 3s reduce inflammation in the body. Omega 3s also reduce blood pressure, decrease your risk of heart failure and stroke, and aid in reducing irregular heartbeats.
To get enough Omega 3s in your diet, you may want to consider having a serving of fish twice a week since most fish contain high levels of Omega 3s. If you’re not a fan of fish, you can get Omega 3s from plant sources such as flaxseed, vegetable oils, and nuts.
4. Lower Your LDL Cholesterol
LDL Cholesterol is commonly referred to as the “bad” kind of cholesterol among healthcare providers. Like trans and saturated fats, LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, which contributes to heart disease. By reducing this kind of cholesterol in your body, you can decrease your risk of heart disease.
This is not to be confused with the healthy kind of cholesterol your body needs. To improve your heart health, look for ways to increase good cholesterol while decreasing the bad.
5. Get in a Daily Workout
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your overall health, but it’s essential if you want to protect your heart for years to come.
Consistent exercise can lower your risk for heart disease, but you have a variety of exercise options to choose from:
- The American Heart Association recommends aerobic exercise to improve heart health.
- However, studies have shown that anaerobic exercise also reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Whether you prefer aerobic or anaerobic activity, don’t stop exploring the options you have available to you to improve your heart health through exercise.
6. Stand Up More
You probably already know that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for your health, but making a conscious effort to stand up throughout the day may be easier said than done.
Even if you exercise every day, sitting frequently at your job will still take a toll on your health. A half-hour of exercise doesn’t make up for 23 hours of sitting still. Unless you find more ways to move during the day, you’ll still have the same health risks as individuals living more sedentary lifestyles.
Here are a few ways you can stand more during the day:
- Get a standing desk: With a standing desk, work doesn’t have to stop just because you’re standing.
- Set a timer: Take frequent breaks to get up and walk around. If you have a standing desk, start by setting a timer to stand for 10 to 15 minutes every hour.
- Move work items away from your desk: Keep your printer or other office supplies in another room to increase the time you spend walking around.
- Get a treadmill in your living room: Keep a treadmill in your living room and commit to walking on it while watching TV. Alternatively, you can get a treadmill to go under your standing desk.
7. Reduce Stress
Chronic stress will take a toll on your heart. Mental, physical, and emotional stress will all trigger responses in your body that can damage it in the long term.
If you lead a busy lifestyle or frequently find yourself frazzled, managing stress should be a top priority for you.
Stress management can be fun and effective when you put conscious effort into it. Meditation, Thai massages, forest therapy, and playing sports are only a few of the many available options for managing stress effectively.
8. Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
Be conscious of how much alcohol you’re consuming in order to take care of your heart health. Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to high levels of fat in the blood, which contributes to heart attacks and strokes.
The CDC recommends no more than two drinks per day for men, or 1 drink a day for women on days when alcohol is consumed.
If you’re looking to cut back on drinking alcohol, here are some tips:
- Decide how many drinks you’ll have ahead of time.
- Get an accountability partner (for example, a health or sobriety coach).
- Leverage technology, such as a habit tracker, to track your behavior.
- Find some fun mocktail recipes to try.
The Bottom Line
Now that you’re equipped with some ways to boost your heart health, you’ll know which types of habits can help your body function at its best.
However, adopting these habits isn’t always easy, and it can be helpful to have someone guide you through the process. If you need support finding strategies that work for you or making changes to live a healthier life, consider meeting with an Arootah health coach. Our coaches can empower you to make the changes you need to put your health first.