Incorporating Heart Healthy Habits in Life

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According to the American Heart Association, heart disease remains the No. 1 global cause of death with 17.3 million deaths each year. That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030.

The Heart Foundation suggests that cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined and coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing nearly 380,000 people annually.

Many of us are well aware of these facts about heart diseases but still we do so little for the health of our tickers, which keep working grudgingly for us despite being subjected to our neglect. Caring for our tickers requires attention to many aspects of our life. By adopting the following heart healthy habits, we can add years to life besides staving off financial burden.

Heart healthy habits:

Exercise regularly – Our heart is a muscle that needs to be worked regularly to stay strong and healthy. Though any amount of exercise is better than no exercise, we must aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., jogging, running) or a combination of both every week.

In addition, we need muscle strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest shoulders, and arms) on 2 or more days a week.

Eat healthy – We must choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. In addition, we must eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, fish (preferably oily fish at least twice per week), nuts, legumes and seeds and try eating some meals without meat. Further, one should limit sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat. If one chooses to eat meat, one should select the leanest cuts available.

Quit smoking – Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and causes one of every three deaths from CVD. The risk of CVD increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day as well as the numbers of years they were smoked. Smoking cigarettes with lower levels of tar or nicotine does not reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Avoid second hand smoke – People are more likely to develop heart disease if exposed to second-hand smoke at home or work. According to the American Heart Association, exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to about 34,000 premature heart disease deaths and 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year. This is because the chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke promote the development of plaque buildup in the arteries.

Practice dental hygiene – It has been found that bacteria in the mouth, involved in the development of gum disease, can move into the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. These changes may, in turn, increase our risk of heart disease and stroke.

Have regular and adequate sleep daily – A 2011 European Heart Journal review of 15 medical studies involving almost 475,000 people found that short sleepers had a 48% increased risk of developing or dying from coronary heart disease (CHD) in a seven to 25-year follow-up period. Interestingly, long sleepers, those who averaged nine or more hours a night, also showed a 38% increased risk of developing or dying from CHD. Lack of sleep doesn’t necessarily cause heart disease but it really increases the risk factors for heart disease.

Simple habit changing tips:

Substituting healthy habits for unhealthy ones rewards us with good health and better quality of life. Still many find it difficult to incorporate healthy habits in their life as sooner or later they revert back to unhealthy lifestyle, thereby losing all the beneficial effects they had. Like any other health habit, heart healthy habits need to be followed throughout life.

The following tips will help us to incorporate heart healthy habits in life:

• One has to make a decision and do conscious efforts to stick to the commitment.
• One has to discover triggers and obstacles that need to be overcome otherwise one will set oneself up for failure.
• One should devise a plan and review it from time to time.
• One should employ visualizations and affirmations, relating to habits to be changed because they program the subconscious with the right mindset for establishing a new habit.
• By enlisting the support of family and friends, we can steer away the temptation that may thwart our efforts.
• One should find ways to reward oneself because they make us feel good, even if it’s just temporarily. They will help keeping us motivated to stay on the track.

The bottom line:

Our awareness about the heart disease as number one cause of death worldwide has risen. Nevertheless, many still lack the adequate knowledge of those heart healthy habits that need to be incorporated to keep our ticker strong. What’s more, though many do make efforts to adopt them, they fail to continue with them and are thus unable to derive benefits from them.