Taking Care of Your Most Precious Organ: 10 Tips for Heart Health

Taking Care of Your Most Precious Organ: 10 Tips for Heart Health

Heart health is something that many of us take for granted. After all, our hearts (literally) beat for us day after day, and we don’t even think about it. But it doesn't always have to be this way.
Learning how to take care of your heart doesn't have to be complicated—it just requires a few thoughtful changes to your lifestyle. A few simple steps can easily be incorporated into your daily routine, and they can make a big difference in protecting the health and function of your most precious organ: your heart.
Are you ready to start looking after your ticker? Let's look at 10 tips for improving heart health.

1.Understand Your Risk Factors :

Your heart is the most precious organ in your body, and it's important to take care of it. To do so, it helps to understand your risk factors for heart disease—which can vary from genetic predispositions to lifestyle choices.
The most common risk factors include:
High blood pressure – Blood pressure levels over 140/90 mm Hg are considered high and can increase your risk for heart disease.
Smoking – Smoking increases the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood, which reduces the amount of oxygen that your heart receives. It also increases the buildup of plaque in your arteries, raising your risk of a stroke or heart attack.
Poor diet – Eating too much salt, saturatedfat, and sugar can increase your risk for high blood pressure or diabetes, both of which are major contributors to heart disease.
Low activity level – Making exercise a regular part of your routine helps keep your cholesterol levels low and reduce the risks associated with heart disease.
Stress – High levels of stress can put additional strain on your body and can lead to increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels–both bad news for your ticker.
By being aware of these risk factors, you can take steps to reduce them and make sure that you're taking good care of your most precious organ: Your heart!

2.Prioritize Healthy Eating :

Making healthy choices in your diet is key for overall heart health. Start by making small changes, such as adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, eating whole-grain products and replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Doing these simple things can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
It's also important to limit added sugar intake due to its connection with obesity, high blood pressure and inflammation—all of which can lead to heart problems. You should also reduce processed foods as much as possible and opt for lean proteins such as fish, poultry, legumes and nuts instead. Finally, stay away from trans fats and check the labels of packaged foods to make sure they're free of hydrogenated oils.
By making wiser nutritional choices, you can take care of your heart—and ultimately take better care of yourself. Eating right doesn't have to be boring or tasteless either; there are plenty of delicious recipes out there that are packed with nutritious ingredients that are easy to incorporate into a balanced diet.

3.Monitor Your Blood Pressure and Sugar :

Monitoring your blood pressure and sugar levels may seem daunting, but it's essential for your heart health. High blood pressure—also known as hypertension—and high blood sugar puts more strain and stress on the heart, which over time can lead to more serious health conditions.

Monitoring Blood Pressure :

Monitoring blood pressure can be done in a few ways. The simplest way is to get your blood pressure checked regularly by a physician or nurse. You can also buy a blood pressure monitor and check it yourself. Additionally, some apps offer pulse monitoring services that allow you to track your progress over time, making it easier for you to make lifestyle changes if needed.

Monitoring Blood Sugar :

Likewise, monitoring your blood sugar is also important. You should aim for a fasting glucose level between 60-99mg/dl and an A1c of 6%. You can measure your glucose level at home with a home glucometer or get tested at the doctor's office during regular check-ups. It's important to keep track of the numbers over time, so you can take action if any abnormalities are detected early on.
By taking regular measurements throughout the month and checking in with your healthcare practitioner regularly, you'll have an accurate understanding of how your heart is doing and what changes need to be made, if any.

4.Get Regular Physical Activity :

When it comes to taking care of your heart, getting regular physical activity is key. Even moderate amounts of exercise can help reduce your risk for heart disease. You don't have to go all out—you can start small and work your way up.

Benefits of Exercise :

Physical activity has lots of health benefits beyond keeping your heart healthy. It can help you:
- Feel better and more energized
- Lose weight and increase muscle strength
- Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
- Sleep better
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Improve circulation
- Improve overall quality of life

Get Started :

You don't have to train for a marathon or lift weights like a champion bodybuilder to reap these benefits—any form of exercise that raises your heart rate will do. Start by moving for 30 minutes a day. Try walking around the block or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work. If you're feeling more ambitious, find an activity you enjoy such as cycling, swimming, or running that fits into your lifestyle. For best results, aim for 150 minutes (2.5 hours) each week at moderate intensity (like a brisk walk).

5.Take Steps to Reduce Stress :

One thing you may not have considered before is the impact of stress on your heart health. It can cause a rise in blood pressure and pumps your body full of stress hormones, which increases your risk for coronary artery disease.
So how do you reduce this risk? By taking steps to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Here are a few tips:
Get Enough Rest :
Make sure you are getting enough sleep at night—it's just as important for your heart's health as exercising during the day. When you're well-rested, it helps keep stress hormones at bay, so aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Eat Healthy Foods :
Eating foods that are high in antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is associated with increased risk for heart diseases. And eating whole foods that are full of nutrients can be comforting and calming in times when you feel stressed or overwhelmed.
By taking active steps to reduce stress, you'll be able to protect one of your most precious organs—your heart—and ensure that it keeps ticking away happily for years to come!

6.Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol Consumption :

Taking care of your heart means quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol consumption. Not only do cigarettes and alcohol put you at risk for heart disease and stroke, but also, they can lead to an increased risk of blood clots, high blood pressure, and damage to the blood vessels that can lead to coronary artery disease.
If you're not able to quit smoking or drinking altogether, try these strategies:
Set limits for yourself. Try to limit yourself to one or two drinks in a day, and cut back on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day.
Introduce alternative habits into your life. Instead of smoking a cigarette or having a drink when you feel stressed or anxious, take a walk or find another healthy coping mechanism instead.
Talk to your doctor about quitting aids such as nicotine patches or medications like Chantix® to help quit smoking if necessary.
Take advantage of community resources like Alcoholics Anonymous if needed to help cut back on alcohol consumption.
Making even small changes in your lifestyle can make a big difference in terms of overall heart health—so don't hesitate to take control today!

7.Manage Your Cholesterol Levels :

Your cholesterol levels play a big role in your heart health. High cholesterol can damage your arteries, so understanding and managing it is key to keeping your heart in good shape.
So what is cholesterol, really? It's a type of fat found in your blood that helps build cell walls and hormones. There are two types of cholesterol:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): This type of cholesterol often called “bad cholesterol” because it contributes to plaque buildup in your arteries.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL): Also known as “good cholesterol,” HDL helps remove LDL from the arteries and transports it to the liver where it’s broken down and removed from the body.
In order to keep your cholesterol levels in check, you need to get tested regularly so you know where you stand on both types of cholesterol. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults over the age 20 get their cholesterol checked every four to six years — or more frequent if recommended by a healthcare provider — and make changes to their diet, lifestyle and medication if necessary to stay on target with their numbers.

8.Know the Signs of a Heart Attack or Stroke :

Knowing the signs of a heart attack or stroke could literally save your life. Unfortunately, they can be hard to recognize, because they don't always look like what you might expect.

Signs of a heart attack :

The most common sign is chest pain, but the pain is usually not intense or crippling. Other warning signals may include upper body discomfort in the jaw, neck or arms; shortness of breath; nausea; lightheadedness; and a cold sweat.

Signs of a stroke :

Strokes can cause sudden numbness in one side of the face and one side of the body; dizziness, a severe headache that comes on suddenly; confusion and trouble understanding speech; difficulty walking; vision problems in one eye; and difficulty talking. If any of these symptoms occur, it's important to call 911 immediately.
If you suspect you're having a heart attack or stroke, minutes matter! Knowing these warning signs could potentially help save your life—so make sure to share this vital information with your friends and family too!

9.Ask Your Doctor About Tests and Screenings :

It's great that you're taking your heart health into your own hands, but let's not forget the importance of a doctor's opinion. Ask your healthcare provider which tests and screenings they recommend for you.
These may include:
- Blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.
- A stress test that checks how well the heart works during physical activity.
- An electrocardiogram (EKG) or cardiac catheterization to see if blood vessels are blocked or narrowed.
- A blood test to check for iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia and cause the heart to become weakened.
- An echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to create an image of the heart.
- A coronary calcium scan, which can identify calcium deposits in the arteries that increase risk of a heart attack.
Not only will these tests provide you with valuable insight into your own health, they'll also help you have informed conversations with your healthcare provider about additional steps you can take to build an even healthier lifestyle.

10.Make Sure You Are Up to Date on Vaccines :

Did you know that keeping up with your vaccinations can help protect your heart health? Vaccines are an important tool in preventing infections, and infections can lead to inflammation, a condition linked to heart disease.
Influenza :
Influenza, or the flu, is a serious illness that can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Make sure you get an annual influenza vaccine to stay protected against the virus.
Pneumococcal disease :
Pneumococcal disease is another type of infection that can put you at risk for heart disease. This vaccine protects you against several serious illnesses like pneumonia and meningitis. The pneumococcal vaccine is usually given as a single dose and can last up to five years.
Keep all other vaccinations up to date :
Staying current on other vaccines like tetanus, diphtheria, mumps, rubella, chickenpox (varicella), and human papillomavirus (HPV) can also help protect your heart health. Note that some vaccines may need a booster after a certain amount of time rather than just one dose—consult with your healthcare provider about what vaccines you need and when you should get them.