Love Your Heart This Month
Valentine’s Day may be on the horizon, but this month there’s also a big reminder to love something else: yourself and your heart health. National Heart Month just got underway, and after the likely excesses of the holiday season, it’s as good a time as any to make a few tweaks to your diet and exercise plan to keep your heart health on track this month – and beyond.
Aerobic Exercise to Get Heart Pumping
Working out with free weights, resistance bands and even bodyweight are excellent ways to build muscle and core strength as part of an overall fitness program. But aerobic exercise is critical for getting the heart rate up, burning calories and improving overall health. Activities like biking, running, high intensity interval training classes or other workouts that involve periods of intense activity will help lower blood pressure, boost HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Doctors recommend 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, five days a week to maintain health. If you aren’t used to this amount of activity, at first that can seem daunting, but variety is the key. Find different aerobic classes at your local gym (if it’s currently open) or stream at home to try different classes and workouts and figure out what suits you best. Swimming and walking are also excellent, low impact aerobic activities if you have any joint issues or injuries.
Eat Well for a Healthier Heart
Diet alone won’t beat a serious heart condition, but for most people who want to protect and boost their heart health, smart food choices can certainly help. Makes sure to eat a balanced diet of leafy green vegetables like kale, collard greens and spinach, along with fish high in omega3 fatty acids such as salmon a couple of times a week. Beans, legumes and vegetables are also heart healthy along with nuts, fresh fruit and skinless poultry. The DASH diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – is a good starting point for heart-healthy eating that focuses on whole grains, vegetables and lean proteins. Find out more at www.heart.org.
Simple Lifestyle Choices Can Help
Even people who live a healthy lifestyle, eat well and exercise at home or at their gym, should be conscious of making smart choices for heart health and to protect against thing like hypertension and diabetes. Diet and exercise will impact heart health dramatically, but so too will making good lifestyle choices. If you smoke, seek help to quit as it’s a major contributor to heart disease. Get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours per night for most adults) and only drink alcohol in moderation – no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women. Look for drinks too that promote better heart health, such as red wine which contains antioxidants that can help prevent coronary heart disease.