Every 34 seconds someone in the United States dies from heart disease. That is 2,500 people a day! In my opinion there is not enough attention placed on the dangers of heart disease. Most of us are concerned about breast, prostate and skin cancer but these diseases kill far less people than heart disease. So why aren’t we more worried? Heart disease kills more people than any other condition. That is a fact.
This post is going to show you 13 ways that you can live, eat and work for a healthy heart. Each one of these tips is a powerful way to reduce your risk of a heart attack and help you improve the strength of your ticker. I hope that some of you take these tips to heart.
13 ways to live, eat and work for a healthier heart
1. Get out and move your body
Exercise is without a doubt the best thing you can do for your heart. This is a scientifically proven fact that no one can debate. It is vital that you get at least 20 minutes of exercise everyday if you want to have a healthy and fit heart.
You see, the heart is a muscle. And like any other muscle it needs to be exercised. If you don’t work out your biceps they soon go soggy and old and you run a greater risk of damaging or tearing them. The same is true of the heart. If you don’t get it pumping on a regular basis you are more likely to suffer a heart attack or some other form of heart disease.
Start by walking. Everyone can do this. You can park your car 20 minutes away from the office and walk the distance each day. That way it becomes part of your routine and is more difficult to avoid. Or, if you want to get really fit and healthy you can start jogging, doing martial arts, swimming or going to the gym. All of these things are a fantastic way to help your heart.
2. Start tackling your stress
We all get stressed. It is unavoidable. But if you do not start dealing with your stress it could wind up causing you some pretty serious problems. Research has shown that people who are highly stressed run a greater risk of heart attacks and coronary artery disease.
Scientists aren’t actually sure why stress causes heart problems. They know there is a link but they aren’t sure what it is. Some people say that stress itself is a direct cause for heart attacks while others say that stress makes other factors like cholesterol or blood pressure worse. Whatever the hard science says, it is clear that there is a link between stress and increase heart disease.
I have written many articles on stress as it is something I am constantly trying to deal with myself. The things that have helped me the most include meditation, exercise and overcoming procrastination. But these methods might not work for you. It is important that you learn how to deal with stress in your own way. It could be the best thing you ever do for your health.
3. Stop smoking right now
I am going to speak honestly here. I hope I offend some people. Smoking is a filthy habit. I feel really sorry for smokers as they are willingly and knowingly inhaling poison – poison they know is killing them. This is not the 1920’s. We know that smoking causes cancer and heart disease. So if you are a smoker and you are reading this post then stop right now because all the tips in the world are going to be 100% ineffective if you keep smoking cigarettes.
Cigarettes contain over 4,800 dangerous chemicals. Can you imagine going into your chemical cabinet in the basement and sniffing 4,800 of them? You just wouldn’t do it. So why keep smoking cigarettes? Now, I am sorry for sounding so judgmental and harsh but it is because I care. I don’t want you to die an agonizing and painfully slow death of lung cancer. I don’t want you to die of a heart attack before you get to say goodbye to your children. I want you to live a long and happy life. So I am saying it like it is.
There is an upside. The upside is this: If you are a smoker you have an advantage over everyone else. You have the power to make one change that will massively improve your heart’s health. All you have to do is quit smoking. If you quit smoking today you will add years on to your life. Literally… years. No other “healthy heart tip” is as powerful as this one.
4. Make your diet mostly fruits and vegetables
Many years ago when I was in high school I read a book that talked about the advantages of eating a diet mostly based around fruits and vegetables. In that book the author spoke about all the people and cultures throughout history who did this and all the benefits that they enjoyed. And now science is backing up this information by telling us that fruits and vegetables help keep a healthy heart.
In today’s modern world we eat a lot of processed foods. Chips, candy, soda, take out, etc. All of these foods are full of sugar, salt and a thousand types of preservatives all of which are bad for your ticker. It is time to switch to a natural diet made of mostly fruits and vegetables. This will help you avoid heart disease and other illnesses like cancer and diabetes.
It is not as hard as it sounds. Think about all the beautiful things you can make from fruits and vegetables – potato curries, fruits salads, Caesar salads, roast vegetables, Asian stir fry and so much more. And the best thing is that you always feel amazing after eating them. No feelings of heaviness of bloating.
5. Lose weight – especially fat on your stomach
There is a massive campaign going on in Australia at the moment which is trying to educate people on how dangerous it is to be fat. In particular, the commercials are telling us that new science has shown that belly fat in particular can dramatically increase your chances of having a heart attack. Take a look:
The problem – it is impossible to lose weight off your belly alone. It is called ‘spot reduction‘ and it is a weight loss myth as old as religion. If you want to lose fat off your belly you need to get out there and burn fat off your whole body. Lifting weights and high intensity cardio are two of the best ways to do this.
6. Sleep in a completely silent room
When you go to bed can you hear cars racing down your street, dogs barking or possums scratching? Is your bedroom just as noisy as anywhere else in your house? Well science says this is not good. Not good at all.
A recent edition of New Scientist magazine published results from a recent study that showed that a noisy bedroom can actually lead to heart disease. They believe that all the noises that you hear while you are sleeping cause you to wake up a little bit and this causes your body a lot of stress.
The motto? Make sure your room is dead quiet. If you live in a noisy area or in the city it is a good idea to get some earplugs or figure out some other way to minimize the noise. It is an small thing to do but it will have a big impact on your heart’s health.
7. Brush your teeth
Hang on a second! Isn’t this article about a healthy heart? Yes it is. And brushing your teeth is one of the most important and vital aspects of keeping a healthy heart. What a world we live in!
Scientists now know that poor dental hygiene is one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting heart disease. And the logic is simple; if you don’t brush your teeth you allow bacteria and other germs to build up in your mouth. These germs can then enter into your blood stream through a cut gum and cause your heart some problems.
Dentists recommend brushing your teeth in the morning and the evening. You may also benefit from rinsing with some alcohol mouth wash. What ever you do the message is clear – don’t go to bed without brushing your teeth if you want to live to a ripe old age.
8. Cut out salt
We all know that salt is bad. And there is scientific proof. Scientists at Harvard University have now shown us that increased sodium equals increased risk of heart disease. If you want to live a long life you need to drastically reduce the amount of salt that you consume.
The problem is that in the USA and other western countries salt is hidden in almost everything we eat. We can easily avoid adding extra salt at the table but it is not so easy to avoid salt in other foods that we consume because we have no idea that it is there in the first place!
The main culprits are snacks like biscuits, chips and ready made meals but you will also find salt in most processed, man-made foods. Next time you are out for a Chinese meal pay attention to just how salty the food is. You might be surprised!
9. Start reading labels
In most countries it is now against the law to sell a food product without disclosing the nutritional information on the back. This is wonderful news for people who are a little bit heart health conscious because it means you can easily ascertain what is in your food and whether it is bad for your heart.
If you are at risk of a heart attack (family history, overweight, etc.) you need to get into the habit of reading food labels whenever you go shopping. Look for the amount of salt (sodium) in the food and make sure it is low in saturated fat and sugar.
The sad thing is that it is really difficult nowadays to find foods that are good for the heart. Even foods with the Heart Foundation tick are not low in salt and fat. They are just better alternatives. One needs to be quite vigilant to find a food that is good for your heart.
10. Start using olive oil instead of other dressings
Olive oil is said to be extremely good for helping to reduce cancer and heart disease. And Extra Virgin Olive oil is said to be even better. Most experts recommend using extra virgin olive oil for your cooking and all your dressings.
So why is olive oil so good? A recent study in Greece showed that relying on olive oil alone to lower your risk of coronary heart disease had great benefits. They tested over 1000 people – some of them with family histories, some of them were healthy, some not healthy. They made some people start exercising, stop smoking, etc. and it was found that increasing the amount of olive oil was the single best thing for improving heart health. It is also known as a super food for combating bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.
It is now understood that cooking olive oil damages some of its health properties so it is a good idea to add it to pasta, sauce and dressings after the cooking has been done. I could go on about the benefits of olive oil forever but I think you get the idea. If you want to learn more about the health benefits of olive oil check out this page.
11. Know the difference between good and bad cholesterol
Okay so here is a quick science lesson for you. Not all cholesterol is bad. There are two types of cholesterol – one is good for you, one is bad for you.
Good cholesterol is called HDL which stands for high density lipoprotein. Bad cholesterol is called LDL and stands for low density lipoprotein. HDL, good. LDL, bad. The reason LDL is bad is because it builds up on the arterial wall and eventually causes them to block up. HDL, on the other hand, cleans up the LDL and helps transport it to the liver where it is processed and dealt with. So the more HDL you have the less likely you are to suffer a heart attack or heart disease.
There is a problem though. Science has not found any evidence that food increases HDL over the long term. It is said that fatty fish and some oils have heart benefits but they do not increase HDL naturally. Therefore we cannot rely too much on adding HDL foods and instead have to focus on lower LDL foods.
12. Make new habits
It occurred to me recently that a lot of the bad things that we do as humans is because of habits. We build up all these habits that are harmful to our health and harmful to those around us. Many of the causes of heart disease could be averted by changing our habits and replacing them with new, healthier habits.
Take diet for example. We are accustomed to grabbing a Coke and some chips if we want a snack. But if we chose some unsalted walnuts or some wholegrain bread dipped in olive oil instead we might be a lot healthier. Exercise is also another habit that you create. You need to get in to the habit of doing something every single day without fail. That way you create a healthy habit and it becomes easier to perform.
Habits are hard to break but easy to create. Instead of going cold turkey try and replace some old and unhealthy habits with something new and heart-friendly. Instead of watching TV after work go for a walk. Instead of grabbing a Coke grab some sparkling water. After a while it will become second nature.
13. Meditate regularly
As you know I am a big fan of meditation. I have been pretending to be a meditator for many years now and have had a few glimpses of how helpful it can be in almost every area of my life. But now science is backing me up! It turns out the regular meditation is good for the heart.
There is evidence that points to the fact that regular sessions of meditation reduce blood pressure and can actually decrease the amount of fatty acid in the system. This means you are less likely to die of a heart attack or develop heart disease, even if you have a family history.
So how do you meditate? I have written some in depth articles here as there are many different styles and forms. However, all you need to do to reap the health benefits is sit down, relax and start concentrating on your breath. 20 minutes of this everyday will go a long way to increasing your lifespan and your overall well being.
The heart is a muscle we rely on all day, everyday, but it is one that we seldom remember to take care of. We can’t flex it in a mirror or show it off under a tight T-shirt and as such it is never foremost in our mind. But here is the thing: it is not hard to take care of the heart! All it takes is a bit of effort and some good knowledge and you can increase your lifespan and reduce the risk of heart attack.
If anyone else has some tips or a good story about heart health I would love to hear them! Please leave a comment and let us know.