Need some inspiration? Check out these three easy-to-digest steps to improve your heart health.
#1 Pay attention to what’s on your plate
One simple way to get to a healthier weight and also keep your heart healthy is by taking a look at your diet — starting with cutting back on the amount of meat you eat. “If you're currently eating meat at most meals, I would start by trying to have meatless Mondays,” Dr. Nicole Harkin, a preventive cardiologist and founder of Whole Heart Cardiology in San Francisco, tells Yahoo Life. “Consider something like eggplant, cauliflower, tofu — all of which really sub well for meat products.”
#2 Get up and move
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of activity per week, that’s about 20 minutes per day. Take a walk, climb some stairs or mix in some weights. “While there's lots of evidence about aerobic activity and the benefit on heart health, there's increasing evidence that strength training is also really good for our hearts,” says Harkin. “Strength training can either be dynamic resistance training like weightlifting or isometric training, which is like a plank.”
#3 Just sleep on it
Harkin says when you’re sleep deprived or experience fragmented sleep, it can increase inflammation and create higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. To get the recommended seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, Harkin suggests that you set goals and stick to them. “Have some sort of sleep regularity, just like having a set bedtime routine for our kids,” she suggests. “Dim the lights a few hours before bed. Try not to have anything to eat two to three hours before you go to sleep. Also limit blue light before sleeping. All of these things can help our bodies set the stage for good quality sleep.”
DR. NICOLE HARKIN: One in four deaths in the United States is due to heart disease. The good news is there are some simple lifestyle changes that you can make that can be super powerful in preventing heart disease. Here are three things you can do right now to improve your heart health.
Tip number one, get moving. Exercise is one of the most powerful ways that we can lower our blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood through your heart.
At higher levels this puts excess strain on the heart and increases our risk of heart attack and stroke. There's increasing evidence that strength training is also really good for our hearts. Strength training can either be dynamic resistance training, like weight lifting or isometric training like a plank both of which have been shown to lower blood pressure.
Tip number two, swap in some heart healthy foods. Replacing animal protein with plant protein, particularly red meat is associated with a reduction in death from any cause as well as death from heart disease. This is because animal products tend to be very high in saturated fat and cholesterol and low in fiber.
This cholesterol gets transported through our bloodstream, and if there's too much of it it tends to get through into the blood vessel wall and get stuck. If that plan gets big enough, it can either block off the blood vessel entirely causing chest pain or it can rupture causing a heart attack. Start by trying to have meatless Monday or any other day of the week. Consider something like eggplant, cauliflower, tofu all of which sup really well for meat products with none of the saturated fat.
Tip number three, get better sleep. Sleep is a really essential time to allow the body to recuperate. Our heart rate drops, our blood pressure drops, and our breathing slows down. All of these help to reduce the stress on the heart and help us recover.
Research actually shows the problems with sleep, including sleep deprivation, obstructive sleep apnea, and interrupted sleep can have some very negative effects on the heart. Aim for about seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Dim the lights a few hours before bed. Try not to have anything to eat two to three hours before you go to sleep. Limit use of your phone, television, and computer.
All of these things can help our bodies set the stage for good quality sleep. Start slow if you need to. But working on these three simple lifestyle changes every week can dramatically reduce your risk for heart disease.