We all know that a healthy heart is one of the cornerstones of a healthy body. Still, it can be difficult to know what steps you should take to begin your heart health journey. The good news is a few lifestyle tweaks can significantly improve the condition of your ticker. Keep reading to learn about 10 lifestyle changes you can make to improve your cardiovascular health.
1. Make Exercise Fun
Exercise is important for many reasons, but it’s essential for your heart health. Luckily, you don’t need to spend hours in the gym to reap the heart-healthy benefits of moving.
The key is to choose movement opportunities that don’t seem like a chore. Pick an activity you find pleasurable, like walking the dog, paddleboarding,as suggested by towerpaddleboards.com, or tennis, then dedicate 30 minutes a day to that activity. The more you enjoy yourself, the easier it will be to make exercise a habit.
2. Focus on Adding Healthy Food
Often, when someone tells us to eat healthily, we groan and think of all the food we have to give up. Fortunately, you don’t need to throw out all your favorite snacks to improve your heart health. (Some, maybe, but probably not all of them.)
Instead, focus on adding a few more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats to your plate throughout the week. Even adding some carrot sticks to your lunchtime sandwich and chips will make a difference. Your heart will thank you, and you might discover a few healthy foods you love in the process.
3. Manage Your Stress
From looming work deadlines to busy family schedules, modern life is full of stressors. Long-term stress can raise your blood pressure, increasing your risk of developing other heart conditions.
Thankfully, managing stress can be as simple as taking a few minutes for yourself every day. That could look like curling up with a good book, meditating, or taking a quick walk to get some fresh air. This small step can lead to improvements in both your cardiovascular and mental health.
4. Have a Bite of Chocolate
It turns out that not all sweets are bad for us. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, and studies show it reduces blood pressure.
Before you run to the candy store, though, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a chocolate bar. When selecting chocolate, look for bars with 70% cocoa content or higher. Chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa will have less sugar and more antioxidants.
5. Quit Smoking
Smoking doesn’t just harm your lungs, it’s also terrible for your heart. The nicotine in cigarettes increases your blood pressure and heart rate and reduces oxygen to the heart.
Kicking your smoking habit is one of the best actions you can take to improve your cardiovascular health, but it’s not necessarily easy. Talk with your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy and avoid situations where you often used to smoke. Over time, your cravings will begin to ease, and you’ll see drastic improvements in your health.
6. Lose Excess Weight
Weight loss has more benefits than looking good for swimsuit season. Obesity puts added pressure on your heart, increasing your risk of heart disease. Losing even a moderate amount of weight can dramatically impact your cardiovascular health.
When trying to lose weight, don’t attempt to lose too much too fast. Aiming for one to two pounds per week is a healthy and sustainable goal.
7. Limit the Booze
Overindulging in cocktails can leave you with more than just a hangover. Alcohol negatively impacts your heart by causing abnormal heart rhythms and increasing blood pressure. Limiting your intake of alcoholic beverages — or skipping them entirely — will do your heart good.
Don’t fret; fun alternatives to alcohol do exist. Instead of reaching for the tequila, try a new mocktail recipe or check out your local kombucha bar.
8. Get Some More Zzzs
Those late-night Netflix binges aren’t doing your heart any favors. Poor sleep hygiene can cause high blood pressure and raises your risk of heart attack.
Sleep gives your heart a chance to slow down. While you sleep, your heart rate and blood pressure drop, allowing your heart some much-needed rest. If you’re struggling to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, try turning off your electronics. Wind down with a book instead of your phone or the television.
9. Cuddle Your Pet
There’s a reason that cuddling your dog or cat feels good. Along with increasing oxytocin in both you and your pet, cuddling your critter also helps lower your blood pressure and reduces stress.
Don’t have a pet? Volunteer at your local Humane Society chapter and try keeping some furry friends company while they wait for their forever home. (Just don’t be surprised if that ends up being yours!)
10. Visit Your Doctor
Conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes put you at risk for heart disease. If you skip your annual checkup, you may not realize you have one of these conditions, and you won’t seek the treatment you need.
If you have a health issue that puts your heart at risk, your doctor may prescribe medications to help. Make sure you take your medicine as prescribed and ask questions to better understand your diagnosis.
Cardiovascular health is vital for your overall well-being. By making the 10 lifestyle changes outlined above, you’ll be able to keep your heart ticking strongly for years to come.