4 Easy Lifestyle Choices for a Healthier Heart

Posted on February 16, 2015

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Sport and Spine team wanted to give you some tips on how to keep your heart healthy and happy! No, we’re not talking about dating or marriage advice, although that kind of heart health is very important too!  We’re talking about your cardiovascular health!  The health of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.  There’s no one component of lifestyle that makes the difference, it’s a combination of what we like to think of the four pillars of health: activity, nutrition, sleep, and stress management!

1. Activity

  • Having proper activity for a healthier heart doesn’t mean you have to go out and run a marathon! Just getting out and walking more is an excellent way to improve your heart health!  Walking increases your heart rate to about 50-60% your max heart rate which is considered a moderate workout – that’s enough to keep your heart and it’s vessels in shape!
  • The goal is 30 minutes a day of moderate activity – at least walking.  Maybe you don’t have 30 minutes in one span, but three, 10 minute walks will do the same job!  Just making this one change in your day can improve your heart health tremendously!
  • For you weekend warriors, we know you workout hard 2-3 days a week, but on those other days, if you can at least get a 30 minute walk in, you’ll be setting your heart up for success!
  • If you do only have 10-15 minutes, a vigorous workout like a hard jog will get you the same effects as a 30 minute walk in less time!

2. Nutrition

  • As PTs we are not dieticians, but we do have education regarding nutrition.  Regarding heart health, if you can enjoy heart healthy food categories, you will treat your heart and vessels well!
  • Fruits: these are a healthy choice with some nutrients benefiting your heart rate and rhythm; careful of too much though as they can be high in sugar
  • Veggies: these are nutrient dense and low calorie; certain veggies, such as spinach, are packed with fiber and antioxidants which are great for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure
    • If you’ve had past heart issues and meds, consult your physician about veggies as they may want you to avoid some that are high in vitamin K.myplate
  • Grains: whole wheat grains such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal are best as they include lots of fiber, iron, and carbohydrates that are easier to use as energy
  • Proteins:  Legumes/beans, nuts, egg whites, and fish are excellent as they are high in protein, iron, and HDL cholesterol which is the good cholesterol that actually works to decrease the bad LDL cholesterol in your body!
    • Feel free to indulge in a good red meat from time to time, but the items listed above are best for your protein source!
  • Heart healthy fats/oils: olive oil and avocado are great oils for your heart, in moderate use of course.  They are packed with Omega 3 fatty acids that is important for your body’s energy utilization
    • Try to avoid oils with Omega 6 fatty acids as your body isn’t able to use those as well and they’re more likely to clog up your vessels
  • Dairy: lower fat choices are best with yogurts, milks, and cheeses

3. Sleep

  • This is one area of health that is usually overlooked! Even though you “feel fine” after 5-6 hours, that’s not enough.  Sleep is essential for our body to rest, heal, and recharge.  You should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night to allow for that full process to take place.  More sleep will ultimately give you more energy during the day to get your activity in and will allow your body enough time to rest and repair, both of which will help you your heart!

4. Stress management

  • When you’re stressed, you are triggering your sympathetic nervous system which will increase your heart rate and blood pressure.  While that’s a good thing with exercise, it’s not with stress.
  • Taking the time to learn your stressors and how you best cope with them will make a big difference in your heart health!

We hope you’ll consider all four health considerations above while working toward a healthier heart!  If you haven’t done the best in the past, don’t worry, changes now can go a long way toward improving your heart health! Not only will the above improve your heart health, but they’ll help you feel better and more energetic.  Who doesn’t want that!  We hope you all can use the tips above to work toward a happier, healthier heart and life!

Happy heart health!

–  Dane Happeny, PT, DPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy

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