8 Ways to Take Charge of Your Heart Health Right Now
January 31, 2020 at 20:31 by Shannon Remy
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Let's face it, we all need to take charge of our own health—especially when it comes to our hearts. While the risk of developing heart disease begins to increase around ages 45 in men and 55 in women, the choices we make at every age have real consequences. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States1, but that doesn't mean it's inevitable for you. From a choosing a healthy diet, to staying active and tackling stress, here are eight simple ways you can take charge of your heart health right now.
1. Butt out.
This one's a no-brainer. One of the most important things you can do for your heart is to quit smoking tobacco. (And yes, that includes vaping.) Not only are the chemicals in most tobacco products toxic to your lungs, heart and blood vessels, but smoking also zaps the oxygen from your blood. This can lead to high blood pressure because your heart has to work overtime to get enough oxygen to your body and brain. And let's not forget second-hand smoke. It's been linked to all kinds of respiratory issues, including an increased risk of lung cancer.2 (Parents, think long and hard about that before you smoke around your kids.)
The good news: it's never too late to quit. According to the Mayo Clinic, after a year without cigarettes, your risk of heart disease drops to about half that of a smoker.3 So, if you want your heart (not to mention your friends and family) to thank you up, down and sideways, quit today, like right now.
2. Keep it moving.
Regular physical activity is your heart's best friend. Most experts recommend 30-60 minutes a day, but don't worry, that doesn't mean training for a marathon or going nuts at the gym everyday. You can get your sweat on by walking your dog, gardening, chasing your kids around the yard or even vacuuming! It all counts, just make sure you do it on the regular. Plus, exercise can help prevent things like excess weight, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes from creeping up on you.
3. Eat smart.
A heart-smart diet can not only help prevent cardiovascular disease, it can also improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and stave off the muffin top. Use the following as a guide for making heart-healthy choices:
Vegetables and fruits
Beans or other legumes
Wild-caught fatty fish
Smarts fats like avocado, coconut and olive oils
Simple, processed carbs
Trans fats (think fried fast food and processed junk like chips, cookies, etc.)
4. Slim down.
Easier said than done, I know, but maintaining a heathy weight is another way to be kind to your heart. One way to see if you're rocking a healthy weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI) to make sure your percentage of body fat isn’t too high. Click here for a link to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) adult BMI calculator. For adults 18-65 year old, a BMI of 25.0 or more is considered overweight; a healthy range is 18.5 to 24.9.
Measuring your waist circumference is another way to determine if you're in the healthy range. According to the Mayo Clinic, you have an increased risk of heart disease if your waist circumference is greater than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women.
The good news: losing even a relatively small amount of weight (like just 3% to 5%) can help reduce triglycerides and glucose levels. So, lighten your load if you want to be kind to your heart and keep feeling your best.
5. Get your vitamin Zzzzzz's.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. People who don't get that much have a higher risk for obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression. Yikes! Time to make sleep a priority. Click here to check out 4 Tips for a Better Night's Sleep.
6. Chill out.
Coping with stress in unhealthy ways—overeating (especially junk), boozing it up or smoking—does not make your heart a happy camper. Consider finding an alternative way to take the edge off like exercise, meditation or a good quality CBD supplement to stop yourself from heading down a rabbit hole of unhealthy habits.
7. Doctor it up.
What you don't know can definitely hurt you. That's why it's super-important to get regular health screenings so you can take action if needed. At a minimum, make sure you get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels tested along with a type 2 diabetes screening on a regular basis—especially if you're overweight or have a family history of heart disease. If you do have high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels or diabetes, your health care professional will likely recommend some much-needed lifestyle changes, or even prescription medications, to get your health back on track. Make sure you listen up if that's the case. It could very well save your life.
8. Consider supplementing.
Numerous studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids are an absolute must for supporting heart health. Omega-3s are considered "essential" fatty acids because your body doesn't make them on its own, so you have to get them through your diet. The best source of Omega-3s are fatty, cold-water fish like salmon, but not everyone likes or has access to seafood. That's where a high quality Omega-3 supplement like Barlean's fast-acting, superior absorption Seriously Delicious Omega-3 (formerly called Omega Swirl) fish oil comes into the picture. You'll be hard pressed to find an easier, more delicious way to get your essential Omega-3s.
Research into Omega-7 fatty acids is in the beginning stages compared to Omega-3s, but there have been some very promising findings related to inflammatory response, CRP levels and overall heart health.4Barlean’s Heart Remedy™ provides purified, pharmaceutical grade Palmitoleic Acid Omega-7 designed to raise HDL (“good”) and lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
Just do it.
Incorporate these eight tips into your life, and you'll find that taking charge of your heart health can be both doable and enjoyable. Simple lifestyle changes, regular health screenings and smart choices can keep your heart from singing the blues. So don't wait; do it right now—it's an important investment in your future.