Dorsey College trains the healthcare professionals of tomorrow. Therefore, we enjoy sharing information promoting health and wellness such as these tips for maintaining good heart health.
Everyone knows it’s important to take care of your heart. The tips for a healthy heart are the same tips you’ve probably heard your whole life on how to be healthy in general. Maybe you’ve heard them so often that you don’t even notice these tips or when you’re neglecting them. The reality is, Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world’s number one killer, causing over 18.6 million deaths per year ¹. That means you're more likely to die of CVD than anything else.
September 29, 2021, “World Heart Day” is a day devoted to increasing awareness, prevention and management of CVD. Meaning, it is a great time to remind ourselves of the importance of heart health. Even if you think your heart is already healthy, following these tips can keep it that way for years to come.
Note: The information presented here is meant for informational purposes only and should not serve as a replacement for medical advice. If you have questions regarding your own heart health, consult with your healthcare provider.
1. Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
Everyone from parents, teachers to doctors has likely told you to eat your fruits and veggies. We all know that we should eat healthy. The issue is, making healthy choices on your own can be hard, especially if you're not used to it. Giving into poor food choices is an easy way to satisfy your hunger, but it’s also an easy way to put yourself at risk for CVD. Instead of trying to only eat healthy (or to only eat poorly) try minimizing the amount of nutrient poor² foods in your diet.
Everyone splurges now and again. Instead of cutting out items entirely, try focusing on eating less “bad” and more “good” options. By starting small and focusing on slowly making better diet choices you're less likely to quit.
If you haven’t had a veggie in a long while, try adding a small side to your next dish with plenty of seasoning. Then slowly build off of your side in days to come, until your diet is balanced. In this way you can build up to a balanced and heart happy diet.
Another example is finding what you most enjoy about an unhealthy choice and adding it to a healthier choice. Maybe you enjoy the flavor of sodas. You can try adding your favorite flavoring to water and substituting a few sodas a day with the flavored water. Gradually, over time, you’ll grow use to the smaller quantities of soda and at the same time drinking water will have become habitual.
Lastly, be mindful of the amount of fats, and sugar you consume. These can negatively impact your health as well.
2. Exercise Daily
Like a balanced diet, we all know we need to exercise daily. Actually, doing the exercising is the hard part. You might be used to seeing a local jogger or passing a gym and thinking you just couldn’t do that. Personal fitness is just that, it’s personal. Everyone has their own body and lifestyle, so exercising is different for everyone. A little exercise is better than nothing,³ and everyone has to start somewhere.
Start by making exercise an experience instead of a chore. Believe it or not, exercising can be really fun if you find a daily routine that works with you. Here are some pointers for starting your journey to being active.
- Be honest with yourself, losing weight and/or getting in shape doesn’t happen overnight
- But don’t be mean to yourself! Positive thinking helps you stick to your exercise routine⁴
- Start small and keep at it.
- Find what exercise works for your schedule
- And lastly, just get moving! Even small steps like using the stairs instead of an elevator can make a big impact.
3. Get Sleep
Sleep is something we all need but often lack. If you find yourself drowsy, you’re not alone. More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis⁵ according to studies. Chronic under-sleeping leaves you more susceptible⁶ to a host of health issues ranging from diabetes to heart issues like high blood pressure and CVDS.
So, it’s pretty important for heart health to get good sleep. But how do you stop restless nights and poor sleep schedules?
There are lots of tips and tricks to help reduce sleeplessness. Here are a few:
- Limit screen time before bed
- Try to go to bed and rise at the same times every day
- Avoid tobacco
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and bright lights before bed
- Exercise regularly but not before bed⁷
4. Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
What does brushing your teeth have to do with maintaining a healthy heart? Studies have suggested it could lower your risk of heart failure⁸. While it might be unlikely that good oral hygiene alone can prevent heart failure it’s still important. Neglecting oral hygiene can lead to dangerous bacteria buildups in your body.
So, brushing twice a day, flossing and scheduling dentist appointments every six months are all important steps to good health in general.
On the other hand, good dental hygiene could improve other areas of your heart, like your love life!
5. Limit Smoking & Secondhand Smoke
It’s not new news that smoking is horrible for health. When you smoke, the chemicals in cigarettes enter your bloodstream and can do damage to your heart and blood vessels.
Most smokers already know the risks of smoking. Nicotine addiction is hard to break but every effort counts. Quitting can improve your health. In fact, after 4 years of quitting your risk of stroke goes down to the level of non-smokers⁹.
If you're trying to quit smoking there are several resources for you. One could be Nicotine Replacement Therapy or NRT¹⁰. NRT can be used to help wean you off smoking gradually, limiting the effects of withdrawal.
Secondhand smoke is dangerous for heart health as well. Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger heart attacks¹¹. When exposed to secondhand smoke, your risk of heart disease increases by 25% to 30%.
Limiting secondhand smoke can be hard because you might not be the one smoking. In that case the best thing to do is to set strong boundaries about smoking. Don’t allow your resident smoker to smoke inside the house, car or other shared areas. Avoid being in the same area as someone actively smoking.
World Heart day is the perfect time to reflect on your health habits. It might be a bit redundant to hear the same general health advice we’ve been told most of our lives. But these simple health tips are important; neglecting them can lead to serious heart problems. Luckily, even small changes can lead to a healthier heart. By focusing on making gradual healthy changes to your daily habits, you can build up good heart health for years to come.
- “What Is Cvd?” World Heart Day, World Heart Federation , 20 July 2021, world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/cvd-causes-conditions/what-is-cvd/.
- American Heart Association editorial staff. “The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.” Www.heart.org, American Heart Association , 15 Aug. 2017, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations.
- Robinson, Lawrence. “How to Start Exercising and Stick to It.” HelpGuide.org, 19 Apr. 2021, www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/how-to-start-exercising-and-stick-to-it.htm#.
- Anderson, Jillesa. “5 Tips for Exercise Motivation.” Intermountainhealthcare.org, 23 May 2018, intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2018/05/5-tips-for-exercise-motivation/.
- “1 In 3 Adults Don't Get Enough Sleep.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Feb. 2016, www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html.
- “How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 Jan. 2021, www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/sleep.htm.
- Mawer, Rudy. “17 Proven Tips to Sleep Better at Night.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 28 Feb. 2020, www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-tips-to-sleep-better#16.-Exercise-regularly-but-not-before-bed.
- DeSanto, Lara. “For a Healthy Heart, Brush Your Teeth.” HealthCentral , 20 Feb. 2020, www.healthcentral.com/article/brush-teeth-for-heart-health.
- Products, Center for Tobacco. “How Smoking Affects Heart Health.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 4 May 2020, www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/health-effects-tobacco-use/how-smoking-affects-heart-health.
- “Want to Quit Smoking? FDA-Approved Products Can Help.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 12 Dec. 2017, www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/want-quit-smoking-fda-approved-products-can-help.
- “Secondhand Smoke and Heart Disease.” /Www.uky.edu, University Of Kentucky , www.uky.edu/breathe/tobacco-policy/quick-facts-topic/secondhand-smoke/secondhand-smoke-and-heart-disease.