When we are talking about the main focus of something, we call it ‘the heart of a matter’.
Same is with ourselves – The ‘heart’ of our body is the most essential point of function and therefore, care.
You must be knowing that a person can barely survive 4-6 minutes without oxygen. So, oxygen is clearly the most essential element for our survival.
But since it is our heart which supplies that oxygen throughout the body – that makes the heart the most essential organ for our survival.
Despite this, heart health is often neglected and is therefore the cause of 32% of all global deaths. Cardiovascular diseases cause 1 in every 4 deaths in the USA, Christmas being the most common day for heart attacks. (ouch)
So, gently put your candy canes down and let us walk you through some heart healthy habits that you can take up :
Let food be thy medicine
Your eating habits influence your body, first and foremost. You are what you eat after all! So changing your eating habits will contribute to heart health more than anything else.
- Make sure to eat at least two types of fruits and five kinds of vegetables daily : Fruits and vegetables will always contain moderate amounts of abundant nutrients that do not interfere with your body’s balance. Some essentially heart healthy fruits and vegetables include : spinach, bok choy, carrots, red peppers, broccoli, oranges, papaya, apples.
- Include whole grain foods such as oatmeal, brown rice, flaxseeds, chia seeds to your diet : Fibre attaches itself to the cholesterol particles and stops it from entering your bloodstream. As fibre lowers both blood pressure and cholesterol, it therefore helps heart health.
- Always eat until you’re almost full : Have a cordial yet controlled relationship with your portion size. Overweight people have a higher risk of suffering from heart problems. Usually a waist size of more than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men is considered unhealthy. Overeating means that you’re consuming more calories than you can burn, so naturally you will be gaining weight. When done consistently, overeating will cause obesity and obesity will open the doors to various metabolic syndromes and eventually heart disease.
- Always read label descriptions : Make sure you are well acquainted with what you’re consuming. It is impossible to exceed a daily nutrient intake limit through a natural diet. This excess and imbalance is always caused due to processed foods. So, it is important to be able to read understand labels so that you know what and how much you’re consuming. What you mainly need to check is salt, sugar/ sweeteners, saturated and trans fat.
- Limit your saturated and trans fat consumption : These are the two unhealthy fats that increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood. While we need cholesterol to build healthy cells, high levels of cholesterol can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries and therefore, causing heart problems.
- Watch your salt and sugar intake : Watch out for sodium, sodium bicarbonate, baking soda, and its chemical symbol Na while reading your labels – these all mean salt. Too much salt leads to high blood pressure and therefore, heart problems.
Similarly, added sugars should be limited to 8 teaspoons per day, and less than 2 teaspoons per day for people with high blood pressure.
You cannot exceed a daily sugar and salt limit, unless it is through processed foods. For example, one can of soda easily exceeds your sugar limit without contributing any nutritional value to your diet. So watch out for glucose, sucrose, lactose, fructose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, and dextrose on your labels.
It is said that it’s easier to change someone’s religion than changing their eating habits – so make sure you keep in mind that you must prevail.
The head-heart connection
You must have heard that laughing is good for the heart. That is because laughing relaxes your blood vessels and improves their function to increase blood flow.
Always remember, what goes on in your mind always directly or indirectly influences your heart.
Stress can increase hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and can impact your blood pressure and heart rate. When someone suffers from depression, they lose the energy to get out of bed and go to rehab and do the things they need to regain their physical health.
So keep your mind healthy by practices such as meditation, journaling, counselling, music, dancing, or whatever helps you cheer up.
Your craving is temporary, but the damage is permanent
Excessive alcohol intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure or stroke. Plus, it clearly contributes to obesity which is a straight road to heart problems.
Smoking on the other hand, directly and undoubtedly has toxic effects on your heart.
How our respiratory system works is that the air we breathe in enters our lungs and the oxygen gets mixed with our blood and goes to the heart. Then our heart pumps that oxygen to the rest of our body.
Cigarette smoke is a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. When you breathe it in, the blood that is distributed to the rest of the body becomes contaminated with the smoke’s chemicals. These chemicals can damage your heart and blood vessels. They can also cause thickened blood and clots in your vessels which causes the heart to work harder and eventually leads to heart attack, stroke, or even death.
However hard it must be, there is no better time to quit than right now.
Surprisingly, your oral hygiene also affects your heart. The bacteria that infect the gums and cause gingivitis and periodontitis can travel throughout the body. Our gums have blood vessels which enables bacteria to travel throughout the body. These bacteria can cause blood vessel inflammation and damage; tiny blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
So, brush your teeth regularly twice a day. And do not forget to floss!
Good things come to those who sweat
Exercise lowers blood pressure, burns calories, maintains body weight, reduces stress and may even help quit smoking. So, at least 30 minutes a day, and at least five days a week – make sure to go brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis or jumping rope.
The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.
The common consequence of insomnia is high blood pressure. So, poor sleep can, over a period of time, also lead to unhealthy habits that can hurt your heart. Higher stress levels, less motivation to be physically active, and unhealthy food choices are a few consequences of improper sleep.
Your surroundings influence your mind and your mind influences when and how you sleep. So, if you struggle with insomnia or just wish to sleep better, start developing a bedtime routine. It may include tidying up your bedroom, brushing your teeth, washing your face, combing your hair, arranging the sheets, dimming the lights, and finding a comfortable spot – The purpose is to convince your mind that it’s time to go to bed.
The priority, in this blog, is to supply the reader with clear and unambiguous information. However, neither The New Me nor Gagan Dhawan makes promises, or guarantees regarding the completeness of the information found here. The content is not a replacement for advice of a licensed professional. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the writer’s.