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Why Is Heart Health Important?

Why Is Heart Health Important?

Why Is Heart Health Important

We talk a lot about cardiovascular disease and the heart, but why is heart health so important? Once you understand why it’s so important to look after your heart, starting to make dietary and lifestyle changes makes a whole lot of sense.

Why Heart Health Matters

Just as the engine of a car keeps the vehicle going, your heart keeps your body going. But a car engine starts and stops with the turning of a key. Our specialized hearts pump around the clock, 24-7. In fact, over an average lifetime, a human heart pumps 2.5 billion times.

Besides its obvious function of keeping you alive, your heart pumps nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to every part of your body—including the brain—and plays an important role in mental health and immunity. The better your heart works, the more oxygen your body will receive, the better you’ll feel, and the stronger your immune system will be.

At What Age Should People Start Thinking about Heart Health?

There is no magic age for starting to think about heart health—every day of your life that you lead a heart-healthy lifestyle will increase your energy levels and lower your risk for cardiac events. On the flip side, every day that you neglect to take care of your heart is a day that brings you closer to poor heart health and an increased risk for cardiac events.

For example, a child who eats a heart-healthy diet and maintains an active lifestyle will have more energy, a better mood, and less illness than a child who is sedentary and eats a diet high in sugar, salt, and fried foods. Likewise, an adult with several risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease can prevent or even reverse heart disease by making changes right away.

How to Improve Your Heart Health

The good news is that anyone, at any age, can proactively take care of their heart. Usually, you will start feeling better almost immediately and your risk of a heart attack or stroke can decrease in a matter of days. Start taking care of your heart today and your heart health will readily improve.

Start Doing Aerobic Exercise

The heart is a muscle, so exercising it will help to keep it strong. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity for adults every week, which works out to be 30 minutes, five times a week. Alternatively, you can do 75 minutes of more intense aerobic activity every week, such as running, or a combination of the two. In addition to aerobic activity, adults need two strength training sessions per week in which they work all the major muscle groups.

To make your exercise routine more sustainable, start with activities that are accessible, like going for a brisk 30-minute walk, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or running around outside for half an hour each evening with children or pets. As these activities become a habit, you can raise the intensity with weight training, fitness classes, or sports.

Adopt a Heart-Healthy Diet

High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease have been linked with certain foods that Americans tend to consume on a regular basis, including Omega-6-rich vegetable oils (such as those used for frying), table salt, refined sugar, and full-fat, pasteurized dairy products. Most food products that come prepackaged are high in all or some of these things.

To improve your heart health, start eating real food that is good for your heart like fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, high fiber, olive oil, lean meats, and fermented or fresh (unprocessed) dairy products. It also helps to not add salt to your meals, which contributes to hypertension.

Eating healthy improves your heart health and lowers high blood pressure. It also helps you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, improve digestion, and improve skin health. If time is an obstacle, several companies make pre-measured ingredient boxes weekly, to help you prepare fresh and healthy meals.

Cut Down on Alcohol

In small amounts, alcohol consumption shows a correlation with fewer cardiovascular events, but heavy drinking is definitely a risk factor for heart disease. If you enjoy a beer or a cup of red wine, just limit yourself to a single serving (according to the measurements explained on the can or bottle) once a day, up to two or three times a week.

Avoid Tobacco Smoke

Smoking damages the arteries and multiplies your risk for heart disease. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about proven strategies for quitting. If you don’t smoke, stay away from people who do. Research shows that after quitting, an ex-smoker’s risk of heart disease starts to reduce very quickly, and returns to a level of a non-smoker after two years.

Reduce Stress

While the connection might not seem immediately obvious, a happy heart is a healthier heart. Emotional stress puts strain on every cell and bodily system—including circulation, digestion, and even reproduction—and is associated with the onset of heart disease.

Methods for reducing stress include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • Dealing with sources of emotional stress in your life
  • Adopting a more positive, empowered mindset

As with exercise, retraining your brain takes time and effort but becomes easier as you develop new neural pathways. If you are facing a particularly difficult situation in your life or need help changing your thinking patterns, consider seeing a mental health professional.

Have Regular Check-Ups

It’s important to have your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and type-2 diabetes risk checked every year and to check your weight and body mass index more frequently if you’re overweight. Knowing where you stand with regard to these risk factors will help you work out (and stick with) a plan to improve your health.

Know How to Respond to a Sudden Cardiac Arrest

If someone in your family already has heart disease or known risk factors for a cardiac event, it’s important to be familiar with the signs of a heart attack and cardiac arrest and know how to use a portable defibrillator—such as the Philips HeartStart FRx or LIFEPAK CR2—if needed. While we hope it never happens, your fast action could save someone’s life and inspire them to make the necessary changes to prevent a second cardiac arrest in the future.

Take Care of Your Heart and It Will Take Care of You

No matter what your heart health is like now, making dietary and lifestyle improvements as soon as you can (i.e. today!) will improve the strength and functioning of your heart. This will help you feel happier and more energetic.

Prevention starts with discussing preparations for a potential cardiac emergency—a conversation every family needs to have. It’s also essential to discuss heart health and make a plan together to make improvements. Having a friend or group to support fitness and health improvements helps with sustainable change.

Disclaimer for information purposes only:

Our website provides information for general knowledge and informational purposes only. We do not offer medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Readers should consult with qualified healthcare professionals for personalized medical advice.

While we endeavor to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided, we do not guarantee its completeness or suitability for any specific purpose. The use of this website is at the reader’s own risk.

By accessing and using this website, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless the website owners, authors, contributors, and affiliates from any claims, damages, liabilities, losses, or expenses resulting from your use of the information presented herein.

Picture of Michelle Clark, RN ICU/CCU
Michelle Clark, RN ICU/CCU
As a seasoned Nurse (RN) in Critical Care, CCU (Cardiac Care Unit), and ICU (Intensive Care Unit) with nearly three decades of experience, specializing in Cardiopulmonary care, I've embarked on a new path as a trusted figure in the realm of sudden cardiac arrest and first aid. With a profound dedication to patient well-being honed throughout my nursing career, I now utilize my expertise to enlighten and empower others in life-saving methods. Leveraging my comprehensive understanding and proficiency in critical care, I endeavor to leave a lasting imprint in healthcare by promoting awareness and offering practical guidance.
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