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5 Ways to Be Sweet to Your Heart

Published in For the Health of It, Cardiac Rehabilitation

In February, we celebrate our loved ones on Valentine’s Day. Kimary, with our Cardiac Rehab department, want to remind you to not forget to be sweet to YOUR heart. Here are 5 reminders of how to decrease your risk of heart disease.

1. Be sweet to your heart…and quit smoking! (Avoid secondhand smoke, too)

Smoking can cause damage to the lining of coronary arteries which can lead to the buildup of fatty substances/cholesterol, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Smoking also decreases your good cholesterol (HDL), decreases your exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot.

2. Be sweet to your heart…and exercise!

Physical activity can lower blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL), lower resting blood sugar levels, reduce stress, and provide weight loss (which also decreases blood pressure/cholesterol/blood sugar).

The American Heart Association recommends 150-200 minutes of heart-pumping exercise per week or approximately 30+ minutes each day for 5 days per week. If you have trouble fitting 30+ minutes of exercise into your day, try 2 or 3 shorter (10-20 minute) sessions and you’ll still get the cardiac benefit.

Find an activity that you enjoy – walking, jogging, biking, dancing, swimming, or try a class like StrongYou’s Insanity classes at the RACC or Wabasso Community Center!

You can do it! Believe it or not, the person who goes from being completely sedentary (no physical activity) to walking 15-30 minutes a few times a week, gains MOR E cardiac benefit than someone who runs 5 miles per week and increases to 7 miles per week.

Please check with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program

3. Be sweet to your heart…and manage your stress!

Stress can lead to increased blood pressure, damage to artery walls, physical inactivity, overeating, engaging in other unhealthy coping mechanisms (smoking, excessive alcohol use, excessive caffeine intake, etc) – all of which can cause damage to your heart.

Unfortunately, stress can be hard to "get rid of." Finding ways to manage stress is a more productive means of "dealing with stress."

A few ways to help manage stress include learning how to delegate tasks, learning how to ask for help, and learning how to say "no" to taking on more than you can truly handle. If you are in a stressful situation or feel the tension building, try deep breathing techniques, yoga, relaxation techniques, or massage. If you continue to feel depressed, anxious or overwhelmed, be sure to talk to a medical professional about your concerns.

4. Be sweet to your heart…and make healthy food choices!

A heart-healthy diet is one that allows you to continue eating from each food group. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry or fish (vs red meat, especially high-fat varieties), nuts, beans and non-tropical vegetable oils (olive and canola oils are preferred). Limit highly processed, sweetened, fatty, and salted foods. When eating red meat, select the leanest cuts possible and eat only a single serving – which is the size of a deck of playing cards of the palm of your hand.

5. Be sweet to your heart…and know your numbers!

It’s not necessary to check every day, but by knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol, you can understand your own personal risk levels and make life changes.

Normal blood pressure is 120/80. Anything greater than 130/80 is classified as high blood pressure by the American Heart Association. The need for treatment depends on your average blood pressure readings, overall health status, risk factors, and other health conditions.

And, according to recent studies, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic increase among people from age 40 to 89.

Recommended cholesterol values:

  • Total Cholesterol:Less than 200 mg/dL
  • HDL ("good" cholesterol):40-60 mg/dL
  • LDL ("bad" cholesterol):Less than 130 mg/dL or less than 100 mg/dL with known heart disease
  • Triglycerides:Less Than 150 mg/dL

The American Heart Association recommends all adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol, and other traditional risk factors, checked every four to six years.