February is Heart Health Month, but few of us have taken the time to consider how hard our cardiovascular system works for us. It works hard every single day, beating roughly 115,200 times per day. February is a perfect month to take a step back, do a quick heart check-up, and give thanks to one of the most important organs in our body.
There’s no better time than February because there are no excuses. The Christmas binge is almost an entire year away, the casual beers of summertime are still a distant dream, and old New Year’s resolutions still are simmering in the back of your mind. Why not start incorporating some heart health tips in February? What have you got to lose?
1. Heart Health and Exercise
It shouldn’t surprise you that physical activity is at the top of the list for heart health. Stop procrastinating on your New Year's resolutions. Get out to the gym, start running, take up yoga, and just get your body moving more than it was before. Leading a more active lifestyle has been proven to lower your risk for cardiovascular issues later in life. Besides the numerous other reasons we need to move our bodies more, there are benefits to regular exercise specific for heart health:
- Losing weight
- Reducing bad cholesterol and boosting good cholesterol
- Getting high blood pressure back under control
- Lowering the risk of diabetes through increased insulin sensitivity
2. Heart Health Diet Tips
Part of the reason heart disease has become such a pervasive issue in the United States comes down to the standard American diet. According to the most recent statistics, more than one-third of Americans have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Half of those suffering from high cholesterol don’t seek help, and only one third manage to get it under control.
Heart health depends on well-balanced cholesterol levels. If there is too much of the bad stuff, blood flow increasingly is restricted to and from the heart. Sometimes, in severe cases, arteries are clogged entirely. This is what heart disease looks like, your heart struggling to do its job.
So what dietary changes should you make to get your cholesterol under control?
- Get to know the differences between good fats and bad fats.
- Reduce consumption of red meats.
- Increase the number of fruits and vegetables, the more colorful the better.
- Snack better, replacing packaged foods with nuts and whole grains.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
RELATED: A High Fat Diet Could Heal You
3. Heart Health Tips for Seniors
It is never too late to start thinking about heart health. Seniors especially need to consider what effects their diet and lifestyle might have on their heart. Even for those with mobility issues, any movement is beneficial for overall heart health. Some simple exercises, such as a quick 10-minute walk, or a few arm curls with a two-pound weight can help.
Other recommendations for seniors to consider are related to lifestyle. This means quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and including in more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Another suggestion is taking up a meditation or prayer practice. Lower stress levels help promote a healthier heart.
4. CBD and Heart Health
According to recent scientific publications, heart health is a novel therapeutic target for cannabidiol (CBD). All cannabinoids have inherent medicinal characteristics, but so far, CBD, in particular, is demonstrating some specific protective properties for cardiovascular health.
One of the most effective ways CBD influences heart health is through its anti-inflammatory properties. It's also a potent antioxidant. On top of these more general therapeutic qualities, some in-vivo (within a living organism) studies report that CBD offers protection against ischemia-reperfusion damage (tissue damage caused when blood supply returns to the tissue after a period of lack of oxygen). Other evidence suggests CBD reduces the risk of cardiomyopathy (a disease associated with the heart muscle) in diabetic patients.
The benefits of CBD don’t just stop there, it is without a doubt, a total body supplement.
RELATED: What Does CBD Do to Your Mind and Body?
5. Heart Health Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes are some of the most difficult changes to make. They are ingrained in our daily routine, entrenched in our social circles, and many are difficult habits to break. What lifestyle changes are the most important to improving heart health? Quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol consumption.
The suggestion that smoking is problematic for heart health is no shocker. The British Heart Foundation states it perfectly, “Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health. If you're a smoker, stopping smoking is the single most important step you can take to protect the health of your heart.”
The research around drinking and heart health is a little more convoluted. While one glass of red wine a day actually may have some benefit to cardiovascular health, there is strong evidence illustrating that excessive alcohol consumption is dangerous. It increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, and triggers high blood pressure.
It is natural to feel a bit overwhelmed with this list of helpful heart tips, but change takes time. Every little bit helps in promoting heart health. Trying to make multiple dramatic lifestyle changes all at once just isn’t feasible. Pick apart these heart health tips, and tackle them piece by piece. It's about developing better habits, and it takes time to learn how to break a habit.
RELATED: How to Break A Habit: Hack Into The Behavior!
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