There’s so much going on around us. The stress and worries can take a toll on your whole body – including your heart. That’s why Dr. Todd Langager, Cardiovascular Medical Director for UnityPoint Health, is reminding you of the steps to a physically and emotionally healthy heart, so you can find balance in the months ahead.
10 Steps to a Healthier and Happier Heart
5 Ways to Keep Your Heart Physically Healthy
A physically healthy heart is important to your overall health. It’s never too late to start making heart healthy changes to your routine. Here are some ideas for how to get started.
Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein such as legumes, nuts, fish, seafood, low-fat dairy and lean, unprocessed meats. Think ahead before you go out! The trick is to follow this pattern wherever you make or eat food.
Why is Healthy Eating Important for Heart Health?
A healthy diet is one of the keys to preventing and managing cardiovascular disease. It helps to maintain a healthy body weight, provides needed nutrients for your heart and limits the harm done by too much salt, sugar, undesirable oils and preservatives.
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or an equal combination of both) each week. Try keeping your workout routine interesting by changing it up and finding new motivators. Walking is always a good way to get started.
Why is Physical Activity Important in Preventing Heart Disease?
Physical activity has a strong and positive impact on several of heart health factors—blood pressure, blood glucose, and body weight – which reduces overall risk for cardiovascular disease. Make sure you talk with your doctor before beginning a new workout routine.
Sit down to think about what’s prevented you from dropping the smoking habit. Is there a mental roadblock preventing you from getting started? All forms of tobacco, including vaping and secondhand smoke are harmful. If you use tobacco, talk to your doctor about quitting.
Why is Smoking Cessation Important in Preventing Heart Disease?
Smoking significantly increases risk for heart disease, damaged arteries, blood clots and aneurysms.
Get Enough Sleep
Adults should aim for seven to nine hours a night. In addition to quantity, the quality of sleep is important. Set and keep specific bedtimes and wake-up times and stick to a consistent schedule as much as possible. Read How to Sleep Better When Sharing a Bed for more expert advice.
Why is it Important for Heart Health to get Good Sleep?
Good sleep benefits your whole body including your heart and brain with effects such as improved mood, memory and reasoning. Bad sleep habits can also increase your calorie intake and may put you at risk for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Get Vaccinated and Boosted
Besides protecting you from severe illness and hospitalization, the COVID-19 vaccine can protect your heart. If eligible, get yourself and your family vaccinated and boosted against the virus.
How Can the COVID-19 Vaccines Protect My Heart Health?
COVID-19 can cause a severe inflammatory response in the body, which impacts multiple organs – including the heart. While heart inflammation is an extremely rare side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s much more common if you get the virus.
5 Ways to Strengthen Your Emotional Heart
Emotions can also have a huge impact on your overall heart health. Stress alone can affect your blood pressure and is one of the leading causes of heart attacks. Here's how to keep your heart healthy by caring for your emotional and mental health.
There are plenty of ways to reduce stress depending on what’s triggering your stress in the first place. Try focusing on keeping things in perspective, expressing gratitude and simply spending time in nature. Relieving stress will boost feelings of happiness and well-being.
How Can Reducing Stress Help My Heart Health?
Reducing long-term stress is important as it may lead to high blood pressure, which can pose a risk for heart attack and stroke. Stress also has been shown to lead to other cardiovascular disease risks as smoking, overeating and lack of physical activity.
Put family and friends first. It’s important to maintain social connections and talk with people you trust. Time with pets can also be a great de-stresser. Research has found that those who felt love, felt a greater sense of purpose and more optimism.
How Can Focusing on Love Help My Heart Health?
Our blood pressure is lower when we are socially interacting with our partners than when alone or interacting with other people. When we are feeling the emotion of love, levels of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, is released and helps us that helps us relax, lowering blood pressure and heart rates.
Laughing not only improves your mood, but it can decrease stress, depression and anxiety with the positive feeling it generates. Make sure you take note of what makes you laugh — Do you have a funny friend? Do rom-coms make you giggle? Whatever it is, add it in often.
How is Laughing Important for Heart Health?
Growing research shows stress, depression and anxiety can lead to increased negative effects on the heart that can ultimately result in heart disease. Daily laughter also is associated with lower prevalence of cardiovascular diseases. And the simple act of laughing may decrease stress hormones, reduce artery inflammation and increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
Practice relaxation techniques like taking slow, deep breaths while listening to calming music. Or simply take some time in a quiet space to meditate or pray.
Why is Mindfulness Important to Heart Health?
Studies have offered promising results showing that daily meditation can reduce risk for high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Enjoy a Hobby
Stimulating activities can be fun and distract you from negative thoughts or worries. Consider mixing it up, too, as that’ll expose your brain and body to different things.
Why is Staying Active with Hobbies Important to My Heart Health?
The brain plays an important role in heart health. Activities you enjoy that also get your brain working – whether it’s creative, challenging or otherwise – can help improve overall mental health, lower stress and decrease heart rates.
We’re Here for You and Your Heart
Whether you’re working on your physical heart, your emotional heart or both at the same time your doctor can help you take step to find a healthy beat. Creating new healthy habits is difficult, so consider tackling one small change at a time for a lifetime of benefits. Talk to your doctor to figure out the best place for you to get started.