Good health starts with a healthy heart! The heart is essential to the functioning of all other vital organs of the body (i.e., brain, kidneys, liver and lungs). The human heart pumps life-giving blood throughout the body, via the circulatory system, to deliver oxygen, nutrients and hormones to organs and tissues and transports carbon dioxide and other wastes to specific organs for removal. This mighty organ, typically the size of your fist, beats over 115,000 times in a single day (assuming an average of 80 beats per minute).
When people think about heart health, they naturally think about exercise and physical activity. Whether you tackle weight training, playing a recreational sport, or choose aerobic exercise (i.e., walking, biking or swimming), your heart speeds up and gets a workout. In fact, many studies show that exercise and physical activity can prevent disease and may even reverse the effects of various conditions (like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes).
EXERCISE FOR HEART HEALTH
Most major national guidelines recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, at least 5 days per week. You can break up the 30 minutes into ten-minute increments throughout the course of the day. Keep in mind, these are the minimum amounts of physical activity. Ideally, you are moving throughout the day at a moderate level for even greater benefit. For example, sitting for 4 hours of the day (and not moving) is a bigger contributor to cardiovascular disease than smoking cigarettes!
CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE IS ESSENTIAL
Cardiovascular exercise (also known as “cardio”) is any exercise that raises your heart rate for an extended period of time. Although you may think you need to get on a treadmill or exercise bike at the gym to get the cardiovascular exercise needed to promote good heart health … that’s not necessary! Simply doing more than your current daily activity is a good start. For example, if you sit at a desk all day, step away from your cubicle. Walk around the block at lunch and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Cardio, like brushing your teeth, is something that needs to be done on a regular basis, to maintain good health. For good results, the best physical activity is one that you personally enjoy and will want to do on a regular basis. If you don’t enjoy doing it for at least 30 minutes a day (in total) you’re not going to be dedicated or committed to it for the long term. The easiest, simplest, and most natural physical activity for most people is walking. It’s that simple. Taking a brisk walk (at a pace where it is a bit taxing to speak) for at least 30 minutes every day will do wonders for your long-term heart health and longevity.
HEART HEALTH TIPS FOR GOOD NUTRITION
Although the 30 minutes we set aside each day for regular cardiovascular activity is important, the choices we make the other 23 hours and 30 minutes is also worth discussing. For good heart health diet, the foods we choose, and how much we take in each day are key factors determining the quality of one’s heart health.
- Control your portion size. How much you eat is just as important as what you put into your body. Avoid overloading your plate or going for unnecessary seconds. Use a smaller plate or bowl to control the amount of food you eat. Choose larger portions of fruits and vegetables and smaller portions of the higher fat and refined foods.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that help prevent heart disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat or refined foods.
- Choose whole grains. Whole grains are amazing sources of dietary fiber and nutrients that help to regulate blood pressure, promotes good digestion, and the removal of harmful wastes from the body. You can implement a more heart healthy diet by simply substituting whole grain options instead of more readily available refined foods. Good options include:
- Whole wheat flour
- Whole grain bread
- High fiber cereal
- Whole grain pasta
- Limit unhealthy fats. Eating a diet low in saturated fats and avoiding trans fats as much as possible is important to maintain good cardiovascular health. Guidelines suggest including less than 7 percent of your total daily calories from saturated fats and less than one percent from trans fat.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR HEART HEALTH
Getting all the vitamins and minerals needed for good heart health can be challenging. Supplements are a good option to ensure you are getting all the right nutrients needed to give your heart the protection it needs!
- Aspirin (is an inflammatory medication that thins your blood and decreases the risk of blood clotting)
- Coenzyme Q10 (has been shown to improve muscle function of the heart)
- Niacin (boosts the production of “good cholesterol” in the blood, helping to transport triglycerides out of the body)
- Omega-3 (aids in balancing blood lipids in the body and preventing heart attack)
- Vitamin D (studies show that people with decreased vitamin D are at higher risk of heart attack)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrea Oh is an accomplished writer, published author, podcaster, and local blogger in Calgary, AB (Canada). She is the Editor-In-Chief of Business.fit and sixfootcanasia.ca and author of “GET MOTIVATED! Powerful Quotes and Exercise Tips to Inspire 52 Weeks of Extraordinary Workouts” and “The Business of Personal Training: Essential Guide for the Successful Personal Trainer”.