When we sleep, our brain shuts down the brainstem, sending a signal to the body to temporarily paralyze muscles that move our body, arms, and legs. However, our heart continues to work 24/7 since it’s the most important muscle in the body responsible for pumping blood and oxygen to all the other organs.

When you don’t give your heart the care it deserves, issues can arise, causing serious damage to your body and even death in severe scenarios. But, understanding how our heart works and how we can improve the heart’s health can help us diminish or even eliminate all the risks. Heart Health

What are the leading causes of heart disease?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. There are many risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. However, heart disease can often be prevented by making heart-healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

Regular exercise is also important for maintaining a healthy heart. It helps to lower blood pressure and body fat, and it increases HDL (good) cholesterol levels.  It also helps to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass. Other risk factors for heart disease include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and family history.  By making heart-healthy lifestyle choices, you can help to prevent heart disease and live a healthier life.

Fortunately, making some lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Here are some tips on how you can improve your heart health:

Exercise

Exercise lowers blood pressure, helps you reach or maintain healthy body weight, decreases the risk of developing diabetes, and reduces inflammation in your body. As we mentioned earlier, cholesterol is one of the leading causes of heart disease, and fortunately, exercise will stimulate enzymes that help move LDL from the blood to the liver, helping you get rid of bad cholesterol.

Additionally, exercising helps the body pull oxygen out of the blood and consequently reduces the need for the heart to pump to your muscles. It also decreases stress hormones which weigh down on the heart, slow the heart rate, and increase good cholesterol in the body.

Keep in mind that exercise alone won’t magically fix all heart problems. We also need to combine training with a healthy diet, and this brings us to the second method you can follow to improve your heart health.

Diet

Heart-healthy foods are rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients that help to protect the heart. Think fish, grass-fed meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Consider limiting cereal, refined grains, pasta, and excess bread.

Skip the fake food. If it’s processed don’t get in a habit of eating it everyday. Foods that last a long time on the shelf, sugary drinks, and taste bud pleasers are all hated by your heart.

The third thing you can do is quit smoking. If you don’t smoke, you’re still at risk of having a heart attack if your partner, family members, or friends are smokers. Second-hand smoking is responsible for 41,000 deaths in the United States alone. When you breathe in cigarette smoke, the blood that is distributed to the rest of the body becomes contaminated with over 7000 smoke chemicals and contaminants.

Body Weight

According to the National Library of Medicine, the underweight population had a 19.7% higher risk of cardiovascular disease than the normal weight. Meanwhile, the overweight population had a 50% and 96% increased risk, respectively.

Being obese is dangerous to your heart because it can alter your cholesterol levels. Obesity causes a spike in bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels but the danger lies in lowering good high-density lipoproteins or (HDL) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol removes bad cholesterol and works to reduce the risk of heart disease. When someone carries around too much weight, it puts extra strain on their heart.

All of these risk factors contribute to an increased chance of having a heart attack. Another common reason people have a heart attack is due to eating sugary foods. Sugar causes inflammation in the body, which can damage the arteries and lead to heart disease.

If you have any risk factors for heart disease, it is important to talk to your doctor so you can be monitored and treated accordingly. It might be helpful to know your Body Mass Index or (BMI). You can check whether you’re overweight by inputting your height and weight into a BMI calculator.

Stress Management

Stress can lead to heart disease, and finding ways to manage stress, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, or talking to a therapist, is critical to improving your heart’s health.

Stress is a part of our everyday lives. It can be caused by several factors, and what stresses a person can be non-stressful to another. This is important to keep in mind because fighting stress is all about finding the exact causes and dealing with them. But our jobs and emotional problems aren’t the only cause of stress. It can also come from physical and physiological issues such as lack of sleep or illness.

Ironically, our body’s response to stress is supposed to protect us, but many times, it can be the reason to harm us. Cortisol is the hormone released by our bodies in response to stress.

According to studies, high levels of cortisol caused by long-term stress can result in a buildup of plaque deposits in the arteries and increase triglycerides, and blood pressure.

The most common responses to stress include decreased energy and sleep, aches and pains, anxiety, depression and anger, brain fog and forgetfulness, as well as irritability and impatience.

Now, if you’re wondering how to increase your heart health by diminishing stress, you should first identify the root of the problem. What is stressing you out?

Exercise, sleep, and eating routine, are a few great places to start with managing your stress.

Try sitting less. Yes, sitting for a prolonged period can wreak havoc on your heart. Walking, moving, and standing can be healthy for your heart. If your job involves sitting for prolonged periods, think about getting a standing desk, and switching between standing and sitting when working.

Self Care

Don’t forget to take some time to take care of you. Life can be demanding and stressful but if you neglect your own health it will only make the stress worse. Breathe, move, laugh, go for a walk without access to your device. All these things will help you finish that project you have been putting off. Finish those hard tasks first. Get what is really important to you done right away in the morning.

We are all human and all have human urges to do what is comfortable. From eating that sugary donut to skipping a hard workout to procrastinating for weeks on a project. All of these behaviors are detrimental to your heart if repeated on a regular basis.

Managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise can all help to keep your heart healthy. Losing weight if you are overweight or obese is one of the most important things you can do for your heart.

Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, and resistance training make it much easier on your heart.  Practicing self care is an important step in keeping your heart healthy.

What if our choice to be obese and unhealthy to our hearts had negative effects on our children’s health and well-being? What if because of our choices our future generations were passed down negative traits through our DNA?

If you won’t do it for yourself, maybe the well-being of your children and grandchildren is better motivation. Moral of the story is, get out there move, eat real food, it’ll go a long way with your heart.

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